Upon walking through the doors of Vision Loss Resources, I honestly felt that my head was ready to learn. My emotional baggage was left behind and I only needed skill building. When I was issued my cane, my voice said, “Great. No more broken toes!” But my heart felt that the cane meant stigma, pity and weakness.
I went home and told my wife and daughter about my day of mobility training and they both exclaimed, “Yeah, no more broken toes! We love the cane.” My wife also said, “Be sure to always take it with you.”
I took her advice and certainly thought there would be exceptions to that. The grocery store is one example. “We shop together and you direct me,” I said. She countered with, “You tip boxes off shelves and bump into small children.” I then quietly responded, “All right, I will bring my cane.” But other exceptions existed, like walking our dog.
My suburban streets don’t have sidewalks, but I can negotiate them with the help from my trusty dog Charlie. Besides, the cane might confuse my neighbors. “Hey, Jim, what is with the cane,” they ask. Then I would have to stop and educate them about R.P (tunnel vision). Some responses had a sour tone. “Well, we thought you were kind of a jerk when you didn’t return our waves and smile. The cane explains a lot.”
As weeks progress, I am learning more and more about mobility and always taking my cane with me. I am also closer to its true understanding with less and less stigma.
One beautiful warm Saturday in September, I took my family for an afternoon walk down the Nicollet Mall, from 4th Street to 11th Street to Britt’s Pub. We walked while I led the way. With my cane and newfound confidence, I was the one out front directing my family down the sidewalk with my cane. Each successive block made my gate extend and made my posture more upright. Tap, tap, tap, sounded my cane. I cut a five foot swath allowing my girls to pass the fray, making me feel powerful! Clarity hit me at that moment. If I had left the cane at home and relied on my wife’s guidance, we still would have had fun, but with my hand placed upon her elbow, following instead of leading, I would miss……..the power of the cane.