This essay is included in My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming Hope in a World Turned Upside Down
When I returned home from the hospital after brain surgery in 1993, I did a great deal of sitting. Getting across a room was an effort; reaching the other end of the house to use the bathroom was a major undertaking. I spent a lot of time observing my healthy, active children and visiting with neighbors from my cushioned rocker in our living room.
By my side, ready at a minute’s notice, was the cane I had brought home from the hospital. Ugly stainless steel, four little feet at its base to provide better balance, this cane remained standing even when I could not.
I always knew where I left it. Waving like a buoy in the ocean, it was a constant reminder of what I had lost.
The little hill where I live has four houses at the top of it. The street dead-ends right at the edge of my yard. Years ago, when my children were growing up, the four houses provided the neighborhood with ten or eleven children, depending on who wanted to be counted as children. The end of the street has about two hundred feet of relatively level, quiet road where children could play and have games of football or basketball. My house stands four feet back from the street, and our dining room and living room offered a front-row seat on the “Silver Lake 500” oval race track. The bike riding in the street in those years was almost constant. Dinner was often a neighborhood affair as racers streamed past our window calling out greetings and checking to see when my children could come out to play.
As I watched the bicycle races in front of our house, I noticed that my rather nondescript cane had a rubber handle that looked quite similar to a bicycle handlebar, complete with the little hole at the end of the handle. It was as though it was waiting for streamers, just like those adorning several bikes passing right by my window.
I grew jealous. I wanted to play, too. My shiny silver cane waved at me as it stood upright in my living room, mocking my longings. It could stand alone unsupported, while I needed its help for my every step.
I looked at the hole in the handle, and then at the bikes weaving through the outdoor games in the street, streamers flying from many of their handlebars, and said to myself, I need some streamers, too. I had no sooner voiced my wish than the hunt was on. I was humbled by the determination that my parents, who were staying with me that first summer as I began to heal, and my siblings, who were all relatively local, put into this quest. They had some close calls. One shop had just sold out of bike streamers thanks to a mom planning a birthday party for twenty-six. Other stores were out of stock. My sister, Mary Glen, finally had success when she ventured into a party store, where she found iridescent curlicue streamers. She grabbed them and headed for my house.
With what triumph those streamers were presented to me and installed into the handle of my cane. Cinderella had become a princess! Afterwards, everywhere I went, children wanted to stroke the streamers, and, I was delighted—the focus had stopped being on me and why I was having difficulty walking and became all about my decorated cane. With time the curly streamers lost their bounce and grew scraggly. They endured many tugs from curious little ones. Despite their appearance, they maintained their attraction.
It felt silly to imagine my streamers flying in the wind like the children in my neighborhood who sailed past our house on their bikes. Yet I allowed myself to dream. Little did I know then that one day I would meet the man who would come to understand the longings of my heart and would find us a tandem bicycle I could ride on with him.
My wish, a pipe dream as I struggled along with my cane with curlicue streamers, was fulfilled in a manner I never imagined. Each time we take an Easy Walk, or climb onto our adaptive tandem bicycle on local and less local rail trails and begin pedaling, I am reminded of this desire, and feel grateful to have seen it become a reality. However you are able to travel, happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.
7 responses to “Fancy canes and other help come in many sizes”
Love your gift of writing and your positive attitude. Think of I know you from many years past when your boys were little. EBC, Norfolk?
It has been years since I attended Emmanuel Baptist church in Norfolk–many fond memories. Thanks for letting me know you are reading and appreciative.
Pingback: Getting outside–whatever it takes | Marjorie Turner Hollman
What a wonderful story. I’m so glad you never give up. I often take my legs for granted & am ashamed though I had medical insurance to get 2 new knees I don’t get enough exercise & give them the freedom they deserve. I love your posts & aim to get out there soon.
Thanks so much for your kind words and simply checking in! Remember that change is hard, and that simply paying attention, grasping that change is possible can be the first step in creating new habits. Wishing you well as you figure out what works best for you.