Harriet, the gee-it-still-hurts knee of mine, had a monumental day today. I know you might think I exaggerate, but until you have been in her scar-tissued, still-stiff skin, you cannot judge the adjectives that she uses for her feat. Maybe it should be “feet” since she certainly could not have reached the finish line without them. So, her act of amazing valour and strength — a drum roll please — is that she, Harriet, and the rest of my body, walked for the first time, OUTSIDE, on city sidewalks, down curbs and up steps all without using any mobility devices at all. Bravo. Bravo. Bravo.
The walker has been gone since two weeks after I moved back home from Margaret’s back in October, but I have hung on to the security of the cane ever since. I carried it like it was a blinking-red light shouting out, “Watch out! Out of My Way! Healing Knee Coming Through!” I would never leave home without it these five months and twelve days since surgery — or since I stopped using the walker. It’s dangerous out there, especially when you’re getting on the subway or streetcar. People just don’t even see
you or if they do, couldn’t care less that you’re an “older” person, walking with a limp who might just need some help. So the cane allowed me to clear a path in front of me — and, most times, insured I’d get a seat. If I didn’t, I just stand in front of the youngest person sitting in the blue-covered seats that are reserved for the elderly and those in need. If they didn’t look up from their phones to see the cane and me, I’d just politely say to them, “Hey, I need this seat.” It usually worked. But, you know, there are some mean folks out there.
One day, Harriet, the cane and I were getting off the streetcar going down the steps very, very slowly, one-at-a-time. Then these jerky kids came up behind me and purposely, meanly pushed me down the stairs. If I hadn’t had that cane, Harriet would have gone down, down, down. They laughed. I was very pissed and was sorely tempted to use the same cane to trip them when they got off but I was afraid they would do worse to me.
I have good reason to have still been using the cane. These past months, we were right in the midst of that most dangerous season for anyone walking around with vulnerable replaced bits of their bodies — WINTER. Even before surgery, I had a nervous and healthy fear of winter icy sidewalks. But with Harriet, I was even more scared. It’s all because of the surgeon. The few times I actually got an audience with god, Dr. M, he always ended the ten minute session with a finger-pointing, serious, “Whatever you do, DO NOT FALL.” He always said it with an attitude that I, and probably all of his other patients, might just take a fancy to falling just for the hell of it. I told him each time that I would do my darndest to obey his order and keep me, Harriet and all the other parts of this body vertical when out and about. He would have had me get rid of the cane a long time ago, but, on this point, I was definitely smarter than him.
It was hard to give it up. After all, it is a crutch and I had gotten very used to the false sense of security it gave me when I tapped my way down the street. But I, and Harriet, knew we were getting strong enough to go out without it. But I didn’t want to. It took the Knees-Higher-Chest-Out intrepid trainer, Christina, to get me to do it. She was here on Friday with my new, longer, harder, no-whining-Ann, program. As she climbed down the stairs to leave, she turned back up to me and said, in her I-dare-you-to-say-no manner, “Oh, lose the cane. Today!” That was Friday. Yesterday, she wasn’t around, so I still used it to tap my way to the pool. But today I knew she was teaching aquafit so there was no way I could get away with it one day longer. No, it was time.
I had a ride up to the pool, but Harriet and I had to make our way back without that cane. We were ready. I felt like a new woman — and, I’m sure I looked ten years younger — making my way to brunch after swimming. There was a certain sense of freedom — and silence — walking down the street without that tap-tap-tapping cane. I didn’t miss it at all — except when, on the way home, I remembered I had to go and feed the pissy cat who
lived in the opposite direction that I was going. I had to detour back the way I had already come, doubling mine and Harriet’s journey. She was not happy at all. But we did it — like we had a choice, eh? I wasn’t going to hail a cab even though Harriet thought about it.
When I got home and made this map — ok, I’m not a cartographer or artist, obviously — I showed it to the cats and bragged about how long Harriet and I had walked today without that cane. They were not impressed in that insulting way that cats have about such things. They just looked at one another and started reminiscing about their cousin, Brutus, who had found his way home on feet to Toronto from Vancouver where he had ended up after catching the wrong Greyhound bus. I knew they were lying but I also knew it is always better to just pretend with cats or they’ll get back at you someway.
I’ll keep the cane for next winter, just in case I need it. And, someday, I’ll have to name the other knee when she goes in for surgery. At least she’ll have Harriet’s experience and cane know-how to show her how to do it right.