“Me and a Nasty Little Man Named Arthur,” column for March 3, 2015

It was not part of the plan. Or, at least, not my plan. I guess you could just call it life.

One morning, after returning from four weeks in California (where I’d welcomed a new grandbaby and tried to help by riding herd on her two older brothers), I stepped out of bed and put my feet on the floor.
Suddenly, for no reason, a mean little man with a nasty evil grin jumped out from under the bed and stabbed a rusty ice pick through the top of my left foot.

Figuratively speaking, yes.

I took another step and he stabbed it again. This went on all day, the stepping and the stabbing and the screaming.

Over the next few days, I became painfully aware that everything is connected (the foot bone to the ankle bone to the knee bone to the cussing).

Trying to dodge the ice pick, I developed a limp. Remember Walter Brennan? If you do, you are older than I am and might not care to admit it. His limp was more attractive than mine.

Limping threw everything off balance, including my life. My whole body hurt. Even my hair.

I kept thinking surely the little man would get tired of stabbing me and go pick on somebody else. My husband, maybe. Not that I would wish it on him. I’m just saying. An ice pick in the foot makes you a wee bit cranky.

Funny, isn’t it, what we tend to take for granted until we lose it or it starts to hurt?

My brother deals with pain as an everyday, ordinary part of life. He’s also blind and suffers from cerebral palsy, needs a walker to walk, takes a cab to get a burger, doesn’t take much of anything for granted. I had to wonder: What would he think of my story about the little man planting an ice pick in my foot?

Finally, after a week of pain, I went to see a very nice foot doctor with a very busy office. The waiting room was packed with all sorts of bad feet: People in wheelchairs or on crutches or riding on one knee on a scooter.

The doctor studied my foot, took x-rays, shook his head and matter-of-factly announced the little man’s name: Arthur Itis.

I knew it well. I’d heard it often, spoken with an angry hiss by my grandparents and parents, all attacked in their latter years by Arthur’s ice pick.

“Wait,” I said. “Doesn’t Arthur usually just pick on old people?”

The doctor smiled, glancing at my chart. “How old are you?”

I gave him a look. “Never mind,” I said. “Can you fix it?”

“Well,” he said, “we can try.”

I almost kissed him. When you’re talking ice picks, “try” sounds like a miracle cure.

He listed several options or a combination thereof: Orthotic inserts in sensible shoes that would realign my instep and make me look like a Clydesdale horse; a cortisone injection with a very long needle; or surgery to fuse the joint, followed by six to eight weeks during which I’d need to use a wheelchair or crutches or a scooter.

The scooter sounded like fun. But I opted to start with the injection. It didn’t hurt much. Not half as much as the ice pick.

Then I was sent home to ice my foot off and on to make Arthur chill out, so to speak.

That was yesterday. This morning, I awoke, set my feet on the floor, took a few careful steps and … hallelujah!

It hurt just a twinge, but no ice pick. I looked under the bed. No sign of Arthur. Maybe he was hiding in the closet, biding his time, waiting for another day to jump out and stab me again.

But for now, he was gone, and I was ecstatically grateful. I’d have danced about the room, but didn’t want to push it.

My mind began to race with plans to do all the things I’d been putting off for days _ unpack, clean house, shop for groceries, wash my hair ….

Then it hit me. Another stab. Not in my foot. In my heart. I needed to call my brother.

It’s easy to take some things for granted. But it should never be the people we love.


  1. Valinda Stewart says

    I was so glad to read you didn’t have excruciating pain with the cortisone injection. I had invisible bone spurs(didn’t show on x-ray) in one heel. I’m not sure if they deadened my heel or just went straight to the cortisone shot but it was the WORST pain I ever felt in my life. I waited until I couldn’t walk at all before I went back the second time. I learned that I would make a terrible POW because I know(shamefully so) that I would talk, and talk fast to keep the needle away from my heels. You could beat me, but not put a needle to my feet. I had a friend who almost fell off the table when she fainted during the needle stick(her friend caught her). I will also warn you since you are young at heart to be careful on carnival rides. Those giant swings and other gravity rides are a killer. The swing bends your foot one way & then they swing backwards and gravity bends your foot the other way. The buttwad(nicest term I can think of for him) wouldn’t stop the swing for a crying screaming woman. My kids basically were my crutches to get off the ride and to the car. It sucked muddy canal water and I haven’t been on a ride since. Ten years later I was diagnosed with MS and found out the heel pain was my first symptom. I enjoy reading your column every week and feel like I know you and your brother! Keep up the good work!

