Walking stick gives Bob numerous benefits

Walking stick gives Bob numerous benefits by Bob Karolevitz I'm using a cane for balance these days because of a little malady for which I am taking a prescription drug.

One thing I've learned in the process: A walking stick is a great conversation piece!

People I don't even know have come up to me to express concern over what they have surmised to be a knee or hip replacement. Of course I have to explain my problem, and the next thing I know is that we are discussing health factors like long lost buddies.

Is Medicare paying for it, they want to know?

If it's service-connected, you should go to the Veterans Administration, they tell me.

Shucks, all it's for is to keep me from staggering like I had a snootful of the hard stuff. And Medicare doesn't pony up for that.

Phyllis calls me "her doddering old man," but she goes along with the idea. Apparently she doesn't want me to be mistaken for a mid-morning drunk.

Kelly Hertz, one of my editors, says I should use a seven iron, and I'd look more jaunty. I tried it for a while, but it didn't do the job.

Canes, I tell my wife, have been around since biblical times, and maybe even before that. They shouldn't be confused with sugar cane of the grass family, although bamboo and rattan varieties have often been used to support limpers.

According to my trusty encyclopedia � which is so old that it describes uranium as "a gray, worthless element" � canes were called Malacca walking sticks, Malacca being a town on the west coast of the Malay peninsula. I don't know why they were so labeled, but I just thought you'd like to be aware of that little bit of trivia.

There was a time when foppish men carried canes which didn't have anything to do with gimpy-ness. They were part of the fancy dress code then, like top hats. Some of them � the canes, not the men � had gold heads or were otherwise adorned. Kids today would probably describe them as "cool."

Those canes often had concealed knives or stilletos hidden in them, too. I suppose they were to fend off muggers or were weapons to be used for gangland murders. They'd never make it through airport security now.

Veterans of World War I came back from France sporting chic walking sticks. I remember that my father picked one up on Gibraltar as one of his souvenirs. It's now a museum piece.

I also can remember the diamond willow canes which old- timers carved out of special branches they found down by the river. They were very ornate, but I don't recall them ever being used by "doddering old men" like me.

All of which gets me back to my original subject.

Actually I'm trying to wean myself away from my cane. But, on the other hand, I just may keep it.

Folks hold my elbow. They open doors for me and otherwise show deference. I'm getting accustomed to all that attention which I never got before.

So if you see me coming down the street with a walking stick, I need it for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is sympathy.

© 2002 Robert F. Karolevitz

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