Not knowing the meaning of the word, I was very surprised, half an hour later, when he stood up.
This was before I found out that peripatetic means 'travelling from place to place', not 'unable to use legs'.
I hasten to add that I found this out for myself later, not by asking him how dared he get up without help.
It took some readjustment in my thinking, to find he could move. I'd spent that half an hour admiring him for his courage in keeping a music teacher job going. In fact, I'd fallen a little in love with him already in an 'I can care for this tragic, creative man' kind of way. Once I realised he wasn't paralysed at all, I had to find other reasons to love him. His brown eyes helped, as did his guitar-playing, but it was a close thing.
I was pleased to find out I wasn't the only one who'd misunderstood. A few weeks later, I heard two of our friends talking. One was commenting on the fact that my (now) boyfriend had a tendency to fidget (nothing's changed and he's 60 next year).
'His legs never stop moving, do they?' she said.
'Ah well,' the other girl said, whispering. 'You do know he's peripatetic, don't you?'
I don't know what she thought 'peripatetic' meant, because she'd often seen him walking. Whatever she thought, she made it sound terminal.
|I've never read this, but the title makes me want to ....|
Once we were married, and the misunderstandings continued, I told Paul he'd have to add an explanation. 'You can't just assume everyone knows,' I said.
It worked, to an extent, because one or two, as ignorant of the meaning as I'd been, were helped by the explanation. Unfortunately, the rest felt patronised by his adding, 'That means I travel around schools.'
'I knew that,' they'd say, huffily.
In the end, he dropped the 'peripatetic' and just said, 'I travel around schools teaching music.'
Some said, wanting to sound informed, 'Oh, you mean peripatetic.'
You're wondering, aren't you, how we ever had time to have three children and run a family home, taken up as we were with managing this lexical dilemma day after day?
Now, he works as a gardener. Sometimes, he tells people 'When I was younger, I was a peripatetic music teacher,' and I wonder whether they look at his legs, and the way he can garden for hours at a time, then go home and Google 'Are miracle healings still possible?'