Jack put his little foot on my arm. “Dad,” he asked on that Summer morning in 2011. “What’s five plus three?”
“Five plus three is eight Mister,” I said looking at the three little toes gripping the back of my hand.
“I have eight toes! See?” He proudly counted them off to me.
To Jack, being born different has never been different. To him, having a short leg and eight toes is reality. Where ten toes is standard for the most of the world, eight is Jack’s ten. And not a big deal. For anyone who has met Jack, they will understand that Proximal Femural Focal Deficiency (PFFD) does not curb his enthusiasm for life or inhibit his physical activity. That he wears his prosthetic “Super Leg” is just as much a part of daily life as his brother taking ADHD medicine. He dances, he cart wheels, He kicks, he runs, and he walks on his hands. Jack has adapted to a world that didn’t expect him.
And he is slowly mastering it.
The day in July when he layed his three toes on my hand made me realize something very important: Everyone adapts. As a Lefty, I have adapted over the years to the gooey pens that smear my arm with ink – by “hooking” my hand above and away from the writing. The stunning Mrs. Clark chooses guitars with smallish necks and bodies, because larger instruments don’t fit how her own body is shaped. My Dad has a myriad of gadgets and tools to make up for his bum shoulder. We may not all adapt at the same level, but each of us has to do something in life a bit different from everyone else. Adaptation comes from thinking outside the cookie cutter and finding a way to succeed.
But the willingness to adapt comes from the heart.
I haven’t always been a good adapter. I get grumbly sometimes when confronted by a problem that seems to ask me to provide stuff I don’t have – or don’t know how to do. But I try hard to ask myself what is available to fix the issue, adapting with whatever gadget or move I can find.
It might be that Jack has one up on the rest of us already.
Being born with a disability means he isn’t weighed down by any recollection of doing things differently. I need to learn from him, and let go of past failure. How we approach life is about desire rather than physical stature. If a kid with a short leg and eight toes can succeed at Kung Fu, then the least I can do is keep trying at something until I get it right.
Eight is The New Ten. Five Plus Three. Possibly the best math equation around.