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  • Writer's pictureDavid Peppler, Sr.

Toe Jam (proof that not every post on this blog is going to be totally serious)

It’s all catching up to me. Between knees that don’t bend as far as they should, a belly that makes bending at the waist a chore, and nails that are really thick and hard, it is very difficult for me to cut my toenails any more. The main issue is my flexibility in the knees which, of course, is something I have no real control over now. Oh, I could probably do some of my old PT exercises to see if I could regain some mobility, but at this point, I do not believe that would make any difference other than to cause me undue pain and aggravation. Yes, losing weight is needed, but stepping on the scale this morning was not nearly as depressing as I suspected.

So, here I am, with thick, rock-hard toenails that are a challenge to care for. Mind you, I have never really taken good care of my feet, period. I have thick callouses on the sides of my big toes and on either side of my heels. My feet and lower legs are dry and frequently crack and flake up. Given how ugly my war-torn knees are, I have never given it much thought. I have ugly legs, and ugly toenails to complete the ensemble.

Diane says from time to time that I should go get a pedicure with her. She talks about how it would not only help my nails but would be good for my feet.

Mind you, my feet are far and away the most ticklish parts of my body. Prepare to lose teeth if you are ever near my feet and gently brush the bottom of my foot anywhere, from the tips of my toes to the back of my heel. I’m going to kick reflexively. If you hold my foot for this activity, I’ll probably pee too. It’s bad!

In fact, when I was involved in Emmaus walks, we always had a foot washing service with the team members in our last preparation meeting. This was always a holy moment for everybody, but an added time of stress for me. I liked the tooth count of my fellow teammates. I had to give specific instructions to whoever washed my feet. BE FIRM. I mean grab my foot with a purpose or you’ll find yourself on the other side of the room because I cannot control it, it’s really that bad. This instruction was always followed with great care. Only once did someone take their task too far and hurt my foot with their grip.

Anyway, having a pedicure has always been easily written off. I do not think I could live with myself if I kicked some sweet young girl off of her stool. My answer has always been a fast, “no!”

Until now.

The last time I cut my nails a month or so ago caused some extra grief for my knees. The way I have to contort my legs to get my feet up onto the toilet puts increasingly intolerable pressure on my partially or completely replaced joints. I mentioned it to Diane who had a familiar suggestion: "The next time I go for one, come get a pedicure with me."

I do not believe that she fully understands the stress level I experienced with the thought of this. The visual of some young lady lying on the floor with a bloody lip from my reflexes is not an internal image I appreciate nor enjoy. As our youngest likes to say, my butt cheeks tighten even thinking about this procedure.

Well, recently came the big day. My anxiety had done all week what it normally does for events like this-it ramped up my humor so I would not cry in preparation. I joked about it all week and even on our way into the shop “pretended” to be nervous with silly antics. My initial fear was realized before I even opened the door. Three young looking Asian ladies and a patriarch. Please, God, don’t let my omens come true!

Was it as bad as I thought? YOU BETCHA! But miracles do still happen today. I did not kick! There were three things that saved my little helper from the need of dental care. First, they have these awesome massage chairs with a wide array of settings I could play with for distraction and a decent back rub. Second, my phone was by my side, or rather, in my hand for most of the experience. Third, and probably most importantly, Diane was in the chair next to me, making fun of how often I clenched my teeth or grimaced or contorted my facial expressions every time my helper ignored the order to be FIRM with my feet.

She maintained a ‘close enough’ grasp of my bottoms of my feet most of the time. Not always though. Thank God for those arm rests on my magical massage chair. I permanently indented the ends of them with my adrenaline-fueled squeezes.

The worst part was that she did not follow my rules when it came to the bottoms of my toes. Before now, I honestly did not know just how ticklish the my toe undercarriages were. And my salonist (is that a word?) never once touched them with any firmness whatsoever. Bless her heart. At dinner afterwords, Diane made it worse by telling me that she was fairly certain my lady didn’t speak English. Thank God my wife didn’t offer that nugget before or during this event!

Somewhere in the midst of all this fun and frivolity another customer came in and was getting her mani-pedi. She sat on my other side with one seat between us. I never noticed her looking my way but peeked often myself to gauge how much I was embarrassing myself. She did not seem bothered or entertained so I felt pretty good about it until I started speaking with her at the end. In the course of conversation she asked if that was my first time. When I affirmed, she just smiled and said, “I could tell.”

I have no idea how many faces I made at the nail salon that day. My face ached a bit so it must have been a high count. I know that I was tickled a whole lot and was flabbergasted at how I somehow maintained my composure and my heel’s grip on the little foot platform. Nobody got kicked. I survived. So did the brave soul who spent 30-minutes in the danger zone.

What is most surprising to me, however, is the results. In just one session she got quite a bit of the calluses off my feet, particularly from my big toes. From over five feet away, my feet look better than they have in years. Yes, there were times when she was working on my nails that it was a bit painful. I had expected that part and did fairly well with it. But the end result caught me off guard in the most positive manner. I like what I see.

What made it best, of course, was doing this with Diane. I promise you I would never do this on my own. But entertaining her with my expressions and antics is always something I enjoy. This time it had they had specific causes more than just my silly nature. I was being tortured in the most fun way. And because of the results and the subsequent realization that this did not hurt my knees or make me feel worse about my bending-preventative belly, I really had a pleasant experience.

I do believe I’m hooked. I sincerely look forward to doing this again. I guess that makes this my new toe jam.


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