I have heard the act of walking defined as ‘a series of controlled falls’. The control part has been tricky for me since this chapter in my life began. However, I have only fallen twice in the past year and a half, but the second fall was like an ancient huge tree toppling over. The natural reflex to catch myself never kicked in. My cheekbone actually hit the tile floor, giving me a nice black eye to brag about. My ‘close encounter with the floor’ eventually became a joke of sorts. Not really, but I find laughter makes everything feel better.
A bit over a week ago, I left the house for the first time without my cane. It was a landmark day, but much like other landmarks, it slipped by without fanfare. I should have celebrated in some way, but it was only after success that I realized how incredible it was to be freed from that Paisley walking stick. I had a hand to use for other things beside holding a cane. Who knew what doors that would open for me? I could pick things up at the grocery store without looping the cane handle around my arm and banging myself in the shin. It became was one less thing to keep up with; I was constantly losing it inside the house. It’s been months since I used the cane inside the house; as I weaned myself from it, I would leave it in the weirdest spots.
I do recall the first day I walked around the house without the cane and carried a cup of coffee from the kitchen to the living room. That day I immediately realized something cool had occurred. I remember telling myself that as soon as I could carry things around the house everything was going to be okay. I was very limited in daily life while using the cane. It left me with no free hand to use as long as I was in motion. One day I set a bowl of cereal in the seat of my wheelchair and pushed it to the dining table and thought, “This is ridiculous.” I did a lot of ridiculous things in order to become somewhat independent.
When I first left the hospital my speech therapist told me to keep a journal. However my brain was not yet ready for journal writing. Now I wish I had made more of an effort, because it is very easy to forget the progress I’ve made. I think a journal would have given me a concrete record of my advances, in some sort of chronological order.
For instance, the first few weeks at home my husband or my kids pushed me around the house in a wheelchair. I was not walking at all. I was not getting out of bed or out of a chair by myself. It was during this time that I had some of my lowest moments.
When I was finally able to leave the house we took the wheelchair or used a wheelchair provided by whatever store or clinic we visited. It was humiliating enough to be pushed around in private, but sitting in a wheelchair in public was much worse. All those pitying glances, all those uncomfortable smiles; like I had turned into 1000–year-old decrepit grandma. People called me “hon”. I was actually patted a couple of times. I hated that shit.
Now, I’m not exactly gallivanting. But I am getting around fairly well. The other day my physical therapist told me that if it wasn’t for Lida, he wouldn’t know anything was wrong with me. That might not seem like much of a compliment, but it is. The only time I use the cane now is when I go out without my ankle foot orthotic. I am trying to whittle down the amount of equipment I require.
My husband bought me a shiny orange aluminum hiking stick for my treks outside on uneven ground. And now that spring is just about to kick in, I expect to be out hiking around a lot.