For the past month or so, people have been making comments about my walking cane. Yes, most days I have to use a walking cane to help with balance here and there. I also had to get a handy dandy parking ornament for my lack of ability to walk distances. These little things have been hard to bare. Along with the cane and parking hanger come the inevitable stares. Some of wonder, some blank, some angry and some a swallow of sadness. For me, watching my body slowly lose physical ability is incredibly hard. But I don't think it happening faster would be any easier.
One day, I was staring at canes at CVS Pharmacy while waiting on my regular rotisserie of medicine refills. Near the drop off for prescriptions there was a display of a “variety” of canes. I was thinking at how dreadfully ugly the canes were. In particular, I held a deep bronze cane with a black handle; Ultra-light aluminum of course. Modern for the elderly unless they are a part of the distinguished elderly crowd that gets the cool handcrafted canes that people with interesting tales to tell hold. I didn’t think any more of it until a few days later. Later in that week, I went to visit my father who had another stroke. One morning while I was helping transfer my dad from the bed to the wheelchair he went limp in my arms. I had no choice but to muscle up the dead weight of my father back to the bed to prevent a wheelchair face-plant. He had another small stroke in my arms. Between the physical strain and emotional latent idea of my father possibly dying in my arms broke more of the tiny pieces that are left in my shattered former image. I had to have surgery to repair a small umbilical hernia and my pain levels and fatigue elevated to a new level, actually skipping a few levels to pull directly into Grand Central.
The next day after helping my dad, I was walking with a noticeable limp and I was in a good deal of pain. My mother gave me a cane that my father had been given before he met his current walker and wheelchair. And of course, the cane was the exact deep bronze cane with a black handle that I had just held in my hands at CVS just days before. It was too much for coincidence and too close to prophetic so it bothered me deeply. It bothered me because more and more of these types of things are happening. It is as if I am almost seeing the fabric of the universe or seeing the “Matrix” without any equipment or guides.
Of course when I got home all of the people that know me well said that they were going to get me a cool cane. After all, I was too young to sport that type of cane. I went on a quest myself to find something more comfortable as well. The current cane was killing my wrist because it turns out I have peripheral neuropathy in my hands and not carpal tunnel syndrome. So I needed something to give a little as I pushed down on it. I looked at the traditional walking cane companies and could find nothing but old man stuff and the web had cool things but only for pretty steep prices. So I went to REI and found a walking cane that was used for hiking trails but had a handle more like a traditional cane, made of cork of course to float in the water if dropped. It had shock absorbers on it almost like a car suspension system and even a little spike that could poke out if I were ever to walk on a slippery slope. Best of all, it was an awesome price.
My good friend Keith came over the other day and noticed that I had a new cane. He pointed out something to me that never once crossed my mind but really made me do a philosophic stumble into something wonderful. He asked me, "Did you ever ask yourself why you bought a cane used to climb mountains to walk around in daily life". He looked at me with that half-smile with his left mouth corner pointing up. This usually meant that this was a rhetorical question and he was showing me something my subconscious had sneaked past me. Inside this mind, this wonderful mind that has to this point been spared, I was awakened to the subtle irony of my using a cane in my daily life, to climb this Mt. Everest of a disease, a cane that was designed to climb real mountains. I guess my mind is moving faster than my eyes can see and my vision can capture. What a wonderful thing. Yes Keith, I will use this cane to climb this mountain that is not only before me but to keep me from falling back down beneath me as well. If the day comes that the cane does not support the burden of what I am carrying then I can only hope that my mind is still attuned to giving me the gear and the little inspirational things here and there (Keith stick around) to climb and conquer all that stands before me.