Double Take – Strangers Staring at a Legless Man
Kevin Michael Connolly doesn’t like being called an inspiration. I imagine he’d be equally irritated by tears or words like ‘bravery’, ‘courage’, ‘triumph of spirit’ and the like. And it’s understandable, as that kind of talk rarely fails to sound insincere at worst, or condescending at best.
But the thing is, when you listen to Connolly, author of Double Take: A Memoir, it’s hard not to feel pretty inspired. The 24-year-old was born without legs, due to…well, being born without legs. Apparently, these things just happen. At the time of his birth, his mother’s father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, her mother with skin cancer, and her sister had just died of brain cancer. Needless to say, giving birth to half a baby was, in Connolly’s mother’s own words, “an exclamation point on a really tough couple of years.”
Fast forward 24 years, and it’s clear that Connolly’s parents came to terms with the challenge they faced, hit their stride, adapted, and loved their son, and did a hell of a job raising him. He talks about his parents camping, hiking, whitewater rafting, and that he, Kevin, would need to keep up. He seems to be an independent, positive, outgoing man with no signs of bitterness or self-pity. He’s well-spoken, and also – really hot. Not that that’s here or there, but…damn is he pretty.
Connolly is a champion skier (with the help of a mono-ski), and won a silver medal and cash award, which allowed him to write Double Take.
Connolly, whose primary mode of transportation is a skateboard. Double Take is a book that chronicles those stares in photographs. He travelled from country to country, documenting the faces that looked at him, and put the most captivating images together in a book.
But even in this, where one might expect anger or resentment, Connolly is remarkably understanding and insightful. I guess he’s had time to think about it and puzzle it out. The thing is, the people are staring. They’re staring because seeing a man who ends at the torso, whizzing by on a skateboard, isn’t something we see every day. And aside from the perception of rudeness, aside from the polite rules of society which dictate we avert our eyes (and why?), it’s interesting. It’s fascinating, and we find ourselves wondering where’s the rest of him? What happened? Some people have even approached Connolly with their own speculations of war, shark attack, car accident, Thalidomide. But the stories Connolly recounts aren’t of menace or cruelty – only curiosity, and perhaps a very real need to understand what we see and make sense of it.
I understand Connolly’s distaste for being called an inspiration, and I’m not trying to Hallmark him up, here. But I will say it’s really refreshing to see someone be so candid, understanding and accepting of the human nature in people around him, particularly when he’s so young.
The excerpt was well-written, too. Which is also refreshing.
If someone in your life (or you yourself – admit it) could benefit from a bit of perspective and a kick in the pants, Double Take: A Memoir, might do the trick. Either way, it looks like a good read with amazing photographs.