My husband ruptured a disc in his back several weeks ago. Despite the many pain medications his doctor has proffered, he is still in agony and barely able to navigate from bedroom to kitchen. So, on the eve of our 31st anniversary, I drove to purchase him a cane.
As I parked at Walgreens, a very, tall man was getting into the car next to me. Suntanned and well-groomed, I noticed that he still had some dark hair in his sideburns that refused to go white. Figured he was an ex-athlete, likely basketball. When I noticed he had a crutch under each arm, I assumed he injured himself playing sports.
“You look about 6’ 7”,” I said as we came face to face.
“I used to be,” he replied, “until I shrunk.”
It was only then I realized he was missing an entire leg. At 17, while driving a tractor on his dad’s farm, he was thrown off into the oncoming scythe of the thresher. Said he has a prosthesis but it’s “a lot more comfortable without it.” No wonder. Even without his leg, he moves like a WHOLE man.
As we part, I imagine what my own 17 would have been like with only one leg. I was crazy for dancing and twirled and twisted across too many floors to remember. While I can no longer do the limbo, I can still dance. Made me walk taller just thinking about it.
Driving home with a new, blue cane for my husband, I am grateful he has both legs though he can’t use them well now. I think of the woman I met with Alzheimer’s who cannot walk, not because she lacks legs, but has forgotten how. I remember the boy I met in college who was born with no legs.
At the corner, a young man with pants so low that I can see the heart tattoo on his right buttock, waits for the light to change. When it does, he shuffles slowly across in the slouched-style of an old man. I want to roll down the window and yell, “Walk Like A Man!” So I do. He straightens to attention as if shot by a rifle. As his eyes meet mine, I smile and add, “While you still can.” (Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,”a memoir of the years she and her husband cared for her grandmother with Alzheimer’s).