By Joe Rector

The longer I live, the more I see that life is circular: what goes around comes back again at some point. That includes both good things and bad ones. The key is to try to improve on the way we handle those events the second time around. Bill Jones and Mark Kirshner have provided help at both ends of my life.

When my brother and Jim were young, we had problems with our feet. Our legs ached constantly, and I’m sure that our complaining struck nerves in our parents’ necks. The pediatrician recommended that we go to Bill’s Comfort Shoes for help.

The store was located on Central Avenue, not far from Sears. We walked into the store, and a polite man with a kind smile greeted us. He sounded strange, obviously identifying himself as someone who had moved to Knoxville from an area up in the north. Bill pulled out a gadget and had each of us put one foot at a time on it. What appeared was a purple image of them. The problem was plain to see. Jim and I were flat-footed. No arch could be identified.

That visit ended with us both wearing orthopedic shoes.  Our family had little money for extravagances, but Mother and Daddy once again decided to cut corners so that we boys could have what was needed.

Those shoes were as heavy as cinder blocks. They lacked style and good looks. As I’ve said before, each pair that we had resembled the clod hoppers that Frankenstein wore. The jokes from other kids came, and when I played football or baseball at school, this fat, slow kid moved as if my legs were moving in a tub of maple syrup.

By high school, our feet had corrected themselves so that arches were visible. We began wearing “normal” shoes. Before long, I managed to develop another problem. My left ankle was so weak that I wore two or three casts and one surgery during my teens.

A few years later, another surgery supposedly corrected more tears in ligaments and floating bone chips. To this day, I can step on slightly uneven ground and turn my ankle and have it swell to the size of a melon.

I recently visited an orthopedic specialist. He told me that the bones in my ankle had separated to the point that the possibilities of more sprains and breaks were high. He referred me to someone who might help in the same way Bill had done all those years ago.

Mark Kirshner Orthotics is located around Whittle Springs Middle School. Mark has been in the business of developing orthotics for 27 years. The man is older than his youthful, athletic looks indicate. His goal has always been to help others, but spending years in medical school didn’t appeal to him. Instead, he incorporated his love of architecture into making products that helped people of all ages and with all kinds of problems. His demand for precision and concern for clients shows in the final products. When any problem with an orthotic presents itself, Mark takes the product to his lab and within minutes, the brace or shoe fits perfectly

I’ve worried about turning an ankle and breaking bones in the fall. However, since I put on this new brace, I am confident in staying upright. I look forward to taking walks and hikes again.

This left ankle of mine has taken abuse over the years. I am thankful that Mark Kirshner and his staff have stabilized it, just as Bill did all those years ago when he slid my feet into those ugly pairs of shoes. Two men helped me have a healthier life, one when I was 5 or 6 and the other when I was amazingly close to 70.