As I watched Missy reach for a marker and color in a picture, something struck me. I braced Heather about it later.
“Is Missy left-handed?”
“Yes,” my wife said smiling. “I didn’t realize it either until we started painting together.”
I had to chuckle. For a moment, despite no blood relationship, Missy and I had become kin.
No, I’m not a southpaw. Not exactly, anyway. It’s more like I found the cast-off parts of a left-hander and a right-hander in a yard sale and bought the mixed kit. You can call it partial ambidexterity if you want – or you can just call it a total mess. I’ll probably agree either way.
All I know is, I can write slowly and clearly with my left hand – or fast and messy with my right.
I’ll hit a baseball right-handed. But I throw it from the left.
The little bit of clumsy stage fencing I know starts with my left hand. But my rare attempts at clumsy basketball layups start on the right.
Having a foot – pardon me, a hand – in both worlds does have its advantages at times. I’ve never had to fumble at desks and drinking fountains made for a right-handed universe. But I’ve also been able to play a killer game of air hockey, flipping the paddle back and forth to the confusion of merely monodextrous opponents.
It’s kind of fun, actually.
Especially compared to the life I could have had.
When I was little, I had what my folks described as a bilateral syndrome, possibly an offshoot of my epilepsy. You could draw a line right down the center of my body, and past that line, my hands would lose their coordination.
A lot of work with some very patient people finally erased the line. They built up my dexterity – maybe a little too well, looking at the results. But I’m not complaining.
After all, it fits me so perfectly.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized there’s rarely just one right way to do something. Politically, that’s made me a moderate (and yes, shot at by both sides). Practically, that’s made me a curious person, eager to see what someone else might think or how someone else might approach a situation.
The results can be surprising, just as when I pick up a guitar the “wrong” way. But it can also be illuminating. At worst, I notice a detail about someone that I’ve never known before. At best, I pick up an angle or an idea that makes my own life a little easier. (I still owe a lot to the teacher’s assistant who taught me how to write papers back-to-front for instance, starting with my destination and building from there.)
Life doesn’t seal itself into neat boxes. And I’m glad for it. It means a little more work, but a lot more fun.
That’s never wrong. Even when it’s not right.
Now that I think about it, I haven’t tried any serious drawing in a long time. The next time I sit down with Missy, I may have to follow her lead, see if my left hand has another surprise it hasn’t told me about.
It may end up a mess, of course.
But if it doesn’t, I’ll have to thank her for giving me a hand.