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December 08, 2016
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The cane

“It’s back… dunt, dunt dah,” my daughter Lily announces as I slowly make my way with the cane. Yes, it’s back, this old, heavy, wooden cane, a hand-me-down from my cousin Elizabeth to my mother and now to me. Misplacing it, hunting for it, the familiar clatter of dropping it, are now, strangely, mine.

On March 17, at the age of 45, I had a stroke. It started as a migraine headache in the afternoon. That night at the hospital I was first diagnosed with a sinus infection. Possibly I had an ear infection. Maybe it was Méniére’s disease? What had I been eating? Had I ever had high blood pressure? No. But then after a couple of MRIs, a cerebellum stroke was confirmed.

I am thankful that only my balance was significantly affected. However, it had made me a bit off-centered and dizzy. But now I am going to start home physical therapy and, with the aide of the cane, I am starting to get around.

When I think of canes I remember the cattle dealers that used to come to our farm when I was a kid—I was shy of them—big, stranger men who moved nonchalantly through our barn. Their canes, it seems, were used as pointers and prods more than out of any physical necessity.

When my mother used this cane she also employed it for practical purposes—to shut the cupboard door and to turn off the light switch. She took it to California on a visit to my sister’s and strolled along the beach. She played “catch a fish” with my son, Sam, trying to hook him as he ran, shrieking, around the sofa. And she used the cane as a weapon— to clobber a mouse out of its misery when one would get caught in a trap but was still alive. (We asked her not to do this but she liked to take care of it herself.)

I imagine I will find practical uses for the cane as well. Perhaps I should buy a new one—there are shiny, light-weight canes at the Rite Aide with paisley and multi-flora patterns. But I am hoping not to need a cane that long.

I would like to thank everyone for their kindness and help for me and John and our family during this time. Bless you and thank you so much for everything—the prayers, cards, food, books and flowers—everything is greatly appreciated.

Meanwhile, spring is here. My sister has been staying with us and takes the kids out to look for woodcocks at dusk.

Woodcocks are a popular game bird known for their secretive nature. They are brownish, quail-sized and stocky with long bills used to extract earthworms (their preferred food) from moist soil. Their appearance has prompted many local names like “timberdoodle” and “bog sucker.”

Last night, Sam saw a male performing his spiraling courtship dance in the field at the edge of the woods. In these spectacular displays, males spiral upwards with whistling wings to heights of up to 200 feet, circle, then plummet back down to earth. The male makes a chirping sound during the spiraling descent. Males are said to repeat this act over and over until after dark—all to impress an audience of females waiting in the underbrush.

Happy spring!