It’s not what you don’t have, it’s what you have

Caleb wins at Xbox. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Caleb Davidson competes every year in the Tour de Kingston and Kingston’s Shamrock Run.  He has been playing soccer since he was in first grade. He plays baseball and basketball, and wants to play modified football next year. He plays the trumpet. He swims at Kingston Point. Like most 11-year-olds, Caleb occasionally sasses his mom, hates doing homework and bickers with his little sister. Caleb has built a half-dozen Pinewood Derby cars in Cub Scouts, chops wood with his dad and whoops his cousins in Xbox every time.

So what’s the big deal? This precocious, rough and tumble sixth-grader was born missing his left arm, is missing his right forearm and elbow and only has four fingers on that hand. Caleb was also born missing a femur bone in his right leg, so he wears a special brace with a boot containing a four-inch lift. On his other foot, of course, is a single athletic sneaker. “He wants $130 shoes,” said Sharon Slater, Caleb’s mom. “But he rags them so badly. $130 for one shoe? I don’t think so!”

Caleb’s condition is not congenital; his doctors are not entirely positive why he was born the way he was and speculate that it was a defect in his mother’s amniotic fluid which wrapped around his forming limbs in utero. “I didn’t know why three to four doctors would hint around about having an abortion, but as Christian folks, that was not happening,” said Tim Davidson, Caleb’s stay-at-home dad. “And thank God, because he inspires us every day.”


Caleb was born two months early weighing only two pounds, 11 ounces. His mom slid her ring off her finger and held it up. “When Caleb was born, all of his fingers fit inside this ring.”

Caleb’s parents attribute much of his boundless confidence and successful life skills to his early childhood physical therapy at Brookside in Rosendale. He just finished his second season in Kingston’s Summer Sizzle basketball league, where he had no problems keeping up. He has been playing inKingston’s soccer league since he was 5 and Little League as well.

The warm and energetic family lives in a tiny house in East Kingston, where Caleb is a notable in the neighborhood. Last week, the family and I sat outside in their backyard to chat while Caleb shot hoops and his little sister Alicia, 6, bounced around gaily in her first-day-of-school clothes. Caleb’s little brother Jordan, 2, rolled by in Caleb’s old Big Wheels trike, and Caleb’s parents mused over the large wooden block still duct-taped to the right pedal. Slater said that just recently they lined up all of Caleb’s old leg braces from smallest to most recent. They took a photo of him lying besides the 11 appliances, sat back and marveled. When asked whether there was anything Caleb could not do, from across the yard Alicia chimed in, “He can’t sing!”

Caleb’s brace is not a prosthetic; rather, it stabilizes the leg missing a main bone. Since he only gets a new brace and boot once a year, the boot often gets resoled and the ankle’s hinge often necessitates repairs. Caleb made a strong point to express how he does not like to ask for help, and seldom requires any assistance beyond a few simple tasks. “’Cause I don’t need help,” he insisted. “I don’t!” Caleb further insists he does not need an aide at school, and even complains to his parents that it is a waste. Though he started in the unenviable middle school shark pool with 600 different faces, Caleb said he was comfortable in the mix because he knows so many kids throughout the years from sports. “No one ever really messes with me,” Caleb said.

Slideshow image: Caleb Davidson plays basketball with his sister Alicia, 6. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)