Friday, September 28, 2007

incisions, incisions...

Originally uploaded by sciencedave

Some people who have known me for a long time know that I am something less than graceful. Lumbering, gorilla-like at times, or more like a cross between lizard and weasel when I get hyper and excited. But absolutely, positively not a natural athlete. Coupled with bad eyes and poor coordination, you'd probably expect that I spent my youth squirreled away in books, or taking apart electronics, and avoiding sports and adventure.

Well, I was bookish, and I tore apart everything I could, and reassembled some of it into things far more dangerous than what I began with. But I was a pretty vigorous kid. I climbed trees and dug holes and waded through creeks. I pursued and caught all manner of insects and animals, some that punished me severely for my efforts. I played sports, even some that I sucked at so badly that all I ever got was knocked down, because it made me feel good to contribute even if only by being ballast. And I learned to put body english on other players, so my just-above-average frame saw lots of contact, and more than a few fist fights.

I was a nerd that had a big mouth, and who wanted to get along with the cool kids and the jocks and the stoners as well as the nerds. I wanted to be friends, but I had a lot of pissy Irish pride that I got from my Grandmother, and I was willing to fight any and all of them for respect.

I climbed rocks and rappelled down them in college. I ran, and played some silly intercollegiate sports. The great turning point came, though, when I had a brief dalliance with the military about 21 years ago, where I again ran afoul of every rule and obstacle in my way, and yet learned valuable things that have never left me.

I came in and they warned me that I was not allowed to join due to my status as a seminary student, as it turned out. That they would consider discharging me right away. I didn't want them to, despite also thinking that I had arrived in the Inferno. So I talked them into seeing if my status as a 'divinity student' could be changed, and embarked on the torture gauntlet that is basic training.

In the process of learning to shoot and bayonet and march in formation and deciding that I would tell the seminary to (ahem) go to hell, I twisted my ankle so that it swelled up as big as my thigh. Uncle Sam gave me some cortisone shots, a check for my troubles, and a bus ticket home. I have nothing but respect for warriors, and did what I could to join them, but I think, frankly, we were better off without one another. I don't regret the attempt, and I am glad for the resources they uncovered in me.

It took a while to recover, and I never really thought, at 22 years old, and despite my injuries, in the best health of my life, to go have a doctor look at my sore foot. So it sort of healed. And I re-injured it, again and again over the last two decades.

This last time, a few months back, it wouldn't get better. Xrays and MRIs later, they explained what I had been doing to my unfortunate body since the mid 80s. The posterior tibialis tendon was frayed and slackened by repeated tears. My arch collapsed. The insults sort of radiated up my leg, and caused some degeneration in my knee and hip.

So, the nice podiatrist referred me to a surgeon, and she repaired the tendon, and put a titanium pin about the size of a thimble in my tarsal sinus . And I am crutching, in a cast, for the next 6 weeks, having spent about 2 weeks already.

For a while, I was in a vicodin and vistoril haze, but now I have no real pain, just boredom and immobility. I just started going back to work, and have been keeping busy with data analysis and programming. But if everything goes right, I should get back, approximately, the foot I haven't seen in 20-odd years. If I can believe my doctors, I will be able to run and bike without worrying about my stupid foot. I'll still be clumsy as an orangutan, but that's OK with me.


At Friday, September 28, 2007, Blogger Ψ*Ψ said...

oh no! hope recovery goes well.
...couldn't picture you in the military.

At Saturday, September 29, 2007, Blogger David Eaton said...

Funny thing, that. All of my friends were shocked when I went to seminary, seeing as how I was a stiff-necked skeptic about most stuff. And they were shocked when I joined the Marine Corps because I am disinclined to do what I am told to do.

The backstory is that I went into seminary in a period when I was pretty uncertain about religion, but still believed that the problems people have might be addressed by it- I think this less so now, but I do think that religion reveals a lot about how our minds work. We process stuff best through stories. Myths, religion, science- all attempts to make sense of the world should take into account the way we process things.

Science is a bit ambitious in its desire to tell people what to think, although I think its pride in its predictive ability is well founded. It can't, however, tell people what they ought to live for, or how, and it does humanity a disservice by implying that those questions are not worth asking, or that a description of a problem has any bearing on the values that should be brought to solving it. I'm not suggesting superstition should substitute, just that science is no substitute for philosophy.

I had been in seminary for a year when I joined the service. Roman Catholic seminaries that I have encountered are hotbeds of homosexual activity. I have no problem with homosexuals, but I happen not to be one, and while I may be extrapolating too much from my experience (and that of my brother, who also attended RC seminary, but a different school than where I went) homosexuals can be a bit hostile to masculine virtues, especially when they find themselves suddenly in the majority. If I am being too general, I can say that I personally was singled out a lot for derision and correction. The USMC was an attempt to reconnect, quite radically, to certain aspects of my manhood. I have plenty of skepticism about the one-dimensionality of some military virtues, but it helped me become more comfortable both with my status as a straight male and with my homosexual comrades, so I owe something to the experience. Besides intimate familiarity with the M16A2 service rifle, which I can still field strip in the dark, and an ability to tune out someone screaming at me at the top of their lungs, which is infinitely more useful than weapons training.


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