Argued with him all the time. About this that and the other. Often about his big toe that had chronic pain, it seemed. I told him to go to the doctors. He claimed doctors didn’t deal with toes. Like they didn’t deal with mouths or teeth. Chiropodists for one, dentists for the other. But which was which? He never told me. I can’t help being simple but I do need things being explained to me very carefully, very slowly. You see, I have a natural wisdom that he doesn’t have. A wisdom that knows its own limitations.
Wisdom can be all so much the greater if that wisdom simply knows how uncertain or fragile or vulnerable it is. If I had a bad big toe I’d seek expert advice. Life often needs expert advice being sought and then given and then, of course, taken. But he’s pig-headed and would rather suffer than seek expert advice. Well, he thinks he is an expert on everything. Rather treat himself. And when I saw him soaking his foot with the bad big toe in a bowl of some steaming liquid, I sighed. Just sighed. No point in arguing.
In addition to the big toe, he had another condition that, judging by his behaviour, I called Cannonball Syndrome. This was more for treatment by a shrink-type doctor than a body-doctor, I assumed, even though he would never admit to anything mental going on. The nearest I could think of was mind-over-matter, an almost spiritual thing about believing he was only a head and had no body at all. He closed his eyes and meditated about his head as a cannonball. Certainly explained or even sorted out his big toe problem in some oblique way. You had to laugh!
He never put it into words, though. I just read between the lines, weighing what he said by his way of hinting and what he actually did when making whooshing noises with his lips followed by a large plosive from deeper in his throat. I kept notes. I even dreamt about him being born as a cannonball, dropped heavily by his mother in natural child-birth, threatening, yes you guessed it, her own big toe.
This is one of those sets of notes I’m writing today. Testing my wisdom. Exercising my wisdom as one would a dog. But I once had a long dream that severely tested my own faith in that wisdom. I dreamt that, as he grew slightly older, he was pushed around in a pram, the heavy metal sphere, rusty-coloured, dressed in a bonnet, upon the pillow, and a shape under the covers that obviously his mother had put there in some attempt to fool herself, because I’m sure nobody else would have been convinced about it as they saw her limping along behind the pram and then when they were later invited to coo at the ‘baby’. But strange situations in life often become the norm the longer they go on. The wisdom of acclimatisation is something I learnt very early on in my life. Schoolkids need to acclimatise themselves to lots of new things and emotions that they could never have predicted. Teachers were never experts, I found, in the art of acclimatisation. I was one such schoolkid. Now I’m older and wiser.
A single dream very rarely spans a significant duration. But, unusually, this same long dream revealed to me the sight of his first day at school, complete with plasticene, crayons etc in a satchel his mother carried for him. He was placed on the top of the desk rather than on the chair, but in those days desk-lids sloped and he kept rolling off. The schoolteacher seemed to take it in his stride. And the other children, although they seemed to accept the situation, did not play football with him in the playground. If they had done so, there would have been many bruised big toes that day and later presented to whatever medical expert presided over feet in the 1950s.
A long dream can often lengthen indefinitely. Or seem to do so. Only hindsight would ever prove it was a dream but not until it had finished. You see, even then, I was unaware I was to meet him in later life and marry him. Meanwhile, I witnessed his growing up, without him growing at all. Just the rusty colour growing rustier. His mother pulled her hair out with worry. She could not believe what she had landed on the world, a cannonball child that she saw people convincing themselves about or acting as if he weren’t a cannonball at all, but a real child, then a young man, later an eligible bachelor. And that’s when I came in, I suppose. Except the long dream did eventually fizzle out. And I woke to him, am still waking, I guess, to the position as he is now. Sitting in the armchair in our lounge soaking a big toe.
Still on a learning curve, I watch for his mouth. In hindsight, it speaks so slowly, it is hardly ever open – and any arguments are happily stubbed out before they ignite. Cornerstones or divots, notwithstanding. Playing the long game.
It is me suffering from Cannonball Syndrome, I suddenly or eventually realise, not him. And I weep as I also realise what we were actually doing when the toe trouble first started. A sad contortion. A clumsy trajectory. And a perspective so distant I could not even make him out. It seems I was using the wrong end of a telescope or squinting through some badly designed aiming-device which my good-hearted wisdom still employs today.
All disciplines have become scatter-gun, have you noticed? Can’t get the staff these days. And life’s experts have shot themselves in the foot, big time. (Don’t go there.)
Meanwhile, the world teeters on the brink.