March 8, 2013 by T. Gregory Argall
My dad had a cane. It started out as a walking stick he’d use when hiking, but then when he got to the point where he needed a cane, he modified it a bit and it became his cane.
It was basically a small branch that he found in the woods. He sanded it down, gave it a few coats of varnish, and put a big rubber cap on the end so it wouldn’t scratch up the floor. The top was basically the point where the larger branch split into two smaller branches, but both of them had broken off. One of them was only about three or four inches long and the other was less than an inch. He’d sanded down all the rough edges and it made the perfect handle. His fingers gripped the longer bit of branch, and his thumb locked in against the short branch-stump so his hand wouldn’t slip. By sheer random chance, the branch-stump was in the perfect spot to work with either his left or his right hand.
He used to proudly point out to people that nature had made an ambidextious cane just for him. He’d sit and shift the cane from hand to hand, showing people how it fit both hands comfortably. “Left hand… Right hand… Left hand… Right hand…”
Eventually the cane got used less, as the need for a walker became more apparent. Whenever he went out with his walker, the cane stood by at the door, waiting patiently for him to come home again.
And then he was in a care home and a wheelchair replaced the cane.
The cane stood by the front door for over a year after he died. Mom didn’t want to move it because it just seemed to be in the right place.
Monday afternoon I got a message from my wife. My mom had called about a request she’d had from her friend Gloria. Gloria has been a friend of the family for as long as I can remember. She’s a sweetheart, and she was a great help to Mom after Dad died. A friend of Gloria’s (who had met Mom and Dad several times) needs a cane. Apparently he always admired Dad’s cane and had asked Gloria to ask Mom if he could have Dad’s cane. Mom wanted to talk to me first because a few years ago, when I hurt my leg, I’d used the cane for a couple of weeks and had commented that I’d like to have it when I’m older and need it.
My wife said that Mom wanted me to call her about it.
So, when I got home, I immediately set about avoiding making the call. It shouldn’t have been that difficult an issue. Here is someone that needs a cane. Here is a cane that is not being used. It’s a bit of a no-brainer. And eventually I convinced myself of that. I called Mom with every intention of telling her to give the cane to this guy.
…And I completely failed to actually say it.
I made vague noises of consent but Mom wasn’t falling for it and she made me give an honest answer.
I realised that for a long time I’ve just been accepting things. I want option A and someone else wants option B so I agree to go with option B. Giving up my wants in favor of someone else’s wants had sort of become my default setting. Yes, I know that putting other people first makes you a good person and hooray for karma and blah blah blah but dammit when is something going to be for me?
So I told my Mom that no, I would prefer that she not give the cane away. And I managed to convey the idea of how this stupid hunk of meaningless wood actually has meaning and I want it. At some point I noticed that my cheeks were wet, but I didn’t care.
Mom seemed very pleased with my answer. I suspect she wanted to say no as well but was having the same issues that I was. (It just occurred to me now as I type this that in in putting my wants ahead of someone else’s I actually gave my mom what she wants.)
Anyway, the point is I miss my dad.