How did this happen? I was being a cool Head of School, playing a pick-up basketball game in full tie and dress shoes in a student’s driveway. I came down with a rebound (like a boss!) and my right foot landed on a small pebble, the exact position and pressure of which caused what I now presume to be an increasingly painful stress fracture.
But here’s the funny part (and where my wife gets angry with me): I’ve had this stress fracture for three years now. I never told her (or anyone) about it until last month. Even after I mentioned it to Megan, it’s taken another full month before the pain became too much (aggravated by a very full day last weekend of being on my feet) and she took matters into her own hands on my behalf, looked at my calendar, and made an appointment with my doctor.
Welcome to being – or being married to – a Dunham. Be glad you’re neither.
My wife and my mother shake their heads at such Dunham displays of stubbornness. This particularly male Dunham trait is a favorite mockery at family holiday gatherings, usually beginning with the latest example (in this case, my silently living with a stress fracture for three years), before retelling the various “best of” tales of my father Roger, my grandfather Dean before him, and always culminating with the story of my great-grandfather Kyle and his death at 50 from testicular cancer, having been kicked in the testicles by a horse. In recounting this story, the Dunham women emphasize how Kyle refused to see a doctor until after the swelling became visible through his clothes and nothing could be done, reminding the Dunham men of what can (and perhaps should) happen to the stubborn lot of us if we take the same approach.
Concerning my foot, it’s honestly not stubbornness that’s at play; it’s really pride. I’d rather not re-tell the story of how a pebble in a driveway sidelined my NBA career (I feel you, KD, I feel you). I’d also rather not deal with the hassle of doctors and X-rays because I don’t like people making that much of a fuss over me (especially when I’m pretty sure I know what the problem is). And, I’d rather not spend weeks with my foot in a cast (which I know is the only way my foot might heal) because 43-year-old guys on crutches are not pretty recipients of pity.
All of which (among other things) is my attempt at explaining why I’ve walked with a fractured foot for the better part of three years. As I’ve tried to demonstrate, it’s not my fault; I’m a product of a line of men – of Dunham men – who would just rather keep to themselves than bother anyone with what’s bothering them. We don’t ask anyone to label us as heroes, nor as martyrs; we just dutifully do what needs to be done – even when it hurts – because that’s what Dunham men do. It’s what my father Roger does; it’s what my grandfather Dean did; it’s what my great-grandfather Kyle’s legacy became.
After he died prematurely, that is.