Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Father's Cane

Something snapped. I had just finished putting the breakfast casserole in the oven, preparing for Christmas Day Brunch, and decided to sit down for a few minutes to give my right knee (that I’ve been babying for a few weeks) a break. I guess the extra flurry of activity getting ready for Christmas decided to collect its toll. At the critical point when my knees were at a right angle the sudden pop and mind blowing pain shot through me like a lightning bolt. 

Ron rushed over and helped me into sitting position with my disabled leg up and that’s where I remained for the rest of the day. The troops rallied. My granddaughter Olivia came and finished up the rest of the meal. Then everyone else came, some still in pjs, ladened with things to contribute. Then we did what we do to celebrate the birth of Jesus, by living and loving out loud–but this year with me sitting. 

Ron and I brain-stormed and came up with a makeshift splint made of a 12 inch length of 1x2 pvc trim board and black duct tape. Not exactly couture but quite adequate to temporarily capture and hold my knee straight. After everyone returned to their own Christmas Day Ron and I mulled over the strategy needed to navigate this new circumstance in our lives on a holiday weekend and coming up short of an immediate plan, finally opted to watch a movie. 

Sedentary sitting is one thing but getting up and down on Day One was the antithesis of grace, walking even worse, so I commandeered the handmade cane from the foyer umbrella stand to help me. 

This was once my father’s cane. I bought it for him about 40 years ago at a place called Silver Dollar City near Branson, Missouri, a quaint family-oriented amusement park themed on 1800s American mountain life and crafts. The country music world had not yet discovered the potential back then so it was still like walking back into a time when things were... well, the nearby town of Blue Eye had a population of 92, just to give you a point of reference for how long ago this was.

Created by the hand of an unknown woodworking artisan who had gently shaved, polished and coaxed a cedar limb into a sturdy walking cane, I saw it in the wood shop and thought my dad would appreciate its uniqueness. Which he did and he used it constantly until he passed in 1979. Interesting that my memories of my dad in his late years always include the cane. I don’t recall how I ended up with it but it has managed to stay with me through several life changes and not a few moves, thus relegated to the umbrella stand in a number of houses. Until two days ago, Christmas Day, it was mostly an artifact, a remnant, the last remaining physical belonging that my dad had once touched. 

On Day Two, after trying out some work-arounds, we faced the inevitable and paid a visit to the ER. My father’s cane, once again fully in service, tucked next to my hip and levered, helped hold my leg straight out while I was being wheeled to various stations, triage information, x-rays, back and forth to the waiting room. No less than three nurses and aides noticed my rigged cane-leg-lift contraption. The x-ray tech commented on how clever. I imagined I could hear my dad say proudly, “Yes siree!” Another aide wheeling in a patient after me as I was being wheeled out remarked, “Well, look at you!” Dad and I nodded smugly.

In the middle of the crisis I didn’t have time to truly appreciate the uniqueness of the cane that once helped steady my dad’s walk and was now doing the same for me. This morning, still in bed, I looked over at the ever faithful assistant leaning on the night table. 

I mean I really looked at it. 

It isn’t perfect, if you want to measure perfection by machine made symmetrical precision. There are knots along the length that were filled by the crafter and then sanded down, leaving light discoloration in the mended cracks. The shape, while artistic, is odd and bulges at the center. The top is just a wide lop-sided knob. The rubber tip that fits on the narrow bottom end is held on by old sticky tape, my father’s workaround, to keep it in place. The now brittle paper still peeks out at the top of the rubber foot–that is still hanging on.

And while all that is true, here is what I saw when I really studied this one-of-a-kind art. First, I realized it was designed to do a job, not to fill a dress code or look stylish. The crafter knew the exact measurement it would need to be for optimum height and depth. The bulge in the center could have been carved down but it added to the strength and stability that the narrow tip could not contribute. The top knot fits the palm of the hand perfectly and lends a sense of security. Made of one solid piece, insured its longevity.

And then I saw something else. This utilitarian helpmate is not unlike my personal relationship with Christ, which is not manufactured by man-made doctrine. Made for the long-haul, ever ready to hold up, to support and keep steady. Dependable. Trustworthy. It’s simple, uncomplicated, graceful and perfectly imperfect.

I fell asleep at the end of Day One, Christmas 2014, thanking God for everything. For the beautiful day, my family and friends, our joy, duct tape and pvc 1x2s...and my father’s cane, that’s been there for me all these years even when I didn’t realize it.

...and thankful for the One that’s always waiting, ever ready to hold me up when I am weak. 

For Him,

(2 Corinthians 12:10) Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

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