(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Oscar Pistorius' mother was a powerful figure in his life, refusing to pick him up when he fell, keeping a gun under her pillow, and then slipping into a coma while Pistorius was away at boarding school at the age of 15. Part of Pistorius' first day on the stand Monday was a tearful mix of testimony about his emotional state since he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but also how he was taught to overcome being born without key bones in his legs.
His parents had his legs amputated below the knees when he was 11 months old, he said. Here is Pistorius describing his life with his mother, their fears and coping with his disability:
- How his mother, Sheila Pistorius, taught to him not to use his disability as an excuse: “If I fell she let me get up for myself and she didn’t baby me. She treated me exactly the same as my brother and my sister.”
- His early prosthetics: "I was 13 months old I got my first prosthetic leg, which was conical shaped. It wasn’t really a prosthetic leg with a foot. But I learned how to stand up with them and to move around and I walked when I was 17 months old."
- Primary school: "The prosthetic legs that I had then were very heavy so they didn’t really allow me to be as mobile as I was later years when the technology got better."
- When a boy in school ripped all the buttons off his shirt, Sheila Pistorius told him to not let that happen again. Oscar Pistorius got in a fight with the boy and he and his mother were summoned by the headmaster, and she defended her son for fighting. "My family always believed in standing up for yourself and standing up for what you believe in. We were taught that you have got to cope." Sheila Pistorius sent the shirt to the boy's mother to sew the buttons back on.
- His mother's fears: "My mother had a lot of security concerns. We obviously grew up in a family where my father wasn’t around much so my mother she had a pistol and she would often get scared at night and she would phone the police. We didn’t stay in the best of suburbs, often crime in the area. On a couple of occasions they did break into our home and more often than not was just her being scared. So she would come at night and call us to go sit in her room and many times we would just wait for the police to arrive."
- "She kept her firearm in a padded bag under her pillow."
- Pistorius' own fears: "I climbed into a cupboard and I phoned my sister to come and sit by me, which she did for a while."
- His mother's death when he was away at boarding school: "My brother and I didn’t know she was sick. By the time [we heard], she was already in a coma."
- Pistorius' legs which are not of equal length: "I don’t have balance on my stumps...my dog could knock me over without my prosthetic legs on."
- His charitable work with people who have prosthetics: In Mozambique, where he worked with victims of land mines, he went on the radio to challenge the fastest runners in town to a race. "I raced the fastest guys in the town and I won and all the people who had prosthetic legs all of a sudden weren’t ashamed to have prosthetic legs. They all started pulling up their pants and showing them, look I also got a prosthetic leg."
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