Seeing Myself For The First Time – OHS033

One of the interesting aspects about being born with one hand is, “this is all I know.” What I mean is I have no other reference point. My entire experience is one handed. Despite seeing most of the people around me having two hands, my normal experience is seeing myself in a mirror with one hand. All I have ever seen of myself is one handed. Like I said, it is all I know. People often ask me, “what happened?” My standard response is, “nothing.” When people realize I was born like this they almost seem relieved. And often they have a reply that is something like, “never missed what you never had.” It sometimes seems as if they are comforted to know I did not loose my hand in some accident. These are interesting interactions to say the least.

For a long time growing up I had never seen anyone like myself. Not just someone missing a “major part’ (as I like to say it) or in a much more extreme life situation. I mean someone who had a below elbow limb deficiency and wore a prosthetic hook. Someone just like me. When I was in high school and running around with my friends I was wearing a prosthetic hook as my hand. I was the one being stared at as I did my day-to-day activities like tying my shoes, getting dressed, and riding a bicycle.

One day at our local 4H Fair one of my friends in our group must of forgot I did not have two hands. I could tell by the tone in his voice. It almost seemed as if it was an inconvenience for him. He asked me in an ever so slightly louder and aggravated way, “why are people always staring at you?” Then he and all my other friends looked at me as I raised my arms up in the standard posture of not knowing and I said in a jokingly sarcastic voice, “I don’t know.” Then there was that small pause of astonishment, disbelief, and uncertainty. The only thing missing was the sound of a needle scratching across a vinyl record. As I began to smile, everyone including my friend who asked that crazy forgotten question began to laugh so hard and for so long people started to stare at us. It was quite the beautiful moment indeed. My friend apologized in laughter and said, “I wonder why I would forget that!”

As unique as that moment was, two days later I found myself on the other side of that experience. I was with the same group of friends at the same local 4H Fair. This was a yearly event and a big deal in our city of South Bend, Indiana at the time. There were rides, candy, food, music, games and all the things that make a local fair great. We so much enjoyed going to it and looked forward to it each year. It always brought together such a mix of people.

Then one day it happened. I could see what people see when they see me. I almost could not believe it. In that moment I did not even realize I was on the other side of my “one-handed-coin” in life experience. I stood there mesmerized as still as a statue. My stillness caught the attention of all my friends. My one friend who was with me two days earlier was with me at that moment. He was the one who first spoke up in this soon to be most excellent moment. What was about to happen next would have us laughing so deeply and so purely that once again the people around us actually stopped and started stare.

Show Notes:

  • Spending time in public as a one-handed person.
  • Being stared at my entire life.
  • Getting to see what people see when they see me.


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