April 21, 2017 by T. Gregory Argall
I’ve received some nice compliments this week.
Just to be clear, this has been a gruesomely horrible week, that is well on its way to becoming a gruesomely horrible fortnight or more.
But people have said some nice things about my cane.
I currently meandering through an angry case of cellulitis. I get into more detail when it’s all over and done with. For the purposes of today’s story, all you need to know about it is that my lower right leg looks very much like a side of beef cleverly disguised as a giant bell pepper. And I’m using a cane because the one thing I can’t really stand right now is up. Not for long, anyway.
So I’ve been visiting various hospitals and clinics and doctors and meeting some wonderfully dedicated healthcare workers. (Seriously, healthcare workers are awesome. If you know anyone who works in healthcare, go hug them now. Do it.) Outside of all the medical stuff we’ve been talking about, the one thing I’ve heard most often has been, “That’s a nice cane.”
And it is. I’ve talked about this cane before. It used to be my dad’s can. He made it from an old branch he found in the woods.
There are a couple of knots in the wood at the point where the handle extends from the cane itself. Dad used to point out to people how those knots made it in ambidextrous cane. When the cane is held in the right hand, the knots form a sort of notch where the thumb can comfortably rest while maintaining control over the cane. When the cane is in the left hand, an entirely different yet equally comfortable and functional notch is there for the left thumb.
So many times I watch Dad demonstrate this for people, switching the cane back and forth between his hands. “See? Left hand, right hand. Left hand…” And I would roll my eyes and think, “Oh God, he’s doing it again,” and by the five hundredth time it just sort of became background noise.
But it made him smile to show people this.
Another of Dad’s old fallbacks, something he was constantly repeating and pointing out was his joke about “God spelled backwards is Dog.” It wasn’t a joke; he just tended to frame it as one. It was simply an observation about a quirk of language, but it had significance to him. He loved his god and he loved his dog. Finding a linguistic link between the two made him happy.
And it made him smile to show people this.
For my part, I continued to roll my eyes and think, “Oh, God, he’s doing it again.”
Over time, as happens with all adult children, I will find myself falling into habits or behaviour that remind me of Dad. After a certain age, everyone knows the feeling of, “Jeez, I’m turning into my father (or mother, as the case may be).”
And this feeling is traditionally met with dread and nervously dismissive laughter.
To my shame, it wasn’t until this week, staring at the cane I inherited from my father, that I realized that every time Dad was being so… “Dad,” he was simply sharing a smile. That’s all. Something made him smile and he shared it with those around him; friends, strangers, someone in a bank line up, the person beside him at church. It didn’t matter who it was was. He had a smile and wanted to share it.
That is the purest of all possible motives.
This is no doubt a personal growth moment for me. The next time I have a “Jeez, I’m turning into my father” moment, I’m going to embrace it, cherish it.
Turning into my father actually sounds like something to work towards, not shy away from.
Meanwhile, I’m going to continue using this cane for at least another week, it seems. Oh, well. It’s a nice cane. I like it.
It’s an ambidextrous cane, which is kind of cool.
I’ll show you sometime.
Try to be nice to each other.