  2. Betty Alvis says

    Love your sense of humor in your telling about your life. Helps me look at mine with a little smile. Look for your column every week in the Decatur Daily. Stay well and out walk old Arthur!

  3. I always enjoy reading your columns in our Tuesday newspaper, Sharon. But sometimes hubby tosses the paper before I get to read them. Thus, I love getting them this way. You certainly have a way with words! And I can relate to many of your articles…so down to earth!
    Sorry to hear of Arthur coming to visit you. He visits a couple of my fingers quite often. He is not one of my favorite friends either! And alas! I do remember Walter Brennan. Have a good weekend!

  4. Shirley Elliott says

    Love each and every one of your columns. I’ve said before that you writing is wonderful and you can move me to tears and laughter – often in the same column. I am so glad you post your columns on your blog. It’s a treat to read each week. Good luck with the foot recovery. Had a similar experience several years ago and the injection worked beautifully. Take care.

  5. I swear I did not give Arthur your address! Honest! However, we seem to have be in his eyesight for years now. Remember sitting down the mountain from the top of Glacier Pt because our knees were SO sore? And now our feet. Hope Court E-zone knocks him out for a long time! Sir Gerry is not getting me though! Hugs.

  6. Bless you, Sharon. I have much the same issue, with very similar results. As my husband’s grandmother used to say often, “growing older is not for sissies!” The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom of her comment!

  7. Janet Perkins says

    Hi Sharon, I was sure you were going to say you had plantar fasciitis with stress fracture. This is a painful condition also. I am now dealing with a fractured fibula in my ankle as a result of a fall on ice. Thankfully, no surgery or cast, but I am wearing a boot with which I had experience when I was diagnosed with the stress fracture. I know exactly what you mean when you say we tend to take for granted things we have until we no longer have them. I do remember Walter Brennan (grampa McCoy) and his limp, and I think I might resemble him when I walk! Seriously, I really enjoy your column, and often relate to the many subjects you write about. I certainly hope you don’t have any more Arthur visits!

  8. I wonder what it is about people like you and me….waiting a week to go to the doctor, trying to tough it out. I’m glad you finally went; that’s what doctors are for. I have a bum knee, and my doctor recommended surgery. I opted instead to sell my two story condo and buy a one-story house. 🙂

  9. Sarah Ellis says

    I really enjoy your column. Makes me think and humble myself. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Judy Turner says

    Hi Sharon — I can definitely empathize with your column about “Arthur”. My first arthritis pain was in my foot, too. Foot massage (believe it or not — I know you think that sounds painful) helps, and just plain old aspirin helps me, too. Don’t tough it out. The inflammation in your joints that is causing the pain does damage to your joints. Get rid of it in any way that helps you. I love your writing style. Even though it was a painful topic, you put some humor into it. Keep on!

  11. Oh Sharon, I thought for sure you were going to say you had plantar fasciitis ( my little ice-pick gnome) who had me doing the gimpy limp for months. I had the cortisone shots and therapy and inserts and am now ice-pick gnome free! I said to my husband,” All I want is my old feet back.” But, I will take what I have now. They’re doing okay. Hope Arthur keeps his distance and minds his manners.

  12. Thank God your foot is better and even with this pain you gave us previous columns to read . Wish it does not come back . It did not stay longer as your sweet grand kids kept you on toes for sure . Thanks for another column ,it involved some pain but I am sure you must have forgotten it while writing and sharing with all of us as it includes words of humor as well . How you manage to make it worth reading for all and we feel a bit sad when it finishes . God bless you always !!

  13. Hi Sharon – I’m so sorry about your foot and hope the cortisone does it for good. I’ve had 20 foot surgeries and can certainly empathize. I’ve had four metatarsals pinned, plus 2 joints cleaned out and replaced with ceramic balls. That was very successful, so if you end up needing surgery be encouraged that it does help – a lot! I think often how greatful I am that I live in a time when there is such help available. Praying for you that the nasty little man has lost your address!

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