Dance on your knees

. December 20, 2012.


There is an old Daryl Hall and John Oates song that starts out with a resounding “You got no legs? Dance on your knees!” I refer to it at the start of every New Year to remind me to keep on dancing no matter what
“issues” I have going on.

I’m not certain if the inspiring story about Itzhak Perlman, the Israeli-born violinist, is urban legend or fact, but it touched my heart so we’re going with it. Mr. Perlman had a bout with polio at age four that left his legs paralyzed. During one of his performances, a string on his violin snapped. The audience expected him to put down his violin, pick up his crutches and laboriously leave the stage to get a new instrument or restring the disabled one. Instead, he took a moment before signaling the conductor to begin. Just like it is said that the aerodynamics of a bee should render it incapable of flight (don’t tell that to Mr. Bee), playing a symphonic piece with a three-stringed violin would be as probable as me balancing my checkbook. However, that is what the musical genius did. He recomposed the work in his head to accommodate the loss of the string. He later explained his actions by saying that it is the artist’s responsibility to make music with what you have left.

South African runner Oscar Pistorius is another “go to guy” when I need some inspiration. He marched into London’s Olympic Stadium in 2012 as the first double-amputee to compete in the games. A birth defect led to the amputation of his legs below the knee when he was 11 months old. The doctors told his mother that he would never be able to stand. I’m certain that Mr. Pistorius is thankful that his late mother refused to believe that prognosis. Many critics argued that his metal “legs” gave him an unfair advantage. I do believe that Mr. Pitorius did have an edge, but it pertained to his strength of spirit and REAL fortitude, not his “fake” legs.

Whenever I need an injection of inspiration I turn to my personal version of Olympic fortitude. Susan Hagemeyer was diagnosed with infantile hypophosphatasia, a rare genetic bone disease, at the age of three months in 1996. Susan’s bones are slow to grow and slow to heal. Treatments are limited and the physical limitations that come with the disease are abundant, but don’t tell that to this little “bee.” A bone marrow transplant, countless surgeries, and month-long hospital stays far from home have not stopped her from flying. She has a fondness for acting, art, and supporting her Southview Cougars, and knows in her heart of hearts that one day she will walk. I am in a constant state of awe at how such a little body can contain a spirit of that magnitude.

I can vividly recall a family cookie making day when my Gram, who suffered from macular degeneration, was fussing that she couldn’t participate because of her poor vision. My middle child quickly pointed out to her that at age nine, Marla Runyan became the first legally blind athlete to compete in the Olympics. She is not capable of reading an eye chart below the big “E.” My mom, who was “dipping” into the conversation from the kitchen, yelled out “so decorate the damn cookie Mother!” Gram let go of her need for perfection and rose to the occasion. Her creations ended up looking like one of my mother’s meat loaves; pretty darn ugly, but tasty.

I have had a few issues myself, from “T-Rex arms” (post bilateral mastectomy) to what I like to call “Mrs. Doubtfire” breasts (they could be engulfed in flames and I’d never know it). As we plunge into the year ahead, I vow to rise above my challenges and make music with what I have left!