Friday, February 7, 2014

Cane Gang

Whew. Yesterday we were almost blown off the top of our little inactive volcano here in the Portland area. I woke up to the wind blasting, snow flying, and a major winter storm alert scrolling across my iPhone.

Now, before anyone accuses me of being a whineybutt, I KNOW that just about everyone in the country has had weirdo weather. My friend Jenny, authoress of Understanding Invisible Illnesses, is in all probability sitting at home on the East coast under a thick layer of ice, and without power and heat.

I feel your pain, girl. Really, I do. We were chatting yesterday and she thought she would do well to hop a flight from Philadelphia over to Portland to escape the weather. Not a good idea, I told her. The weather's getting nasty over here, too. Wah wah wah....

I didn't want to get stuck up on the top of a thousand foot hill without those basic necessities to get us through a blizzard, so early yesterday I headed Goldie into the wind and down the hill to the nearest grocery store. As I pulled into the store parking lot I saw an elderly woman leaning into the wind as she deliberately and carefully made her way to the store. She had thrown her cane into a shopping cart and had draped the top third of herself over the cart to stabilize her as she inched her way along. I caught up to her just as the automatic doors whooshed open and we both stepped into the warmth.

"Ahhhhhh", she said. And laughed. I couldn't help but admire her spunk.

In my rush to beat the brunt of the storm, I had jumped into Goldie without Candy the cane, and by the time I had made my way around the store (while picking up and putting down cookies, ice cream, and chips; whew what a struggle) I was beginning to limp. The elderly lady and I arrived in the check out aisle just about the same time. As she was checking out, the store clerk automatically asked, "Need any help out?"

"NO!" She glared at the poor teenaged kid who only meant well. But it was evident that this was one _ stubborn_ woman. She continued her slow and deliberate journey out into the blustery weather. I followed her and nervously watched her struggle with the heavy car door.

Of course she drove an old enormous sedan. Don't all those feisty elderly ladies drive big old four-doors? I remember having one such gal in my caseload back when I did a brief stint in public health. She would toss her walker and huge oxygen cylinder into the back of her Cadillac and squeal the tires as she ripped out of the assisted living parking lot, her head higher than the top of her dashboard by only a half inch or so. If she thought no one was looking, she'd light up an unfiltered Camel cigarette as she turned her oxygen up a click or two.


But back to today's story.

As I approached the woman's car, I saw her attempting to brace the car door open while reaching for two very large boxes of wine. I couldn't stand it. All I could imagine was this poor thing lying flat on the snowy pavement with a broken hip. And cheap chablis puddling all around her.

Um. Ma'am?

She straightened up and looked defiantly at me.

Um. You know, sometimes I have to use a cane too. It's hard to shop with a cane. Can I put those groceries into your car for you?

Immediately her demeanor changed from one of defensiveness to relief.

"I guess so. Thank you... I try so hard to be independent, but..." she sighed, then appraised my cane-less person. "Well, I'm glad you don't have to use one today!"

Me too!

After I dumped my stuff into Goldie, which was NOT donuts and cookies and coffeecake, yay me, I watched her big boat of a car creep out of the parking spot. Then she gunned the thing and zoomed out onto the street. She waved and grinned as she passed me.

We cane people have to watch each other's back.


Annette said...

What a good story Julia. Did she really buy cheap chablis? And should you be lifting all that wine, even in boxes?
Just goes to show us the weather is bad almost everywhere.
You know how I have to prove I am bot a robot to comment? I have a lovely wind up lady robot in purple you'd like to see.

AutoimmuneGal said...

I really enjoyed your storytelling and the humor your always add!!

I've been on both sides of this one. Not wanting to allow anyone to help me and finally saying OK. I actually did that yesterday when a friend offered to join me at the grocery store and walk me home to help with my bags. I got a bit defensive about "not needing help" and then realized a couple extra hands can be a very good thing. It doesn't mean I'm weak or sickly, but just that I might be able to save some energy for later.

Since having Sjögren's, I am more aware of those around me and always notice when someone looks like they could use a hand. And when I'm well enough, I offer to help. When I'm in a flare, I always appreciate it when someone tries to help me. Though for some reason, it sometimes seems easier to accept help from strangers than from friends.

Julia Oleinik said...

I suppose I should clarify that I lifted two of those wine-in-a-bag-inside-a-cardboard-box things. After re-reading my post, hee. NOT two cardboard boxes full of bottles of wine!