Yesterday I played rugby for the first time since May. In eight years, I have not gone that long without playing. Life feels strange and disorganized without my weekly practices and my Saturdays, now filled with trips home and other chores, still feel empty. So I was extremely excited to wake up at 5 in the morning, pack my bags and coolers, and head off to Ohio to play in the 7s tournament.
While cheering for the men's team yesterday, I noticed one of their players walked a little funny. I didn't recognize him and couldn't understand why he dragged his leg when he sprinted down the field. This guy was amazing; he was fast, had field vision, tackled fiercely, and was easily the best player on the field. But why the silly leaping?
"Hey Gabe, who is that dude in the red socks?"
"That's Timmy. He lives here but plays for us each year in this tournament."
"Why is he leaping?"
"He only has one foot."
I had to talk to this person. The minute the match was over, I hunted him down, gave him cold water, and asked him to tell me about his foot. He had an accident years ago and has no toes on his right foot. He also cannot bend his ankle and so has to drag the foot along when he runs. He wears a big, red, rubber shoe over the stub to protect it while he plays rugby. He then tried to show me where they dug out some of his hip in a failed attempt to make an ankle.
Timmy could easily get a prosthesis, he says, but because of the great care you have to take with such mechanical wonders, he could never play rugby again. He keeps the stump because, somehow, he has learned to play on. He waved his hand, gesturing at the sea of ruggers at the tournament. As we were speaking, someone's errant kick landed on his lap. He shook the rugby ball at me and said "I could NEVER give this up."
It felt really good to be home.