Did you get my White Cane Day card? Among Hallmark’s top sellers, White Cane Day ranks alongside United Nations Day. But we who use white canes celebrate our very own holiday. Today, I honor the skinny stick that keeps me from falling, splat! flat on my face.
The white cane has not always been my friend. In the beginning, my denial told me I didn’t need it and my ego told me I looked silly using it. But a false step into a pothole put me on crutches for a month and put the white cane in my hand, like it or not.
I hold the cane on my starboard side rather than dead center because the tip once stuck in a crack and I was impaled on the shaft. Man, that hurt! The cane curved into an archery bow, my voice rose to soprano and I sounded like the Bee Gees for a week.
Cracks and humps and bumps in the pavement disrupt my navigation system and I constantly recalibrate my coordinates. When I first trained with the cane, I thought sidewalks were smoother and straighter and all I had to do was point and go.
I try to walk laser-straight, ten inches from the sidewalk’s right edge. I tap the grassy border to keep due east but intersecting paths to the street or to someone’s front door throw me off course. I zig; I zag. The sidewalk is four feet wide and, by God, some days I use all four feet.
If I stray across the center line and become a danger to myself or others, those others will conclude that I should stay home where I’m safe and out of the way. But if I keep straight effortlessly, those same others will assume cane mobility is a piece of cake and I must do everything and do everything well.
Today, I sweep autumn leaves sprinkled on my path. Soon I’ll etch, in a dusting of snow, a sketch that suggests I took my pet snake for a walk. Midwinter, I’ll scratch the surface of black ice. Come spring, I’ll ripple puddles after a rainstorm. And in midsummer, I’ll tap softened surfaces too hot to touch.
To we who use them and you who observe them, Happy White Cane Day! I celebrate, belatedly, with gratitude. If you missed the holiday this year, mark your calendar for October 15, 2017 and we’ll meet on the street, upright and straight.