Learning to say goodbye
by Andrea More, illustration by Emma Kearney
We were friends for at least a decade, which is a long time for a 21-year-old to know someone at that level of intimacy. To the doctors who performed surgery in order to remove you this summer, you were known as hallux abducto valgus—but to me, you were simply known as the bunion on the side of my left big toe. And yet, you were so much more than that.
Intellectually, ours was largely a teacher-student relationship, as I came to learn and understand what kind of shoes would piss you off. Mainly heels, but also, ski boots, hiking boots, tennis shoes, soccer cleats and sometimes no shoes at all. I learned all this gradually and painfully.
I was rather nervous when I first met you, one afternoon after a soccer game, somewhere in the Bay Area. I inherited you from my mother, and she from my grandparents—a protruding heirloom, if you will. It was fate, but also it was genetics. You received unkind comments from my father and other men of the boyfriend-ish variety throughout the years, the most common being, “Ew, Andrea, please not at the dinner table.” You gave me pain in times of stress, but also wisdom in times of uncertainty (though I’m still trying to figure out what kind of wisdom, exactly).
During the final months of our kinship, one could say you grew on me. But that would be wrong. Rather, we grew with one another. Looking back, we managed to travel to many destinations together, even though you inhibited my mobility significantly.
Many are the nights we lay awake like strangers in an arranged marriage. O, the knowledge and joy I wish for you in your afterlife. I knew you as a brother, as a father, as a son but also as a sister and a daughter and a boss. At times, you were a colleague, although the work was never divided evenly. To the podiatrist responsible for making that historical incision in my left foot in May, you were just another bunion.
I am waiting to board my flight back to Colorado Springs, where the bunions seem to be disproportionally military-affiliated. Here we are, four months later; there’s no turning back now. I didn’t always agree with your stance on things. Sometimes, you lacked balance entirely. But that’s the nature of a bunion as this bunion would have it, not as I wanted—and that’s the bunion we gather here today to celebrate.