The Cane Mutiny

Herman Wouk wrote it, Stanley Kramer produced it, Humphrey Bogart acted it, and I tried it. Of course, I dropped the “i.” But without it, there was no success.

Get out your whippun chains if you want, but I think I’m done with the word play.

After nine months of thumping around with the thing, I just got tired of the cane. I got tired of remembering to pick it up off the floor where it had fallen, tired of trying to perch it on the edges of counters in stores, tired of not cracking it into the unsuspecting legs of people who failed to see me standing there with it.

The thing is, I can walk without it. A cane is an assistive device, that’s all. I’ve actually walked out of the house without it once. Just once.

About a month ago, I left the house to take the dog for a walk, and got to the top of the little hill across the street and realized I couldn’t go a step further. I had forgotten my cane. I hadn’t realized until then how much I used the cane to help propel me uphill. Fortunately, I had my trusty cell phone with me, and I called CF, who drove the entire block to pick me up. The poor pup got a very abbreviated walk and I got a ride home.

But that’s not the mutiny I’m talking about.

No, that mutiny came this week, when we took our son to the doctor. I had to drive because CF had just had a second surgery on her broken wrist, this time to repair the tendon that ruptured in her thumb (isn’t our life fun?), so I had stashed my cane in the back, where I purposefully forgot about it, despite CF’s glares as we walked the ten feet into the office.

The pediatrician first had to fuss and bother over CF’s impressive arm bundling before she could turn her attention to my lack of adaptive appliance, which caused her to assume a frightening frown when she heard it was idling in the car. Only then did she turn her attention to our child. However, I did maneuver that entire doctor visit without splattering myself onto the ground, proving, I thought, that I could in fact uncane myself.

My comeuppance came quickly.

“Do you think I can stop using the cane?” I asked CF.

“No,” she said. End of story.

To humor her, I used the cane when we stopped at the store on the way home. There’s a short flight of stairs leading down to the store door. I was thumping my way down, reviewing the shopping list in my damaged brain, when—whoa!—what happened to that step? I was lost in space.

There’s a formula associated with things like this:

The formula for falling

Roughly translated, brain damage from stroke plus brain damage from MS, divided by help from assistive device, multiplied by the number of stairs, results in the out-of-brain experience one is likely to experience when navigating vertical surfaces in the environment. At least that is what I am told. I can no longer understand math or physics or quantum geraniums, whatever those are.

Lucky for me, CF did not witness this sudden loss of equilibrium; in fact she is just now learning of it as she reads this, and so now she understands why I have so carefully been using my cane again.

I do not need it to walk. I need it to remind myself that I cannot walk for a long time without it (refer to abbreviated dog walk above) nor can I negotiate a short flight of stairs without it (refer to comeuppance). I need it to remind myself to slow down, to take wider turns, to let someone else hold the heavy stuff.

With M.S., there have been times when I have used a cane, times when I have used a wheelchair, and times when I have used a three-wheeled scooter. There have been times when I have not been able to walk at all, times when I have been unable to leave my bed or couch. I’ve sat around the house for days at a time with an I.V. pumping steroids into me, trying to break out of an M.S. exacerbation.

Using a cane is really quite minor. A stick of wood. Big deal. Get over it. This is me talking to myself.

But there is one small, final, tiny bit of mutiny I can cling to. The word “mutiny,” if you trace its origins back far enough, is related to the Latin word movēre, to move, which the cane helps me do. Ironic. My own little cane mutiny.

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2 thoughts on “The Cane Mutiny

  1. I loved the little splat mark in your equation. And I love your post. Don’t you get tired of all this adoration? I wish I had something more specific to say than, “I love your stories.” But what the hell, I do.

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