June 12, 2022 – Niles, MI
Lately, I’ve been noticing people with canes. I understand how useful they can be if you have injured your foot, your leg, for instance. Use a cane while it heals.
But the canes I have been watching are being used by older people. Typically, they are not pretty or decorated. They look worn and they bow sometimes from supporting the weight of their owner. At every other step, there is something to hang onto, to lean on, to use to keep your balance.
I wonder what the first day is like with a cane.
At my bus stop, there is a wonderful woman who waits for buses with me nearly every morning. We’re both older than most of our compatriots on the bus and like many older people, we worry about tomorrow a lot more than we let on. She and I grouse about the bus drivers and we keep tabs on other regular riders.
Something she said to me once has bothered me since it first came up months ago. We were talking about walking home from the office in a power outage. We agreed it would be an effort to cover this distance on foot and she told me suddenly, “You know, I’d hate to have to start using a cane. I want to hold out to the last minute.”
We both walk now unaided and many days, I will go out of my way to find nice walks because walking clears my head. In fact, I know that I could walk the entire route to my office more often if I had the organizational skills necessary to get out of the house a half hour to forty-five minutes earlier. She, on the other hand, might not be as comfortable, even though she clearly does not need a cane. Today.
But how do you know it’s time?
Is there something that cries out to you that today is the day you surrender to old age and start using a cane? Does a doctor tell you to use one? Or is this something that creeps up where you just don’t remember later how it started, how you found yourself in the store, picking out a cane?
I can’t imagine they would be any harder to get used to than my new hiking poles. I took them out for a spin and had the rhythm down pat in just a few steps. If the height is right and the feel of the handle doesn’t irritate your hand, how difficult would it be to use a cane? It’d be pretty simple, right? Step, cane-step; step, cane-step; step, cane-step. And off you go.
But then, there’s no going back, is there?
Now you are officially a senior citizen, an older American, a what, disabled person? With that one stroke, you would go from being able to disabled, and unlike the ones who use canes
when they have sustained an injury, you will know, deep down, there’s no going back to normal. You don’t get to improve or get better. This is the moment you would have to realize you can only get less better. Today, cane; tomorrow, walker? Then, wheelchair? And those beautiful shiny black hiking poles that were so exciting the first time out, will be left in the closet for someone else to use. Someone younger.
I am not ready to give up hiking just yet. I want to walk unaided and I relish every single chance I get to do so. Of course, I worry this walk today or maybe one tomorrow could be the one where I realize I just can’t do it anymore. It’s too hard or I worry too much that I could fall.
But, I hope it’s not this walk. It’s almost sunset now and the breeze is amazing. I feel it on my face and when I step out, it nudges me forward. I stretch up to my full height at each street corner and I step carefully across all those cracks in the sidewalk. I catch a glimpse of kids on the swings, the men playing dominos at the card tables alongside the vegetable market, and the young girls comparing notes on that boy across the street.
I don’t want to miss any of this – this wonderful and exuberant life of the city – and it’s fabulous that nobody even notices me as I walk by.
As I walk by.
God, I love those words.
I have become a hermit.
I loved the lockdown, the shelter in place.
I found that masking pleased me,
And avoiding crowded places
Came natural to me.
I’m not much of a baker, so
I started by organizing things.
Like-objects in one place.
All the colorful paper clips,
Empty notebooks, pens
All going the same way in the plastic box,
All my pencils,
Freshly sharpened, of course.
I wanted to be useful, so I learned to crochet,
But it didn’t suit me.
Maybe it was being useful
That didn’t suit me.
I ordered in because
I was comfortable with it, after living in New York.
Every Thursday, a new basket of food.
I even tried senior shopping
But the sight of all those frightened old people
I didn’t go back.
Then I started tidying seriously,
Lingering over the things that used to spark joy
Before throwing them away.
It’s only now I can speak about it.
I’ve become a hermit.
Tidying is a way of life,
A manner of being.
I’ve told everyone
I need to control my environment,
So I stick to my new routine of tidying
And it takes the place of accomplishing.
The dishes are all clean, the yard is all clean,
The garage is all clean,
The basement is all clean.
I’ve cleaned the closets again and again.
I make the bed.
I throw out more paper,
Give more things away.
All of my yarn is sorted by color now,
Like my paper clips.
All the hangers face the same way in the closet,
All the coffee cup handles in the cupboard.
If I sort out the small things,
Maybe the big things will not matter as much.
I’ve found that there are not a lot of big things
To a hermit.
I am delighted to have an essay included in this exciting new book! To view the Kickstarter page, please click here.
Death’s Garden Revisited Relationships with Cemeteries is an anthology of personal essays about how the authors connect with cemeteries and graveyards.
Editor Loren Rhoads is the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. She’s blogged about cemeteries as travel destinations since 2011 at CemeteryTravel.com. She’s also written about cemeteries for Legacy.com, the Daily Beast, Gothic.Net, Gothic Beauty, Mental Floss, the Cemetery Club, the Horror Writers Association, and so much more. She’s been a member of the Association for Gravestone Studies for more than 20 years.
Cemetery writers/Genealogists/Historians: Anne Born, Barbara Baird, Carrie Sessarego, Carole Tyrrell, Erika Mailman, J’aime Rubio, Jo Nell Huff, Joanne M. Austin, Rachelle Meilleur, Sharon Pajka, Trilby Plants
Horror authors: A. M. Muffaz, Angela Yuriko Smith, Christine Sutton, Denise N. Tapscott, E. M. Markoff, Emerian Rich, Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito, Francesca Maria, Greg Roensch, Mary Rajotte, Melodie Bolt, Priscilla Bettis, Rena Mason, Robert Holt, R. L. Merrill, Saraliza Anzaldua, Stephen Mark Rainey, and Trish Wilson.
Please join us April 14 in South Bend, Indiana, for a celebration of local poets and writing in Michiana.
We will have books for sale from The Backpack Press! Can’t wait? Can’t make it to SB? Look up top – My Bookstore has them all.
My Poem Is Up on Global Poemic Thanks Global Poemic for publishing my poem, Troubled. I will send a thank-you note also youth artist whose art …My Poem “Troubled” Is Up on Global Poemic
Available now! Author is available now for book talks and pilgrim association events.
If You Stand Here: A Pilgrim’s Tour of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Learn more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08TFW3P26/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_-DAcGb3M74PDJ
Cabezon by Ken Hartke It rises like a ziggurat in the desert. Torn by the wind. Shattered by the elements. Stabbed by blades of ice. Blasted by the …Cabezon by Ken Hartke (LANDMARKS Series)
Shelter in Place by Lourdes A. Gautier I have two front doors. One that limits who enters, can be locked or unlocked with a key and is a perfect …Shelter in Place by Lourdes A. Gautier (MY FRONT DOOR Series)
My Front Door
by Clive Collins
The opening and closing of the front door at my childhood home ushered us through our lives. Our house was small, the last one in a nineteenth-century jerry-built terrace – two rooms and a kitchen downstairs, two rooms and a box room up. There was no hallway; the front door in the front room opened directly on the street.
We seldom used that room or its door. The post came through its letterbox three times a day when I was young, the envelopes falling onto the doormat like heavy leaves in a repetitive autumn. Late in the afternoon, later than the day’s last post, the local newspaper arrived, half its rolled-up bulk pushing sinisterly against the door curtain like the barrel of an assassin’s pistol. When people passed in and out of the door there was always a sense of occasion. My father opened…
View original post 303 more words