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Meeting Sharonby Bruce
I recently had the good fortune to visit with Sharon, a congenital amputee born totally without arms. This was one of the highlights of my life, and I'd like to share it with you.
First, I should tell you that I'm happily married to a wonderful non-amputee woman and I've always been faithful to her. At the same time, amputee ladies have always been very arousing to me, as is the case, I'm sure, with many of you who read OverGround. So, for me to visit a lady friend, especially an armless one, was a very unusual event, indeed!
This whole thing came about because I was contacted by Robert, with whom I've had on-line e-mail contact for many months. Robert is married to a beautiful arm amputee and has developed many useful adaptive devices for her use. Over the years he has made and donated adaptive devices to many other arm amputees, helping them lead a more normal life after amputation. I felt privileged when he asked me if I would visit Sharon and help her with her computer. I realize that there has to be considerable trust involved when a person one has never met face-to-face makes a request like this, and I'm grateful to Robert for that trust. Now, let me tell you about my wonderful visit with Sharon.
I was a bundle of nerves as I dialed the telephone to make an appointment to visit her. After several rings, the phone was picked up, followed by a few seconds of silence.
Then a very pleasant female voice said 'Hello.'
'Is this Sharon?' I asked in my nervous voice.
'Yes, this is Sharon speaking, ' the pleasant voice said.
I was told this lady was middle-aged, so you might imagine my surprise at noticing the voice on the other end of the line sounded like a young lady of twenty! I wondered for a moment if there could be two Sharons.
My nerves took over again as I realized there was only one Sharon and this was her, a real-life armless lady talking to me! Despite my shortness of breath and a bit of choking up, I managed to introduce myself and told her that Robert had asked me to phone and see if I could help get her computer adapted to use with her feet and connect it to the Internet World-Wide-Web. We talked only long enough to decide on a day for me to come to her home.
That day was two weeks away. It was a very long two weeks, and for all of it I kept trying to visualize what she might look like. Finally, the day arrived. I called in the morning to confirm, and then I was off.
Sharon's house is about an hour's drive from mine and, wouldn't you know? I arrived twenty minutes early. So, I vis ited the corner restaurant and forced down a cup of coffee. That twenty minutes seemed about as long as the two weeks had. Finally, I paid for my coffee, and walked the block to her home. I rang the door bell. From behind the screen door, I heard a very beautiful female voice call out 'I'll be right there.'
Now my heart was really beating with excitement. In fact, I was sure it was going to explode right out of my chest. I heard some children in the background (Sharon operates a day care center for children of working parents) and then I heard her say, 'Hello, I'm Sharon. Are you Bruce?'
I managed to blurt out, 'Yes, you must be Sharon.' (How very clever of me!) Then the door was pulled open and I was treated to the incredible sight of a short, armless, middle-aged but absolutely beautiful lady with a cord attached to the screen door in her mouth.
'Come on in Bruce. It's nice to meet you!'
Now, as a child, I was taught to shake hands when meeting someone. And if that someone was a lady, I was taught only to offer my hand after she offered hers. Although my thought process was still kind of out-of-control, I had sense enough to realize there was nothing to shake, so I entered and just stood there looking down at her. (I'm over six feet tall.)
She dropped the screen door cord and it slammed shut behind me.
'Let's go into the family room,' she invited.
When she offered me a chair, I plopped down in it and she sat opposite me. My heart was still in my throat and I felt like my blood pressure was going through the roof. I guess Sharon could tell, because she started talking and carrying on a kind of one-sided conversation until I settled down.
After a few minutes, the conversation turned to her computer. She showed me to the den where it was installed and I looked at it, unbelieving. It was a really old, first generation, 8088 machine, what's usually referred to by the technical term, 'dinosaur.' It had been given to her, and she didn't even know how to turn it on. I looked at it, started it up, and instantly suggested we should try and find a newer computer for her to use.
Sharon showed me her desk and typewriter, both which were on the floor. A short stool was in front. I asked her if she typed, and she answered by whipping off a couple of quick sentences with her feet. It was wonderful to watch her type with two toes. I'll bet most hunt-and-peck typists couldn't begin to keep up with those talented toes. She typed effortlessly. When the conversation returned to her computer, I said I'd try to find a good used one for her.
We went back into the family room, sat down again, and talked some more. By this time, I had calmed down enough to be able to hold up my end of the conversation pretty well. Shortly, the subject turned to her life as an armless person. She told me how she was born and raised like a normal child, although she knew at an early age that everyone looked at her differently than they looked at ordinary people. She also noticed at an early age that some men were interested in her in ways that others were not.
As we talked, children would come up to her and interrupt. She would reach out with her feet and draw them to her to hug them with her legs. I noticed the children obeyed her very well. She was very good at controlling them with soft, but firm and direct, words.
She took time off from our chat to fix lunch for the children. She sat on a high stool, placed strategically in the center of her kitchen. By rotating it she could reach and open cupboards, drawers, and the refrigerator. She made sandwiches, poured drinks, and put them on the table, using her feet, of course. It was amazing to watch her. She is totally capable of taking care of herself and the children.
After the children had eaten, they were put down for their afternoon nap. Then, Sharon and I had time to talk again. It seemed we talked about every thing. By this time, I had completely calmed down and was absolutely fascinated with her. I asked many questions about her life without arms and she was very candid about how she felt and did things. I was delighted to observe that when she talked, she gestured with her feet like you and I do with our hands. This seemed to be a very natural thing for her to do.
She told me that her first husband had 'kept' her around as a fixture and didn't treat her like a real person . She said he didn't try to satisfy her emotional needs, but only satisfied his own desires. After two children and 15 years, they divorced. She eventually married again. This mariage was dream-come-true for Sharon. Her new husband was a loving, caring man and he catered to her every physical and emotional need. I guess when you have no arms you don't have the opportunity to touch other human beings as often as the rest of us do ... But all people need a lot of touching, even armless ones, and this man satisfied that need for Sharon. Unfortunately, he died about 10 years ago.
Sharon told me she had met a lot of armless people and had taught many of them how to drive with their feet. She also told me of knowing armless people who used their condition to take unfair advantage of others, by preying on their sympathies and living off their generosity. They made people believe they were so handicapped they couldn't support themselves and needed financial help. 'Not me!' she said. 'I can do just about anything a person with arms can do, some things, much better.'
Enough time had gone by since I had arrived that I was getting very comfortable talking with her. In fact, most of the time I simply forgot she didn't have arms! It might seem a strange thing to say, but this experience taught me a great many things about life. For example, I found out that the ladies we find so fascinating are also people! I never used to consider that fact when I saw a amputee. All I saw was the missing body part. What an eye-opening experience!
When the children awoke from their nap, that was my cue to leave. We arose and Sharon walked me to the door. I stood there mumbling something, and I promised to call her again. I wondered, since we couldn't shake hands, if I should try to kiss her cheek or hug her as a gesture of friendship. Finally, she said 'Good-bye Bruce' and stepped toward me. I opened my arms and she pressed close. Embracing her was an unbelievably pleasant sensation! Although I had reveled for more than an hour in how wonderful she looked, I discovered for the first time what someone with no arms feels like. That feeling was wonderful, too!
I'm delighted to say, this isn't the end of the story. She has asked me to come back in the future and help her fix up her den/office and give her instruction on the computer.
This special lady has a beautiful spirit. That made her one of the loveliest people I've ever met. I only wish I could have had this experience years ago. Needless to say, my heartfelt thanks go to Robert for this opportunity.
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