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Unbalanced

Wobble away

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Grant's father has had another toe taken off recently. Grant talked about it over coffee like it was an incidental thing, as if his father recently took up Thai cooking or something, not systematic toe amputation.

"I asked him how many toes can you lose before losing your balance, and he told me, 'Grant, I haven't had any balance for at least 10 years,'" he laughed.

"Do they have toe prosthetics?" I wondered, picturing Grant's father wobbling around on his foot stubs. "Does he need a cane or something?"

"I think they have special socks with wooden toes sewn in," Grant surmised. Lary said that if there were no such thing as a toe prosthetic then he would build Grant's father such a thing. But I am very skeptical about Lary's ability to meet the needs of an average grandfather when it comes to toe replacement, because it seems to me an average grandfather would have very modest needs in that regard, and Lary never builds anything modestly.

Take the shower he recently built in his warehouse. It has twenty nozzles and forty knobs and is bigger and more complicated than an industrial car wash. You could seriously get killed in there if you turn the wrong knob, like if you thought you were turning down the heat and hit the steam hose instead. If Lary built Grant's dad a toe prosthetic the poor man would probably find himself at the top of a tree somewhere, dazed, propelled there after unintentionally activating the toe's "catapult feature."

"Lord, Lary, leave the man to his toe-lessness," I implored. "The world is not ready for your Patented Bionic Fake Toe." Surprisingly Lary agreed with me. "He's probably better off with no toes than the kind I would make him," he said, showing remarkable empathy for a mad scientist.

I did not even ask why Grant's dad needs his toes intermittently amputated, as I'm assuming it's because of old-people reasons, like diabetes or something, and I'd just as soon avoid that topic. I remember once when I was at the nail salon I overheard a luggage-trunk of a woman talk about how she could no longer feel her feet, and that's why she needed professional pedicures, on account of her diabetes, and it made my brain go straight down the rabbit hole. It made me almost not want to get old, because it sounded like if you live long enough your body decides to die anyway, regardless of whether you're still alive or not, starting with your toes.

Lary himself is pretty damn old, if you ask me, though not nearly as old as Grant's dad. But still you would think he'd be old enough to start tottering like other old people do when they start to stop feeling their feet, but Lary's got remarkable balance. He is constantly walking ledges and dangling from high places, and not just because of his job as an event rigger, either. For example, it must have been an incredible feat of balance to perch that old truck on top of his roof like he did, and without a crane or anything, and all while tripping on acid. Getting it down, I heard, was even harder.

Lary's toes are all there, though I don't know if their sensations are still intact. I'll have to stab one with a chair leg the next time we meet for coffee to make sure. It's the least I could do, as we don't want him scaling to the top of any more convention-center ceilings if he's beginning to lose his balance. He could fall on his skull and be paralyzed from the nose down, leaving me to tend to his colostomy needs after he inevitably alienates all his other friends with his sea-urchin of a personality. "I will personally chop off your toes myself before I let that happen," I told him. "Grant's dad will be the king of toes compared to you."

I've met Grant's father once, and he did not look unbalanced to me, but then neither did Grant, and Grant's balance is definitely questionable, though he is the only one I know who doesn't question it. On the other hand, balance is simply your ability to steady yourself in any environment, and Grant and Lary are each certainly capable of pulling that off. In fact, it seems as though I am the one who is always falling, and my friends are the ones who swoop in to steady me again, and who's to say that this whole process itself isn't a successful balancing act? Who's to say this ability to extract balance in an atmosphere of upheaval isn't the most amazing feat of all?

It's like juggling. Grant and Lary know the balls aren't falling, they're just being balanced in an unexpected way. And even if one ball falls you still have the others. Like Grant's father's toes; he might be missing some, but he has the others. He might not be perfectly balanced, but perfection is tedious. There will be plenty of steadiness in the world to counter Grant's father's wobbling, that's for sure, so he might as well wobble away. And he might do well to consider the actions of his son, Grant, who has literally made an art out of staying steady by embracing unsteadiness. "I know there is a balance," Grant always says, "because I can see it when I swing past."

Hollis Gillespie authored two top-selling memoirs and founded the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy (www.shockingreallife.com).


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