Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Don't Ask This Question

"Can I pimp out your cane?" The familiar question is posed by a 9-year-old. 


 It isn't just a youthful wish. People are predictable in their desire to improve my cane's appearance. The building assistant wants to paint it, an aunt wants to bejewel it, a friend wants to crochet a sleeve for it; like a giant furry condom for an incredibly long, hard, and thin appendage.

 My cane is copper, metallic, sturdy, with a neatly squared-off handle. Only modern compared to grandma's wooden relic  for her osteoarthritis. My sister and I spent many afternoons with her cane, pretending to knock Great Uncle Hiram in the knees. Grandma hooted. In my 7-year-old world, she was tied to the cane. It was part of her. Grandma, the cane, the arthritis.

My cane is fine. It is useful, and at times necessary. However, I prefer I'd never had laid eyes on the little bugger. I have been sick for the better part of a year, but I can't seem to shake the annoyance I feel when I glance at my steadfast friend. It's like that annoying kid sister who trails you like a shadow. Or the beautiful woman who steals the limelight in the room. The dispensable henchman of a dark passenger in a sinister plot. Ignore the characters, and they might go away. Pretend they aren't there and it might make you feel better. Pimping out the cane draws attention to them; to my illness.

I'd like a divorce. On my worst days, Mr. Sunshine and I joke about getting a full-body transplant, preserving my head in a jar. Put me on a shelf with some knickknacks and bring me down for conversations.  The thought of divorce from my body  has brought me some comfort in this: you aren't your illness, you aren't your body or its decorations and devices; tattoos, piercings, makeup, and canes be damned. You are made up of an assemblage of parts that either works well, or isn't working so hot right now. But your body isn't you. 

Nowhere was this more evident than the funeral I recently attended. The deceased was waxy, a hollow reminder of his former vibrancy. I was a bit uncomfortable looking at the shell of a man I had cared for, but I knew he wasn't there. Just like I reside in a body where its mechanisms have gone a bit haywire, bits and pieces not quite lining up right, no fault of my own, no cause attributed to me,  just a fact. I'm here and doing the best I can to ease the grind of my misaligned cogs, damnit.

Until I can laugh like Grandma, become impervious to the pitying looks of others, and am truly divorced from my body, I have no interest in pimping out my cane. It doesn't need the extra attention, and I don't need the oft heard, "but you're too young and pretty..."  

I am fickle. I may change my mind. Or be persuaded to do so. Maybe I won't mind my shiny friend stealing the attention, in some cases it may be useful. I can hear the outraged cries now "you mean you can lift that on your own?" In time I may come to see the cane as a sign of my strength despite this disability. Hey, I'm here, I'm moving and breathing. But for now, it can remain comfortably in my shadow, blooming dark promises of a future tied exclusively to me. 

Keep your bejewelers, sequins, and stickers to yourself and don't ask. I'm not pimping it.


  1. Hi, Sunshine,
    I can certainly understand your not wanting to glitter up your cane, since using it makes you feel self-conscious and exposed. Decorating it is wholly up to you. What's more important, I think, is to see that cane for the useful tool it is, one that ensures your mobility and helps you maintain the lifestyle you enjoy the most. You can't help having a disabling disease, but you can help how you deal with it. I admire anyone who chooses to live well, no matter which tools they use to make it happen.

    Wishing you the best.

  2. Absolutely Wren,
    The cane is sturdy and a helpful tool I couldn't do without. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I totally get this. I had a total hip replacement in June (I'm 24), and went from the walker, to the crutches, to the inevitable cane. At first I thought "well, if I have to use this, let's make it fun, let me pimp it out a bit". I even did a blog post on how I needed to find a "baller" cane.

    I ended up with a plain black collapsible cane. I briefly contemplated painting the handle with nail polish but, I didn't realize it would make me so self-conscious. I ended up feeling as though all strangers would see was my cane and I didn't want to draw any more attention to it. I guess I shouldn't care what a bunch of strangers on the bus are thinking, but oddly enough I do. I keep it folded and stashed in my bag now. I've mostly given it up as I've healed from surgery, but carry it just in case of longer walks.

    Still...sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have many fashionable canes, just as some people have many hats...hmmm.

  4. I can so understand where you are coming from about your new dancing partner. Actually the cane is quite a nice one as they go. But, like you, I am not fond of necessary ra accessories and find them hard to wear at times. But me, I would have to bling it up. Call me a fashionista if you must but I would have to have several to coordinate with my mood of the day :-) Yes, I know some would say this could be taken as shallow but I like to think it my way of defying my ra. I am still trying to figure out how to bling up my wrist splints :-)

  5. Kitspy,
    Glad to hear you are healed up! A younger me would definitely go for a jazzy looker of a cane. I've seen some lovely "adult" canes, maybe an investment down the road. Part of me asks, why spend the money? What I have works.
    Thanks for telling us a bit of your story.

  6. Deb,
    Not shallow! It's terrific you enjoy spicing up your accessories. If you are overly-fond of yarn, I can point you in the direction of my crochet-buddy for your wrist splints. :)
    Your response made me smile.