Friday, January 17, 2014

Brave: what can you do with one arm?

He never talks about the accident. 

He was 16 and riding in the car with a friend who was two years older. Driving on country roads in northern New Jersey, they didn’t think anything could hurt them, these two first-generation Dutch-Americans. 
The details are sketchy, but the newspaper reported speeds of up to 110 miles per hour, and the car hit two telephone poles, 150 feet apart.  

One of the boys walked away from the accident, unscathed. 

The other woke up in the hospital, missing his right arm. 

At 16, he had to figure out how to do a lot of things in a new way.  The son of a farmer, his parents worried about how he would support himself and what he would do. They worried about his future and whether he would find a potential mate.

He used to jump in the pond with his sister and three brothers and milk the cows on their farm. He used to play baseball and basketball and have chicken fights. He used to be right handed.

He finished high school and went off to college to study accounting, and did everything everyone else could do, but with one hand. When he was 21, he was set up on a blind date with a woman named Virginia via mutual friends, and married her at the end of the summer, two years later.

He learned how to bowl. He joined the Jaycees. He volunteered in the community. He bought a house. He was promoted to controller of a large company based in a northern town in Indiana and moved his wife and two young daughters there, and they built a wonderful life.

The girls laughed when their daddy would sit on the bed with them as he put on his artificial arm and pretended to close it on their little fingers. They could hear the mechanical whirrrrrr as he flexed his arm muscle at the stump and the plastic fingers touched and eased apart. It was normal, to them.

When the oldest girl had her first date with a boy named Simeon Lanier Archer III, a good southern boy relocated to the Midwest, her dad reached out shook the boy’s hand with his real hand – his left. And the boy didn’t miss a beat but said, “Nice to meet you, sir.” The girl’s heart soared, because it wasn’t until that moment until she realized that shaking her dad’s hand might be a little different.

Never, not ever, did they refer to their father as disabled.  He was just Dad.

And maybe, as a result of growing up in a house with a dad with an artificial arm, they learned to be a little more sensitive to others. They learned to make eye contact and to say hello to everyone, no matter their appearance, and not to stare at people with unusual physical challenges. They valued that their mother took a blind date with a man she knew had only one arm, and she didn’t think anything of it.

So what CAN you do with one arm?

They learned that their dad can drive with one arm.  Even manual shift.

They learned that their dad can fix anything with one arm and a utility hook.  The bionic hook, they called it.

They learned to take for granted that their dad could do just about anything but tie his shoes, and even that he can do with some effort. 

They learned that their dad has more love in his one arm 
than many have with two.

I’m his oldest daughter.  That’s my brave and strong dad.

And I’m pretty proud of him.

P.S.  Notice that my dad is still smiling in that hospital picture.  And the "Man World" magazine is an entertaining title on his nightstand.  



  1. Oh Kristin - What an inspirational story and amazing man. Love this series you are doing. xo

  2. Brave indeed! And what a great smile that young man has...and now I know where you got yours, Kristen. xoxo

  3. Oh, this made me tear up. What a beautiful portrait, of your whole family, really.

  4. What a loving tribute to such a brave person. I love reading pieces like this that reaffirm life and the human spirit and perseverance and love. xo.

  5. Oh my goodness Kristin. I have a lump in my throat.
    No wonder you amazing. You have this man as your father. What an incredible story, what an inspiring dad you have.

  6. What a beautiful portrait of your father, and the whole family, actually. Just lovely.

  7. What a wonderful story of brave - and so inspiring.
    This is lovely, Kristin.

  8. This was fantastic. It made me warm, made me smile, made me consider things I take for granted. Your father's innate goodness was naturally placed inside of you. YOU exude the inspiration and beauty of spirit you show here in him.

  9. What a great, great post. Thank you for sharing this story of your amazing Dad with us.

  10. I just adore the fact that because he had only one arm you never thought any different about someone with a disability, etc. And you have his same eyes. Lovely, post. I hope I can be as brave as your amazing father, Kristin! Wow!

  11. I DID notice the smile. I did. Sniff.

    How I love this post.

  12. Such a beautiful ode to your dad! I love the thought of him reading this! *swoon*


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