Flat Feet


I turned on my laptop the other day, and the ever-changing screen showed a photo of waterfalls, big wide ones somewhere in Brazil. I’ve never been to Brazil, but I have been to Venezuela, where there are seven wide falls and a resort below them called Canaima.

I was student-teaching with another Iowa Stater. We had taken a weekend trip, because Kristy had planned it. She led; I followed. We were a good team with my Spanish and her blue-eyed, blond buxom body. Doors opened for us where they might not have for others.

Aside from my debilitating diarrhea that weekend, I had a pretty good time. I wore my black one-piece swim suit; Kristy was letting it all hang out in her bikini. She was a large farm girl but confident of the way she looked.

We decided to walk under the closest waterfall. Back in those days, there was no tour guide, no fee, just us watching everyone else do it.

“Let’s do it!” Kristy said.

An older gentleman and a younger woman befriended us. Tomás and Miledy followed us to the waterfall. The noise was incredible, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water coming off a wide rim, resulting in seven waterfalls.

We walked single file on the flat wet rock, worn smooth by the water.

“Don’t slip, or you will die,” Tomas said behind me in his Venezuelan accent.

I teetered in my bare feet, not confident at all that I wouldn’t slip.

Once we were safely to the other side and now in an open cave-like area, Tomás and Miledy chatted us up. My heart was pounding. I still had to cross the wet rock to get back. It was hard to hear over the roar of water and even harder to think in Spanish, so we single filed it back to safety.

Tomás and Miledy kept me company that afternoon while Kristy went up in a helicopter to try to see Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world.

Fast forward fifteen years. I am at my first chiropractic appointment, face down on the adjustment table, and the chiropractor says to me, “You have flat feet.”

I am 37 years old and and the mother of two children, wondering why my back hurts all the time.

Now I know.  I’ve been stuffing my flat feet into uncomfortable shoes for nearly four decades.

My dad had flat feet, which kept him out of the Korean War (polio helped, too).

My right knee buckled under me when I hiked because my right foot rolled outward. I couldn’t do yoga well and kept tipping over. I was bad at PE, skiing, and softball.

At last it all made sense.

I’d walked under a dangerous waterfall in Venezuela with bad balance. I’d climbed Huanupicchu at Machu Picchu with bad balance. I’d spent 37 years on this planet, never feeling as stable and steady as everyone else appeared to be.

There was a correctable reason.

The chiropractor made me a pair of orthotics. I could hike, I could dance, I could descend a ladder without feeling like I was going to fall.

How did no pediatrician catch my flat footedness? How did no one intervene in my childhood and get me some decent shoes? I remember my mom rubbing my legs with alcohol because they ached so much.

How did I stand for two years in high school as a grocery store checker?

How did I do anything?

I adapted, as we all do. But those orthotics – man!

They changed my life.

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