What my purple cane says to you…
Posted on November 13, 2013
by Liz Jackson
On my way to a doc appointment today, I was so cold that I draped my cane over my arm and shoved my hands in my pockets. I was only going a short distance, so I was fine, but I felt a bit foolish lugging around a cane I wasn’t using. The need for my cane is actually something I have been thinking about more and more. So I really connected to something my doctor told me about a 99 year old patient she has. She was saying he is a sprightly old man in wonderful health, and couldn’t figure out why he always carried a cane when he didn’t seem to need it. He told her that he carries a cane so that people are more cautious around him. He finds he gets more space to walk, others are more patient, dogs don’t jump… as long as he has his cane.
Over time, it seems that I have developed a set of standards for when I do and don’t use my cane. I don’t use my cane when I’m walking around my apartment. If I am running a quick errand in my neighborhood, I don’t use my cane. I never travel more than 3 blocks when I’m in my neighborhood, and I’m never gone for very long. Also, my gait doesn’t get truly bad until about the 2-3 block mark. That’s when my feet just give up on me. If I am getting on the subway, I always take my cane. Even if I will only be walking a short distance to and from the subway. So this means that when I have my purple cane, I am telling you a few things.
I am telling you that if the subway is full, I will gladly accept your seat. If nobody gives me a seat, my cane gives me the guts to ask you for your priority disabled seat. I am telling you I am wobbly on my feet. I am telling you that when I say excuse me, I really mean it. I’m telling you there’s a reason I am walking slowly through the crosswalk, so please don’t honk. My purple cane says all that and so much more.
I had a conversation with a friend recently, and she was telling me that I need to learn to manage the expectations of others. I realize I already do this by always having my cane with me. It prevents me from finding myself frustrated when someone says “Oh, you’re doing better!!”. I know that my condition doesn’t get ‘better’, but instead I am someone who has good days and bad days. It prevents me from having to tell that person that the next time they see me, I will have my cane but will be no worse.
My cane is often an ice breaker and a source of amusement. It’s a great accessory, especially when paired with some suspenders. My purple cane can become a machine gun, I aim it at friends and say pow pow pow when I find myself entering awkward territory. My purple cane is a protector. I know the handle is heftier than the rubber base. If I ever needed to protect myself, I would hit with the wooden handle. My cane is a source of understanding. Megan has the Jeep wave. I have the cane nod. My cane says I see you and your cane. I mean, I really see you. I will do all of the things you need when I see your cane, because I know you need the space and time that I also need.
So yeah, my cane is awesome. Pow Pow Pow.