I had a cane…actually I had three canes. One was wooden, with a curved handle, very old fashioned and…manly. Another, also wood, was textured with designs as might have been done on a router. The third cane I bought because it collapsed, and could be packed away in a suitcase or bag. I was prepared, to say the very least.
The wooden canes were tucked into the back corner of the coat closet. The collapsible one was stored in my car, had been there for years because I didn’t have the nerve to use it.
Thinking back, I realize now why I was so hesitant, reluctant even, to use something that would only be of help with my mobility and balance issues. As long as I didn’t use the cane, an assisted device, I could hide my disability. So what if I staggered a bit, was constantly touching the walls, the furniture, whatever, to keep my balance.
I was afraid to use the cane in front of people I knew; afraid I’d look silly, afraid I couldn’t cope with something else I’d have to carry, to keep track of, in addition to my purse.
Then one August day, my friend and I were on a day trip. We had driven to the north, our destination a large outdoor art show. Parking was limited near the exhibits, but was available for a fee in a farmer’s field down the road. A shuttle service was provided, or one could hike through the woods, or along the road. I’d had a Handicapped Parking sticker for awhile, and like the cane, I’d never used it. As we were talking about where to park, we couldn’t believe our luck when we spotted and empty space, right near the entrance.
We were entering the parking lot when we noticed the empty space was a designated Handicapped spot. “I have my handicapped parking permit with me,” I said. We looked at each other and laughed and went to park in the open space. There was a man directing traffic at the entrance and he informed us there was no available parking. I showed my permit and he, reluctantly, waved us on. But he glared at us, not trusting that we were actually deserving of the parking place.
I immediately felt guilty. I could feel the man’s eyes staring at me, judging me. “Maybe I should use my cane,” I said. “Then I’d look legitimate.” I grabbed my cane from the back seat, put my permit on the dash, and got out of the car. And that was the first time I used the cane.
I learned a few things that day. People respect the cane. They respect your space, hold doors for you and are generally kind and considerate. The fear I normally had about being jostled in a crowd was lessened and I had a very enjoyable, though very tiring, day.
It was a start.