talking with … a 13 year-old


Last week I interviewed my 6 year-old daughter. This week, we move up the age scale to my 13 year-old son, Max, to get his perception of the world of limb loss.

Dave: When you were growing up, did you talk to your friends about the fact that I only had one leg?

Max: Yeah. it started in like first grade. You came into my class and you talked about it and you flipped [the prosthesis] upside down and stuff like that. From first grade until now, everyone still calls it a robot leg. And teachers sometimes refer to it.  They’ll say, “Oh, doesn’t your dad have a prosthesis?” And I’ll say “yes.” And then everyone’s like, “Oh, what’s a prosthesis?” I’ll be like, “Morons!” ‘Cause they have no idea. They still call it a robot leg or a metal leg or a computer leg or artificial leg or fake leg and all that stuff.

Dave: So you call them morons?

Max: Yes.

Dave: Are you making lots of friends this way at school?

Max: Absolutely.

Dave: Do you think I can do things that most other parents do?

Max: You can balance a drink on your foot, which is pretty cool, if you flip it foot upside down. You can basically do the same things. You’re limited at a point. Like you wouldn’t be able to breakdance with a knee like that. But you could still coach baseball like you do. You could still play basketball with us. You could generally go on the trampoline. You could go in the water if you wanted to, if you were to get a [water] leg. You can still basically do everything.

Dave: Some people would say that I couldn’t dance before I lost my leg.

Max: Well that’s because you’re related to your dad.

Dave: That’s an excellent point. How do you know that my dad can’t dance?

Max: I saw your wedding video. He’s definitely one of the lives of the party. But not the highlight. It was in the “not top 10 plays” you could say.

Dave: What’s your favorite thing we do together that involves me using my prosthesis?

Max: Does football count?

Dave: Yes.

Max: I like playing football. I like when we play basketball. I like – oh it was really funny the other day, when the cats were chasing the cat toy. They were just about to jump, and you dove on the ground and started rolling around, scaring all the cats and lifting your legs up and batting at the cat toy. That was fun. [note: this is true; there is even a video of the event showing me pretending to be a cat and batting away a bright red toy – you will not see said video … ever.]

Dave: When was the first time that you knew my leg was different from other people’s?

Max: When I was in kindergarten and we started going to the track and we started running around. Ever since kindergarten you would always show me cool tricks with it. But when we went to the track and you would run, there was always a certain way you would hop onto the leg that looked different from most other people running because you would spring up almost, which was different. I never really knew when I was that age that you got hit – I just knew it wasn’t there. And most of my friends thought it was really cool, so I just went with it, I guess.

Dave: What do you think the hardest part for me is of having a prosthesis?

Max: I know when you play basketball that when you shoot you shoot on one leg. That looks difficult. When you run, it’s also hard because your running leg isn’t computer-powered, so you have to lift it up.

Dave: What would your friends ask you about my leg when you were younger?

Max: They asked how it happened and thought it was really cool.

Dave: What did you tell them?

Max: Once I was old enough I said you got hit by a car and would tell the story. Then when it was a robot leg I’d be like, “Yeah, I guess -”

Dave: Am I supposed to call you a moron now? Because you just called it a robot leg.

Max: No, when they said it was a robot leg. I would be like, “yeah, I guess it’s a robot leg.” And I just started correcting them, I guess, when I got older. Like we talked about it in health last year, and they were like, “Oh yeah, doesn’t your dad have a robot leg?” And I’d be like, “Prosthesis. Morons.” [laughs] The sun is slowly starting to set. I can see it going down.

Dave: Your attention span is almost as long as Caroline’s. What would you want to see the next generation of prosthetics do?

Max: Ummmm. There should definitely be one you can dance with. ‘Cause that would be the worst thing that would ever happen to me, if I were somehow to lose my leg and I could just never move like that again. That would really suck. Something where my leg rotates, instead of [back and forth], it would rotate all the directions, like a ball and socket joint so that it would move around. One where your toes move too. That would be really cool. And also, if there’s one – they should come up with one, it would be so expensive, a new permanent one that you don’t have to take off. One that – I know they have one already that connects to your [bone].

