Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color


As I listened to Arvel Bird, the Celtic Indian, play his fiddle, the urge to dance almost overwhelmed me. But all I did was sway to the music and tap my feet. If I’d been at home, I probably wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from whirling around my living room with abandon.
I’ve always been far too self conscious to be much of a dancer outside the home. Perhaps it’s a residual effect of being so painfully shy as a child.
There are, however, some people whose joy in dancing is so contagious that I can’t resist the beat, no matter how many people might be watching. Growing up, whenever, my parents danced, I also had to dance, and when I tired, I took joy in watching them.
Mum was born with a condition named talipes, more commonly known as clubfoot. In her case, both feet were turned inward at a ninety degree angle. By the time she was school-age, she underwent several surgeries to correct the problem and, though they improved her condition to a large extent, the outcome was not perfect. When I asked her about the impact on her life, she said: “It’s not that I was disabled, but it was limiting. I couldn’t run, and when I walked up stairs my feet turned inward. I was very self-conscious.”
I know her limitations go beyond her inability to run. After spending an hour cooking, her feet hurt and she needs to put them up. Shopping isn’t easy, either. She has trouble finding shoes that fit properly and don’t hurt. She has issues with her balance, too.
Despite her difficulties, Mum excels at some physical activities, belying her appearance—she is under five feet tall, looks frail, and is visibly unsteady on her feet.
She is a wicked table tennis player who loves surprising first-time opponents with her skill. After crushing her rivals with her deadly serves, powerful volleys, and good reflexes, her opponents often refuse her offers for a rematch.

She also loves dancing and is good at it, as is my father. They dance everything from the foxtrot, salsa, and waltz to jazz and rock. At parties, their skill often elicits audience applause. Only if you know what to look for would you realize that her gait as she dances has a hint of unsteadiness to it. I suspect that at parties, if anyone did notice, they attributed it to tipsiness.
I’ve never thought of Mum as disabled.