Recent text message exchange between me and my mom:
Me: “Every once in a while when I get on or off an elevator, I think about that time you dropped your cane down an elevator shaft.”
Mom: “That was a good one. Thought for sure I would get a new cane, but no go.”
Later that night we spoke by phone.
“That cane has quite a history you know,” my mom tells me.
“Really? Like what?”
“Well, one time when your dad and I were living in Omaha, I lost it down a storm drain,” she says.
Mom worked at a hospital in Omaha, NE in the early 1970s. She walked and took the bus all over town, and her white walking cane acquired from the Iowa Commission for the Blind always went with her. Walking to the bus stop on her way to work one morning, she lost the cane down a storm drain.
“I tried to think who I could call to see if it could be found,” she explained. At a friend’s suggestion she tried the fire department. After explaining she was blind and had lost her cane down a storm drain (this took a bit of convincing), she identified the intersection where the cane was lost. My mom remembers the intersection to this day and rattles it off as she’s telling me the story. The fire department agreed to search for the cane, and, “within an hour or so they were at the hospital to bring it to me.” Perhaps they were thinking, well, it’s no fire, but at least it’s a break from the cat in the tree thing.
In the elevator incident, mom was getting on the elevator and the tip caught in that narrow crack between the building wall and the elevator car. My mom lost her grip and the cane slipped down into the shaft.
“So when you lost the cane down the elevator shaft, were you thinking that was it?” That surely this is the last time I’d lose that cane, and I’d have to get a new one?” I asked.
“Well yes,” my mom said. The way she answered led me to believe she wouldn’t have been too upset had she lost the cane for good that day. Not that it wasn’t a fine cane, but after 20 plus years and all it had been through, maybe it was just time for a new cane.
But, just like the Omaha incident, the cane returned to her again. This time, building maintenance workers were recruited for the job of cane retrieval.
“What else has happened to it?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s been run over by cars a few times,” she responds nonchalantly, as if this should be of no surprise. I didn’t probe but suspect there’s at least one interesting story there.
There was also the time several years ago when she was shopping at Target, and the cashier at checkout called security because she insisted the cane was a ski pole my mom was refusing to pay for. Has Target ever sold ski poles?
A similar incident occurred when my mom was young and in a grocery store with my grandfather. That cashier thought the cane was a mop handle.
My mom has had that same cane for about 45 years. She doesn’t use it as often anymore, but it’s still ready to go after all these years. It’s never met a storm drain, car, elevator shaft, or cashier it couldn’t handle.