The door opened and there he was, bigger than I imagined with chubby cheeks and three chins. His head was round as a bowling ball and just as hairless but his smile was beautiful. I reached out to hold him. We looked into each other’s eyes and I fell in love! Holding him, I sat down, speaking as he studied my face. Then his whole body wriggled and he chuckled out loud. I laughed with him and fell more in love. I took him to where my three children were waiting. They shared a laughing spell with him and they fell in love too. “Can we take him home, Mom?”
“We need to decide what to call him.” I reminded them. “We picked James or Thomas.”
They agreed to name him James Thomas. Our four months old, twenty-one pounds, baldheaded-baby soon earned the title “King James.” He was the center of attention. His new brother and two sisters fed and changed him, read and played with him like a new pet. Jimmy had an audience for his shenanigans. He rode his tricycle through the house and had stroller or sleigh rides as he wished.
He was special being adopted but he was extra special. He was born with only the tibia in his lower right leg with rudimentary toes attached. The doctors said he would be fitted with a prosthesis (artificial leg) when he was two years old. Jimmy had other plans. He crawled at six months and began standing at the hearth and walking around it - “short legged.”
Jimmy and I made our first trip to a prosthetic clinic and he was fitted with his first artificial leg at eleven months and walked holding the technician’s hand. Within two weeks he walked alone. Actually, he ran and fell, ran and fell. He raced up and down the stairs and climbed everything like a monkey. Neighbors called to ask if I knew Jimmy was on the roof again. Thank goodness we had a one story ranch. He was just shagging balls or stray frisbees. He climbed trees and enticed others. Once they got up, Jimmy could climb down but they would be stranded.
When he was two, it was necessary to amputate the flesh at the end of his leg to better fit his prosthesis. We attended amputee clinics once a month with twenty other children running and playing, waiting their turn. When we traveled, we sang songs and made up rhymes. I told him stories and he recited the times tables, spelled words and studied maps. We ran out of gas, had flat tires, got caught in storms and went in ditches on icy roads.
Sitting still was not one of Jimmy’s virtues. Church was tolerable for forty-five minutes or less. After the offering while the congregation sang “We Give Thee But Thine Own,” Jimmy was out getting his. I came close to spanking him once when he said “Don’t beat me, Mom” as we left. Afterwards, the little old ladies accused me of spanking “that sweet little boy.” I offered to let him sit with them the next Sunday. He enjoyed shocking people by pulling off his leg and waving his bare stump around.
Growing for him meant constant extensions and revisions of his prosthesis. He was so active, he needed a thigh cuff attached to a waistband. Bone spurs grew from his tibia through the end of his stump. Revisions and healing time were needed so he used crutches then. At home he’d just hop or stand on one leg. Jimmy was taught, “ you are inconvenienced not handicapped. I put on my glasses to see. You put on your leg to walk.”
Jimmy spent two summers learning water-skiing. His three “subjects” drove the speed boat, shagged line ropes and spent hours in the water trying to get him up on skis. He wouldn’t give up! Finally, he did it, using only one leg! Everyone on shore was cheering and we celebrated when he dropped off. He was eight years old. He learned to ski on one foot too, no ski.
My five-year-old great grand daughter, Anna asked “who are you?” When she met him. He said “I’m Great Grandma’s little boy.”
“You’re not very little. What is your name?” She asked.
“I’m King James.”
She repeated. “King James?”
“Yep!” He answered.
“Where’s your crown then?”
“Oh,” he answered nonchalantly. It doesn’t fit with my cap.”
Now she calls him “King James.”
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