"Bend...and look in the mirror"...
"Now, on your toes, and hold, 1, 2, 3, 4"...
"Now, tendu (stretch) to the side"...
It was Monday evening (July 19), and I was in a large ballet studio pointing my not-so-tiny toes and getting lost in the light but calming music. I had just heard that Aunty Dalilah, or Aunty D as I call her, had passed on the morning of July 19. But I had seen the phone call from Kak Pi hours too late and thus missed out on following her down for the funeral.
I wasn't shocked or sad to hear the news. I think I felt mostly relieved. I know Aunty D wanted to leave this earth in the holy land, but a part of me is happy she made it back so that Adam and Idris, her darling children, could see her. I was relieved to know her earthly suffering was no more. Aunty D, whose last conversation with me was about her still sleeping on the pink-heart pillow I had given her before I left Malaysia for Canada.
"Daphne, dah penuh my air liur on the pillow, malam-malam meleleh" (Daphne, the pillow is full of my saliva from my drooling every night).
As I stretched and flexed my toes in the studio, I felt a calm wash over me. My hips felt sore from the balancing, but I could hear Aunty D's sing-song, lilting voice going, "Daphne, I know you can do it!".
It has always been a childhood dream of mine to learn ballet (my joke about trying out for the National Ballet wasn't a joke that came out of nowhere), but somehow, my 9 year-old never thought about conveying that wish. I have never been on the tiniest side, and the idea of ballet didn't seem to fit my klutzy and sometimes too-big self. Morover, I had a tumour on my left foot, and even participating in School PE/PJ sometimes was difficult. That tumour was eventually excised when I was 16 because it decided to grow. Surgery came with its own baggage. After two years of electric shock shooting up my spine, I finally opted for steroid therapy that went on for another 2 years.
But throughout, I've always wanted to dance. And if there's something that I learnt from Aunty D., it's that you can do pretty much anything. A physical 'problem' should not stop you.
Something not many know about me is that I'm double-jointed. In the medical world, it is known as hypermobility. And for those wondering, no, I do not have two joints where everyone else has one. Double-jointed people are more prone to dislocations, subluxations (i.e., partial dislocation), muscle sprains, aches etc. It's because our ligaments, which are very loose/lax, allow us to stretch more than usual. As such, our muscles have to work extra hard to compensate for the lax ligaments.
Being double-jointed is fun, but it's also troublesome on a klutzy day. I'm the perpetual kid who trips over own feet, and splats on the floor. People on the street call us flexible. The one who will always get asked, inevitably: "Doesn't that hurt???"
One thing not fun about being double-jointed is being injury-prone. I've subluxed my knees and twisted my ankles repeatedly. I spent half of my holidays in London limping and hobbling. I've injured myself so often I've earned the nickname "Hoppy" from one of my professors, and "Hobbles" from one of the people I volunteer with.
The rheumatologists in Canada (it's a teaching hospital, so I see a team) sent me for physiotherapy to build and strengthen my muscles. And if I wanted to do yoga/pilates/dance for relaxation, it was fine too, they said. But I had to be careful.
I finally found a dance teacher who is willing to teach me ballet one-on-one. And what luck it is that he happens to be a physiotherapist by training.
What luck, two for the price of one...And so I find out I need to work on my hips (left side too loose), my ankles (both sides too loose), my knees, and my upper and lower back. Apparently, that's the whole body...
So I guess being flexible has worked against me. But it's allowed me to skip the flexibility training in ballet. Let's see how far one-and-a-half months of ballet will get me.
"Careful, your ankles are going in a different direction than your knees!"..
"No, that's another injury waiting to happen!"
I could hear Aunty Dalilah giggling...I know she would go into a peal of laughter if I had told her about my very-not-young body trying out ballet for the first time. And the possible tremor that might have been felt all over Ipoh (you have been warned) when I go into jumping. Oh God, please don't let this mini-elephant fall.
And God, while you're at it, please keep Aunty Dalilah safe with you. If you need a spirit-booster for some sad souls, let her know, and she'd do the job splendidly. Oh, and God, if it's not much trouble, do you think you could please plant a little Limau Tambun (pomelo) tree up high for her? She loves the fruit, so don't get offended if she tries to hide it from You.
In the meantime, may You guide Uncle Saiful, Adam, Idris and all who love her throughout this difficult time.