Using a Cane

For a few months after spinal surgery I needed to use a cane. Both my mother and my older sister before me had been advised to use a cane, but my mother refused because she thought it made her look like an old person; she was eighty-one at the time. My sister accepted the cane but chose one—actually, she bought several—with elaborate wood carvings at the handles and other striking features of color and design, canes that expressed character and taste the way her clothes and boots and umbrellas did. As long as she had to use it, she felt, she would make it part of her ensemble.

I might have done the same had I thought the cane would be permanent, but I expected to be using it for only a short while, until I had fully recovered. In fact, I preferred the cane to have a nondescript, provisional look, a look that implied I was not really dependent on a cane, or only temporarily. I got the standard chrome pharmacy-supplies cane, with notches along the shaft to adjust its height. The most unobtrusive cane possible.

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