Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.

~ Marcus Tullius Cicero ~

Dad Had a Wooden Leg

August 29th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 5 secs

Fortunately Dad left one leg spare.

No kidding, my Dad really had a wooden leg. Actually, he had a few. Some were fiberglass. But most were wood. Made from lacquered pine and fitted with leather and brass hinges, they certainly made a statement.

Dad, or Papa to us, kept his main leg in the bedroom ready to go. With trousers already on it, along with a sock, and one black leather shoe, it seemed to have a life of its own. Yet, unless you saw it exposed, it remained anonymous. You’d never know Dad had a wooden leg at all. In fact, his work buddies from AWA (Amalgamated Wireless Australia, back in the 1960s), and then Sony never knew he had an artificial limb. But then you wouldn’t, would you?

I mean, you don’t go up to people and say, “Excuse me, but I noticed you’re walking with a bit of a limp. Is that a false leg you’ve wearing or are you trying to do pirate impersonations?” No, you wouldn’t dream of it. But I did. Leastways, the fact Dad had a wooden leg sitting propped up against a chair next to his bed spooked me. Vaguely, I recall one of this legs featuring in a nightmare or two. You would have had them too if you waltzed into your parents’ bedroom and saw a trousered leg sitting there, like it was waiting for you!

Silly Papa. He didn’t sentimentalize anything. So, when he wore his extra legs out, he’d put them out for the garbage collection. Beautiful timber and brass ones, thrown out. Gone. Heaven knows what the rubbish collectors thought when they picked up the odd spare leg. But when you grow up with these appendages, the fact that our Dad had a wooden leg was as natural as clothes draped on a chair. Well, almost.

You see, we knew it had novelty. I would boast at school about my father’s six legs (he liked to keep a few spares), and the story had currency. Not many kids could declare, “Oh yeah? Well my Dad has a wooden leg!”

Now it’s all just a memory. Papa died a long time ago, back in 1994. As an above knee amputee the whole limb thing was something quintessential about him. At least, that’s our family see him. Sure, our Dad had a wooden leg. That’s what being a Dad is all about, isn’t it?

But as you grow older, you see things differently, don’t you? Papa was a stoic, determined to tough it out kind of guy. Making do was his mantra and he never harped about what he couldn’t. Maybe that’s why I was twenty before I suddenly discovered the blitheringly obvious. Dad had a wooden leg, yes. But, he was also disabled. Being such a capable man we never thought about Papa as a disabled person (whatever that is). So, in every social sense, he never was. Dad, my Dad, was 100%. He just happened to have a wooden leg.


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