Dave: Yeah – osseointegration.

Max: Yeah – they should do that, but somehow take skin and cover the leg to make it part of you, I guess.

Dave: If you had to wear a prosthesis and you had the choice of a high-tech one with a noisy motor or one with no motor but that was quieter, which would you choose?

Max: I wouldn’t care about people knowing [I wear a prosthesis because of the noise], because you can’t really change it. It would be like if someone said to me, “You have two colors in your hair?” And I’d be like, “Yeah. And?” You can’t change what already happened. Next question. Let’s start wrapping this up.

Dave: If you had to pick a design for your socket, what would it be?

Max: I would definitely want to do The Flash logo, ’cause I always loved The Flash. Maybe something funny. Or maybe I’d like to make my own. I like the yin yang symbol.

Dave: That’s deep. You know what the yin yang symbol stands for?

Max: It’s like the good and bad in you, or something.

Dave: I think we should look it up on Wikipedia.

Max and his younger brother, Jackson, who has come into the room: [simultaneously] Oh my God.

Jackson: [to Dave] You flipping blogger.

Max: [continuing] Or, I always wanted a tattoo of this too, but it probably wouldn’t look as good. I want a bar code, like a bar code tattoo. But if you could somehow get that into a tee-shirt.

Dave: You’re interested in commodotizing yourself?

Max: Sure. Yes.

Dave: You want to be something that could be bought and sold?

Max: No – I think it looks cool. Stark Sands had it in American Idiot [on Broadway].

Dave: So you want it because all the cool kids are doing it?

Max: No – I just want it because it looks really cool.

Jackson:  [interjecting again] All the hipsters?

Max: Shut up, Jackson. You’re not involved, so stop talking.

Dave: [reading from Wikipedia] By the way, yin yang is described as how “polar opposites or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent.”

Max: K, that’s a different language, so you might as well not say it.

Dave: It’s about duality. Do you know what duality is?

Max: No – I would also get the American Idiot logo, the heart grenade.

Dave: Before you give me any more examples, can we safely conclude that you would have about 10 legs worth of material?

Max: Yeah. I would get a –

Dave: Don’t let me slow you down here.

Max: – Superman logo. I like the Superman logo. I’d like a skull. Not a cheesy skull and crossbones, but a dark sketch would look kind of cool.

Dave: You realize that about a third of this interview has been taken up with just your ideas for prosthetic sockets.

Max: Not even close, but ok. Yes. Next question.

Dave: What question should I have asked you that I didn’t ask you?

Jackson:  [overhearing question from the next room and shouting] Good question!

Max: [laughing] Shut up, Jackson! Because I got mad that Caroline was being interviewed and I wasn’t?

Dave: No that has nothing to do with it.

Max: Because you needed someone to interview?

Dave: I was hoping for someone more articulate than Caroline.

Max: Ohhhh, no.

Dave: Do you think you’ve achieved that?

Max: I think with some questions I did. Some questions I tried to act really smart, like with the ball and socket joint. See what I did there? And when I said, “Let’s wrap this up,” like it’s December, with Christmas gifts: “Wrap it up.”

Dave: So how would you rate your performance so far? With “A” being really good and “F” being quite poor.

Max: Six Christmas trees out of ten Christmas trees.

Dave: So you just gave yourself a failing grade.

Max: Yes.

Dave: That’s a 60.

Max: I know. Because you’re basically putting it on me. You’re like, “Oh, you’ve got about the attention span of Caroline.” The sun is setting, Dad! It’s going down!

Dave: [laughing] You do understand you’re illustrating my point by changing subjects this way.

Max: It’s going down. I can see it now.

Dave: What are you going to do after you’re done with this?

Max: Going on the trampoline and beating up Jackson.

Jackson: [overhearing from the next room again and shouting, gleefully] That’s me!

Dave: Is there anything else I need to be asking you or are you just dying to go outside?

Max: I’m just dying to go outside.

Dave: So I’m keeping from something that’s more desirable than this.

Max: No, this was fun. Thank you. Merry Christmas!

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