Walter Gienapp: I'm Not Symmetrical Anymore

Friday, January 04, 2013 - by Walter Gienapp
Walter Gienapp
Walter Gienapp
- photo by Bonnie McGhee Photography

The natural way of things, especially people’s bodies, is to be symmetrical. You know, the left side is just like the right side. Each has one arm, one leg, ear, eye, half a nose, etc. On more important things, if that’s possible, the sides have to share: one heart, one liver and, thankfully, only one tongue.

But as time goes on, subtle differences get magnified. Even the Good Book sets out differences between the left and the right. Job: evil on the left, good on the right. Jesus does the same thing in Matthew 25: goats to the left, sheep to the right. The same Good Book says to not let your left hand know what the right hand is doing. Got that down pat….no problemo.

But from the sublime to the mundane. When I was about 14, I realized that my left eye was more “squinty” than my right eye. For a long time, it seemed, that was the only eye with which I could wink. Because it was already partially closed or didn’t have to go so far to get closed, I could get it down without too much twisting in my face. After another year or two I managed to wink with the right eye, but it was not a comforting sight. It did more to repulse the girls than to draw them in.

Now my right knee is dryer and rougher than my left knee. Maybe it prays more than the left one. My left leg is shorter than my right leg. I don’t know which one is the CORRECT size. My right foot is tenderer and often hurts to walk on for very long. The left foot can go much farther than the right one and often does. The big toenail on the left is a mess but the right one is a beauty.

I’m not symmetrical anymore.

My left middle finger is fine and ready for public display, which I am reluctant to do. My right middle fingernail has been deformed by a farm accident since I was 12. I couldn’t show that life-time scar to anyone without it being misunderstood. I don’t have the audacious naivety of my five-year-old, red-headed grandson. He had an injured middle finger all dressed out in a band aid and proudly displayed it on camera for the whole world to see. His gesture even got a rave review at a national police training school when his father was illustrating the need for contextualization in interpreting body language.

When I exercised on Henry’s machine in Trenton, my left chest area muscle developed like Arnold’s while the right side remained more like mine, sorta flat. When I raise and lower my arms, my right shoulder clicks, and the left one is politely silent. I should be thankful for the little things, I guess.

I’m not symmetrical anymore. I seem to get less so, the older I get.

I am right-handed when I write, but my wife thinks neither hand writes very well. I eat right-handed, but am left-handed when I bat a ball ore use a pitchfork or a shovel. My left arm is stronger than my right one, but that is not saying much. Six months ago, I injured my right hand, but I am hopeful that will heal before I die. Hearing loss is rampant in my left ear. My wife thinks it is the same with my right ear, but what does she know? The left side of my belly is slightly pudgier than the right side, but neither side looks really good. The left side of my head is longer than the right side. Is that the smart side of the brain? 

I carry my cell phone in my left front pocket, my keys in my right front pocket. My wallet goes in that left back pocket and my handkerchief in the right back pocket. If I ever get split down the middle, one side will surely miss the other.

There are other oddities about sides. Maybe it is all in your perception. If you stand at the foot of our bed and look forward, I sleep on the right side. If you stood at the head and looked at the bed I sleep on the left side. If I gesture to the audience to which I am speaking to show them reading from left to righ, I have to move my hands from right to left.

Maybe it’s more important to be “balanced”  by our differences than to be symmetrical. Carole and I have a well-balanced relationship. We can make up the difference for each other. If it were a symmetrical relationship, it would be boring, if nothing else.

I hope we all get more balanced as we become less symmetrical.

(Walter Gienapp is the pastor at Mountain View Presbyterian Church, and lives with his wife, Carole, in Lookout Valley. Five of his eight children live in the Chattanooga area with their families.)


This Week In The Arts

This week in the Arts: Special Events      The Southern Lit Alliance will host the 12th annual Art.a.ma.jig, a celebration of the culinary and fine arts, on Thursday from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Church on Main. This year's theme is Stories and is based on the books of renowned Southern writer Clyde Edgerton. Tickets may be purchased by visiting www.southernlitalliance.org ... (click for more)

2200 Block Of Hickory Valley Road Closed Thursday And Friday For Construction

The 2200 block of Hickory Valley Road, between Shallowford Road and Conner Lane, will be closed beginning Thursday, for storm sewer relocation and paving.   The closure is scheduled for two days and will reopen by Friday, at 4 p.m. Detours will be posted using Conner Lane, Lee Highway and Shallowford Road. In order to view a map of this closure, visit: http://www.chattanooga.gov/ ... (click for more)

House Approves Expansion Of Chattanooga Veterans Affairs Clinic

The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday to authorize funding for a new lease and expanded Veterans Affairs clinic in Chattanooga. This veterans’ package has been approved by the House and Senate Conference Committee.  Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said, “I am proud to announce the legislation passed this afternoon will fund a new lease for a multi-specialty ... (click for more)

KFC Manager Arrested After Staging Fake Robbery

Police were called Sunday night after a manager of the KFC on 3rd Street staged a fake robbery in order to take money. Fellen Hayes, 24, was arrested after police say she conspired with a man named "Ira" to make her theft look like a robbery. These events occurred shortly after noon.  She initially called police saying that a tall black male had approached her and taken ... (click for more)

Curtis Adams: Beck, Mackey Should Be Considered For County Commission Leadership

Just think about this;  a person highly qualified applying for a job.  As he is just about finished filling out his papers for his interview, he sees at the bottom there is a place for him to check Democrat or Republican.  He would think, “if I mark the wrong one I may not get the job.” Being a real leader requires honesty, integrity, and, most importantly, fairness. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Mark’s 50th Anniversary Toast

In the new book that celebrates the first 50 years of baseball’s Southern League, its splendid author Mark McCarter recalls that very early in his career as a sports writer, he was riding with his boss somewhere and mentioned that if the legendary Allan Morris ever needed help covering the Chattanooga Lookouts that he’d love to help. Today, as he looks back, he ruefully adds, “I ... (click for more)