It wasn’t the latest toy or a trip to Disneyworld that topped my wish list as a kid. No, I yearned for what friends and classmates had, what came so easily to them. I wanted to be normal.
The gimpy leg aside, there were other oddities. While most kids wonder about their parent’s sanity levels, I knew Mom and Dad were wacky. My mother was a nun – really. My father liked to take things apart – walls and ceilings, mostly. The foil-backed insulation in my room shimmered in a number of spots void of sheetrock; the closet door never did make it back onto the hinges, and I lost endless change, two necklaces and a contact lens in the gap between the wall and floor where a baseboard used to be.
Needless to say, when friends came over, we played in the living room, which had all four walls intact. Still, it was awkward, what with mom lingering nearby in the kitchen. Remember, she’d seen the inside of a convent. That’s enough to make the closest of friends squirm.
One aspect of the gimpy leg quirk is that the pleasure of buying new shoes has always eluded me. Well before my stroke, I had flat feet that rolled inward to where the arches should’ve been. My parents determined that the cure was to dress me in manly orthopedic, thick-soled, lace-ups that looked suspiciously like what the nuns – what my mother – wore. I pleaded for flip flops, platforms, clogs, espadrilles, cowboy boots. After the stroke, I couldn’t keep on anything without straps or ties. We settled on sneakers.
When I left home, I discovered some of life’s normalcies. I lived in painted and wallpapered dorms and apartments. Friends dropped by and had free run of any room. How deliciously ordinary. I also learned to walk in pumps at my downtown job. Occasionally, someone would comment that I was limping and asked if I’d hurt myself. I’d laughed to myself, thinking with great pride, Fooled ya. I’d appeared so like other business folk on a lunch stroll that a limp seemed unusual.
I continue to live among finished walls, but with a tremor and unsteady gait, there’s no more fooling anyone that my walk is average. That reality check actually came as a great relief. It was as though I could announce my satya, my truth: This is who I am, a gimp in granny shoes.
Recently, in Spanish class, I learned that there was more to my truth. The teacher handed a set of questions to prompt discussion among the beginner students. The third line asked us who our best friends are. My answer came instantly: Mes majores amigos son mi esposo y mi hermana. .My best friends are my husband and my sister. How plain, average, everyday, and wonderful is that?
I’m a completely normal gimp in granny shoes.