Third Place Essay: "On Solid Ground?"

by Tahirah Uqdah Falah '96

I found myself in Walgreens on Friday looking at canes. I was kind of in a trance, staring at them thinking, “Will I need a cane? If so, when? Do I need one now?”

I held each of the different styles of canes in my hand. There was the fold-out cane, the aluminum cane, the contoured-handled cane. I found the maple-handled cane to be quite nice and I walked with it as far as the knee braces and Band-Aids. Next, was the metal quad cane with the four prongs on the end. That one was no good. I’d be so embarrassed if I tripped over one of the prongs. I think it would make me look more desperate than I was feeling. It might even make me look years older than I am. I mean, I’m only twenty-nine.

My mind continued to race… “Will I need a dress cane, a hiking cane, a formal one or a walking cane? Do they come in different colors?” I was not up on the latest cane couture.

The questions began again…“Can I get one to match my Louis Vuitton purse? If people see me with a cane will they think I’m hiking or maybe “Mr. Biggs” from the soul musical group the Isley Brothers?”

 I did use a cane once, during my first experiences with Multiple Sclerosis. My neurologist gave me the ugliest, dark maple cane with an oversized black rubber tip. As I boarded a plane from Maryland to California for a visit with my sister, I struggled to reach my assigned seat. The flight attendant, in her most sincere voice said, “Aww, did you hurt your ankle?” I smiled, then lied and said, “Yeah”, as I tried to stuff the cane under the seat in front of me. I used that cane for about a month or two. It ended up in the trunk of my beemer.

Fast forward to April 2005… I stood at the doors of the chapel as the wedding coordinator told me and my dad to walk slowly down the aisle so everyone would have a chance to see us. The processional music began, the doors opened and my right leg immediately became stiff! I guess I was nervous. I hadn’t seen my fiancée in 24 hours and I didn’t know how I would make it all the way down the aisle without inciting wedding day rumors about the crippled bride. I held my dad’s arm as if my life depended on it. I walked as elegantly as I could in my white flat leather shoes.

Again, the questions began in my head, “Do I need a cane again, and this time, for how long?”