Post Title: Vision Loss Meets the Senior Years – A Mobility Misstep
A long-time running enthusiast, I once tried to run with my white cane. The results were disastrous! Either that or a comedy routine. Perhaps my hand/eye coordination messed up. Perhaps deep inside I expected to “outrun” my cane (and couldn’t) so I tripped over if I didn’t move fast enough. That expectation could have set up the barrier. I have since met a runner, who has told me he runs with his cane. So it could be my hand/eye/feet coordination. It has been several years since my experimental cane-running days have passed. But this is not a story about running.
It’s a tale, in part, about surprise and speed.
You can call me Speedy Gonzales here.
The Credit Union Crunch
Monday mornings find me running errands. I go to one bank and take out money to deposit into another bank. We also get our budgeted “bills money” for the week. It can be used for food, household supplies or lawn care.
I had just wished the clerk at the credit union a good week and we shared a laugh over something inconsequential. I opened the door and found myself, as usual, caught in the glare of the summer sun. Shielding my eyes, I waited for my eyes to adjust to the difference. Then I made a wide arc with my white cane and headed for the car. It couldn’t have been more than five or six strides to the car but somehow, I miscalculated. I’d moved quickly, anticipating an industrious morning of writing at my computer.
When I opened the door, the corner of the car door hit the bone at the corner of my eye. So unexpected! “Oh-oh-oh-oh-ooooh.” My usual response as I backed away and nursed my eye by cupping it with my palm. The corner of the door wasn’t jagged or overly sharp. In fact, it was smooth and with rounded corners, it’s paint intact.
Coping with the Pain
I wanted to weep and scream and gnash my teeth. But my brother waited in the driver’s seat, so I didn’t make a scene. Halfway home, I couldn’t resist asking him if I had a goose egg under my right eye.
“Not too bad,” he said, vaguely.
“That’s good.” I pretended nonchalance as I patted the area around my eye. I felt a big welt underneath.
While he went inside a store, I pulled down the car mirror on the visor and tried to see how bad it was. He was right. What felt like a bump the size of Texas looked just like a baby bump, barely discernible at the start of a pregnancy. I would live.
A Clear Calling in the Cat Food Aisle
Now let’s sprint to early Friday evening in the local grocery chain.
I stood in the pet aisle on the far side of the store, my lighted magnifier out and my eyes pressed up against a small can of the leading cat food—the most expensive kind for my three choosy cats. I had to be careful. I couldn’t trust the color of the label. Blue did not mean seafood. Sometimes it meant “turkey.” I chuckled as I recalled my least picky cat, Sophie Socks. Always eager for mealtimes, the day she found turkey in her dish, she ran away from it as fast as her little ballerina legs could go! I could well imagine the scream that would accompany it if the sound had been incorporated. But I guess my cats subscribed to the silent Charlie Chaplin version of the movies. So, no scream—just a quick patter of paws retreating from her cat dish.
Such melodrama! Thus, the magnifying glass.
I bought two brands and two sizes. My cats only liked “gravy lovers,” usually chicken but, on occasion, they accepted seafood, but only in “shred” form—not chunky, not fillet, or bits.
The Urge ‘to Go’…
Suddenly becoming sixty became much more than a number. It was my age pulling rank over my body. It was more of a movement.
Ten seconds earlier, I felt perfectly fine. But as my eyes sought out the minuscule-sized chicken wording on the label, I had a strong urge to rush to the bathroom.
“No!” I scolded my bladder. “Just wait.”
But, of course, it didn’t seem to hear me at all. That’s the maddening aspect of the new “Senior Years.”
The urging intensified.
“We’ll be home soon. Just let me sort out the cat food.”
The urging came stronger, oh so much stronger.
“There is no reasoning with you!”
The 60s ‘Provisional’ Gallop
I left my mini-cart with one small approved can of wet food deposited in the front end. Then came a stilted movement – something between a closed-leg walk and a gallop as I swept across the expanse of the entire store to the opposite side where the coffee shop and restrooms were.
The image that came to mind was of a toddler riding a broomstick horse around the room, neighing! Only I was thinking “Neigh—nay!” and then “Whoah, there!”
Stiff-legged, I tapped into my Superwoman strength until I saw the entrance to the public restrooms. I only hoped I had chosen correctly. No time to feel for the Braille letters to be certain I had chosen the one with the correct gender. Thank heavens, I did!
