Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Cane of His Existence

    My husband has had this cane since the spinal fusion he had done almost fifteen years ago. There's a walker somewhere out there, too, but the cane is the one I'm familiar with. It's a rather standard hospital-issue creature, though it is taller than most, because my husband is taller than most. He hates it with a fiery passion and it only comes out when he has absolutely no choice. Yesterday and today were such days. I knew yesterday morning when he pulled it out of the closet he's banished it to that his back was bad, worse than usual. Only once in all of the trips we've taken to the ER has he ever pulled out his cane and I swear he was ashamed to do it that one time.

     If you know my husband at all, you would know it makes sense that he would be ashamed of something like that. He doesn't like to acknowledge the fact that something is wrong with him, and that stupid walking stick is, for him, not only a tangible reminder that he's not well, but proof that once in awhile, he just can't do it on his own.

     I think that's harder for him to stomach, that he can't always be completely self-sufficient, than the fact that he's unwell. He's so independent, which is something I understand well. As a like-minded person, I get that he wants to prove to himself that he can still do whatever he wants/needs to do. Except for, that's no longer the case.

      It's becoming increasingly difficult for him to do everything himself and there have been episodes when I've thought to myself, "Jesus, what the hell would he have done if I hadn't been here?" I don't mean to say that he can't function without me or that I'm the only one who can take care of him; I'm speaking of the most practical matters.

     There have been times when I wondered how the hell he would have gotten to the hospital had I not been there to help him get to the car, because God knows calling someone for help would be too simple. ("Hardheaded" doesn't even begin to cover it.) Once, the only other time I've seen him use the cane, the pain was so bad he couldn't even get out of bed until I'd fed him a couple of Flexoril and they'd had a chance to kick in. Only then were we able to make our way, very slowly and very painfully, to the car. What would he have done had he been alone in the apartment? Sent the cat to call 911? Doubtful, as kitty has yet to grow opposable thumbs and learn to dial a cell phone.

     It just kills me when he gets that air of angry defeat about him and he has trouble looking me in the eye because he won't pick his head up long enough to do so. When I ask him why he hates that cane so much, the answer is always the same - "I don't use a cane to get around." Um, except for when you do. I don't like having to point that out, especially now, when the usages are few and far between.

     Someday, the cane will become part of his everyday, like his shoes or his pants. I'm not going to be the one to remind him of that, when he's already very aware. So for now, I'll let it go and not bring up the fact that I think he should use it at work if he's still having trouble getting around. It's demoralizing enough for him to use it around me and I'm not going to be the one to make his shame, whether misplaced or not, a public affair.

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