By Maureen DeGarmo
My parents grew up in the Great Depression. For them, self-reliance was very important, and they avoided anything that might diminish their sense of independence. Using a cane was one symbol of declining independence.
I feel just the opposite. For me, a cane is a great communicator. It is a silent, tangible signal that changes the way others react to me in public, and therefore I do not have to actually warn people of my tenuous balance.
- “Don’t knock me over.”
- “Don’t expect me to move quickly.”
- “Something is not working properly.”
- “I might not react as you would expect others to react.”
A while back, I was in a store with my cane. A man approached me from behind, and brushed past me rather closely. When he saw that I had a cane, he said, “Oh, I’m sorry,” even though he had not actually affected my balance. I realized at that moment that my cane was a good tool.
Even if balance is not your primary difficulty, a cane can be your friend. It can change people’s reactions to you and reduces the uncertainty that you can face in public. Casual friends will probably ask questions, so be prepared with short-and-sweet information. My standard answer is, “I don’t have an injury; it helps me with my poor balance when I am around a crowd.” Normally, that response is sufficient. If they are close friends or family who want to know more, they will ask questions, so be prepared with your answers.
Yes, I have joined The Cane Brigade, and I am proud of it, because it shows that I am taking care of myself.