Safe in the stall, I found myself with a white cane in one hand and my magnifying glass in the other.
Where was my purse?
In my mind’s eye, I saw it sitting nicely in the front compartment of the cart.
After washing my hands for the prescribed twenty-second pandemic routine, singing, “This is the way I wash my hands, wash my hands, wash my hands, this is the way I wash my hands ev’ry Fri-day night…” twice through, I galloped back across the store—magnifying glass in one hand and cane in the other. I pumped my arm as if it were the secret holding a magnifier was the secret to winning an Olympic race. With my other hand, I slid my white cane effortlessly across the smooth tiled floor in perfect synchrony with my steps.
I sped lightning-fast back across the store to reach the second-to-the-last aisle where the cat food cans waited for me. I imagined myself humbly bowing my head to accept the Olympian gold medal while a judge placed it around my neck with admiration. As I hummed the National Anthem in my head, my eyes came across my cart.
Meeting Ms. Sticky Fingers
Something did not look right.
I felt like Wiley E. Coyote during those times right before he gets blown up by the dynamite in the cartoon and he realizes for the first time, he’s in danger. His eyes get big and he does a double-take all the while getting his legs in motion to run away as fast as he can. But the dynamite blows up before he can get away from it.
Although I wasn’t facing any dynamite, when I realized my purse had disappeared in my five-minute absence, I blew up!
Who would take my purse? I had never expected that. The scoundrel!
En route to the Customer Service desk, I glared at the world at large. A woman said to me, “Are you looking for something?”
“Yes, my purse.” I huffed.
“I took it to the Customer Service desk. It was all by itself. What on earth possessed you to leave it?”
You wouldn’t want to know that, Missy Sticky Fingers!
In Cahoots with Customer Service?
I bit back my retort as I marched over to Customer Service. After a couple of minutes, I started to feel ignored. Craning my neck to see if anyone was behind the counter, Ms. Sticky Fingers announced, “They’re closed.” Why, she seemed … almost happy at my predicament! As if because I had dared to leave my purse in the cart, I had this coming.
I still said nothing, but my anxiety went up a notch as I swept my cane away from the spot where I stood at the counter. Only eight o’clock—well, okay, nearly nine. If the Customer Service Agent had gone for the day, I would simply tell a cashier to look behind the counter. Luckily, a clerk walked over from I-don’t-know-where and asked me, “Did you need something?”
“Yes, my purse,” I snapped. “Apparently someone turned it into the desk, aghast I would leave it for anyone to take in the cart.”
The irony of that statement did not escape me.
The big question in my mind was “Did the woman know the desk would close before I got my purse back … and did she mean to teach me a lesson that way?” I narrowed my eyes. Where they in cahoots?
But still, I kept silent. Letting my emotions loose would do me no good and might even make the self-righteous woman even happier to see me come unglued.
The clerk went behind the service desk and brought out a purse. “Is this yours?” She handed it to me so she must have known it belonged to me.
I slung the slap over my shoulder and swept my cane away from the desk, and to the cat food aisle again, looking neither to the right nor the left. Thank goodness, I did not run into anything. That would have ruined my composed exit.
Several minutes later, with ten small cans and ten large cans of cat food, I went to the limited-item checkout.
Whether I’m Speedy Gonzales outrunning my cane outdoors or sliding my way across the interior of a chain grocer coping with a senior moment, my white cane still helps me reach where I want to go. The rest … eventually … just makes me laugh!
My personal Olympian prize for the week … gratitude! How I could relate to Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time.”
“…Give me one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me…”
The Way I Relate to The Song
When I first learned I was losing my vision and would go blind, I wondered how I would move confidently forward and live my best life each day. When I started using my cane, I feared it robbed me of my independence, announcing to the public how vulnerable I felt … and yet in spite of the ups and downs, my white cane still lets me be more than I thought I could once be.
And it makes me happy. I’m still mobile. I’m still independent. I’m still … Free to be me. The humor I feel is part of my training that lets me be who I am. The momentary pain and idiosyncrasies along the way doesn’t hold me back.
What Kind of Moment?
A moment in time means a moment every day where I can shine.
So when vision loss meets a senior moment in mobility, I look back and say, “I see I’m still in training …” Then I take the next swing of my cane and move forward to find out what’s behind the bend.