Jun 24 |10:55
Almost 30 years ago, I brace myself, grip my cane and look up the long sidewalk that climbs the hill in front of me. Cool fall air whistles over my teeth as I suck my lungs full. The sun shines behind me and my long shadow stretches up the hill. This new spring morning seems so fresh and alive that optimism tries to crowd out the negative feelings that weigh me down like a mule forced to pull an overloaded wagon.
The doctors say I’ll never walk without a cane, but I have to walk without a cane. It’s not about proving them wrong. I’m only thinking about how bad I want to walk. I hold my cane off the ground and hobble around the block. Every time I start falling, I plant my cane and try to catch myself.
I usually catch myself, but sometimes I don’t. I fall so much, I actually get used to it. Two scars on my face, where gashes required stitches to close, remind me of the days 30 plus years ago when walking without a cane was my only goal. Luckily it didn’t matter how many times I fell. All that mattered is how many times I got back up.
One day, a woman and her young son are walking behind me when I fall. Well, it was probably her son, who knows? Maybe she found him in the park. Anyway, they stop and the woman says, “Are you OK, sir?”
I hate falling in public. I hate the idea of people feeling sorry for me, so I tried to sound like nothing was wrong, “Oh, yeah. I’m fine. It’s all good.”
The woman hears my speech impairment and grabs the kid’s hand. “Come on Billy. He’s drunk.”
She drags the kid off up the hill. He looks at me over his shoulder as he’s being pulled away. I scramble to my feet and follow after them, holding my cane off the ground and repeating the speech exercise my speech therapist gave me.
“WINNERS don’t quit! Winners DON’T quit!! Winners don’t QUIT!!!”