Thursday, January 10, 2008

Say Hello to My Little Friend

While in Georgia for the recent holiday trip, I picked up an item from my parents house that has deep meaning for me.

This is the orthopedic brace that I wore for several years during elementary school. It was not the first one of its kind that I had to wear. Rather, it was a simplification of the larger, double-legged model that fit on both legs and had a bar running from one thigh to the other. This had the effect of forcing my legs into a triangular shape and I walked with a swaying, twisting motion, swinging one stiffened leg in an arc from back to front while pivoting on the stationary leg. I got used to the walking style and was even able to cross the (very small) creek running through the woods that edged my childhood home while wearing this brace.

Later one, I only had to wear the single-leg model shown above, on my left leg. The buckle hit the younger me on the calf, below the knee. The bottom of the brace fitted into a metal channel inserted in the heel of my brown Buster Brown shoe. When I walked, the hinge of the brace made a satisfyingly, cyborgian click on each step. (Not that I though of it in those terms or so positively when I was young.) You can get a sense of the set up by viewing this not-to-scale photo.

One of the main drawbacks was that at night I had to sleep in the brace, still attached to the shoe. I can't remember wiping the shoe clean of each days dirt and mud before I crawled under the covers at night, but I equally can't imagine that mom wouldn't have cared if was constantly dirtying my sheets. (Mom, can you provide some help here?)

Wearing the brace was often a source of frustration and embarrassment for me, to be sure. No elementary-aged kid wants to be different. Certainly, no kid that age wants to click along and be slowed down by metallic braces. (The "Run, Forrest, Run" sequence in Forrest Gump is much more fantasy than reality, if you are wondering . . .) I hope I handled it all with good graces, but there were days, I know, when I took it all VERY personally and wasn't happy with my lot. I was always told to be thankful that I was wearing a small brace on one leg with a (relatively) healthy body and mind rather than living in a wheelchair.


David said...

I'm very dissatisfied with this post, but I am going to leave it as is.

Mostly, I was dismayed at how short it was. (I'm always hoping to write more/longer/better about things and I never seem to accomplish it. Clearly I'm not devoting enough time to the blogging to make it meaningful.)

I did try to tack on some sort of "explain it all" coda on the end of the post, but it came off sounding disjointed and not thought out--much like everything else I guess.

I am likely affected by my viewing of "Walk the Line" last night and have the opinion that all actions and things must add up to make relevant sense to explain the Whole. In short, I have Biopic Disease.

David said...

I should clarify that the "explain-it-all coda" is not included in the posted piece. I have saved it in draft, in case I decide to wrestle with the thoughts at a later date.

Sven Golly said...

To paraphrase Socrates (or was it Bill and Ted?), the unwrestled life is hardly worth living.

Anonymous said...

I cannot conceive of the fact that I might have let you crawl into bed with a dirty brace on your foot, but I must confess I don't remember. Let's say I cleaned up the brace while you were bathing, okay? Although we always tried to make you look on the positive side, I did worry about you and how you handled the "stigma," until the day I drove up at the kindergarten and saw you climbing up the steps of the TALL sliding board, brace and all. To this day, I'm not sure how you managed to do it.

David said...

If you asked her, I am sure that Heather Trevalyan would quickly tell you that she was the one that motivated me to learn to climb that slide ladder.

She wrote that in my High School yearbook, so many years later.

Mom, I'm sure you worried, but you did your best to keep me positive--and especially to handle me on the depressing days. Hopefully there weren't too many.