I wear braces on my legs. They are called ankle foot orthotics (AFOs) for short. I’ve worn them most of my life. Here’s the process by which they are made: the person making them draws on my feet and legs with a skin safe colored pencil. Then he or she puts long socks on me with a rubber tube in the socks. A cast is made of both feet and legs right above my calves. They are molded and allowed to dry for twenty minutes. Then they are cut off; the rubber tube makes sure the removal is painless.
A few weeks later my new AFOs are ready to be adjusted and then comes my least favorite part: breaking them in. My least favorite part must be done slowly. It’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes, but much more delicate and annoying. My AFOs keep my ankles & feet in proper alignment. They help give me stability when I stand, too. The only time I go barefoot is during water activities and when I’m in bed.
My AFOs make wearing shorts, skirts, and dresses awkward, sometimes; because people think I’ve broken or injured my legs. I prefer to wear pants or jeans and avoid the awkward questions entirely. My siblings can attest that I’ve never been a real girly girl. I enjoy looking cute & put together well, but I don’t have time, patience, or the budget to spend hours primping. I have always felt the beauty, clothing, and magazine industries put too much emphasis on outward beauty. I know why they do: they are in the business of making money. It doesn’t mean I have to buy stuff just because or buy into what somebody tells me is beautiful. I credit my mama, granny, aunts, and chosen aunts for my perspective.
I say all that to talk about yesterday. Yesterday, I had to get all four straps on my AFOs replaced. It’s never my idea of fun because people I don’t know try to remove and put back on my AFOs. Last time they needed replacing, the employee of the company insisted she knew better than mama and me. We had to have them replaced, again, because of course, they weren’t correct. Yesterday, I went into the replacement process determined this time would be different. Have I mentioned I’m stubborn, yet, because I am very much.
When I called yesterday morning: the woman on the other end of the phone was clearly very new. She said I didn’t need an appointment for strap replacement. Then she gave me two options. I could either come in and wait for them to be replaced, or I could drop them off and the guy who has repaired them for years could get to them whenever. Option A was the only suitable option. I told her that politely, ,and she asked many straps needed replacing. All four ma’am. “You have them on both legs?” My eyes rolled to the ‘ceiling and after a calming breath I said, Yes, ma’am as I told you when you asked how you could help me today when you answered my call. She then told me I could come in anytime before five except twelve because that’s lunch hour. Yes, ma’am I understand. Thank you so much. I’ll see you later today.
I hung up my phone and said out loud: It’s not like I have multiple degrees or anything lady. Plus, I’ve had AFOs since I was six. I know how this process works much better than you, clearly, do. I put my cell back in the pocket of my chair knowing it was going to be an interesting day. I thank God every day for my chosen brothers, who have known me my whole life, because they make me laugh when I must deal with such utter nonsense. It took about an hour to get all my straps replaced. My brothers kept me distracted and entertained throughout just like I knew they would. I love you, fellas. I couldn’t thrive nearly as well or, with the humor I do, without you. It’s my privilege to be your sister.