Exerpt from Struck on One Side, The Atlantic Monthly, March 2023
My memory of the moment, almost a decade ago, is indelible: the sight of a swimmer's back, both sides equal-each as good and righteous as the other. An ordinary thing, and something I had never had, and still don't have. To think of that moment is to feel torn-once again-about how I should respond to my condition: whether to own it, which would be the brave response, as well as the proper one, in many people's eyes; or to regret it, even try to conceal it, which is my natural response.
I have a form of cerebral palsy called hemiplegia, which affects one side of the body. The word has two parts: hemi, meaning "half," and plegia, connoting stroke or paralysis. I have had a "half stroke," but I prefer the romance of my high-school Greek teacher's transla tion: I was, as he put it, struck on one side. Plus, it's a more accurate description of what happened to me. At birth, the forceps used to pull me out of the womb pierced my baby-soft skull and damaged my cerebral motor cortex. On my left temple is a tiny scar left by the forceps and shaped, rather unfortunately, I've always thought, like an upside-down cross-the anti-Christ symbol