As I am a bit of a klutz, though, I think I need to grow another arm to properly use The Stick. It is awkward at best to hold and use. Maybe it is genetic -- I think of my mom telling us that the walker she had when she broke her foot had to be "a right handed one" because she was left handed and had a hard time using it. A symmetrical walker.When in my classroom I bob from table to table or desk, and sometimes abandon The Stick somewhere as I don't need it as much if I am popping around the room with short steps. For the longer trips to the office, or from the building to my car, it provides assistance.
The kids haven't said anything about it. Only a few have asked what was wrong, which is fine with me -- the less attention on it the better. I just say it is just aggravating arthritis and leave it at that. I've been thinking. If I ignore it, they will, and life will carry on. It's just a cane, it's just a gimpy limp. I'm still ME.
But it isn't really ME. The ME I know doesn't use a cane. The ME I know walks dogs, used to walk all over Boston, and tries to do her own yard work and housework. In my head I am still racing around the classroom, able to cover ground quickly and efficiently. My body thinks otherwise right now, and I am in a wee bit of denial a bit at school for sure. The Stick must seem kind of strange to some people -- I have nothing broken, didn't use one before, and don't have it all the time. I hope no one thinks it is an unnecessary accessory or just a visual plea for attention to my health issues. I don't want to have issues, or pay any more attention to them than they demand -- especially at work. Kids just ask if they have a question about The Stick, adults just look and wonder, I think. Either way, my extra appendage makes me feel self conscious and annoyed as I feel slower and have one less hand to carry things!
Today, though, something happened that really made me feel a bit better. A silly little thing, really. I was talking to one of my 7th grade classes and holding up a painting to show them, and bumped my cane (it was leaning against a table I was standing next to.) I didn't bother picking it up right away as I was focused on what I was talking about. I just left it on the floor and didn't acknowledge it. After a minute or so, a student in the front left his seat, came up, and very respectfully picked it up for me and put it back against the table, and returned to his seat. Now this seems like kind of an unimportant thing, but it was a really kind, thoughtful, and supportive gesture on behalf of a young kid, in front of all the other students. I thanked him and the class applauded him. For some reason it struck me on a more emotional, grander level. I felt a sense of "Ok, I can do this. It's just a stick. They can help" -- instead of me "trying to keep up/hide it/juggle it" maybe I have to just deal with what I am right now, and I know that the kids know and can see it, and are good with helping. Thank you, student, for helping today. Sometimes a little gesture of understanding goes a long way in helping with bigger problems. What nice manners, too!
The Stick is going to be with me sometimes. I can't outrun my old self and I might need it more than I'd like in the days ahead. Acceptance is key.