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Mama's new walking aid

My tata (father in Croatian) headed off early this morning to buy a walking stick for my mama. Over the past few days as mama has been struggling to walk she has been using her Burberry umbrella as a substitute walking stick. Umbrellas are not designed for this function. It became evident very quickly that a proper walking stick was needed because the umbrella would slip as mama put pressure on it and the last thing mama needed was to have a fall.

Three hours after tata had left the house my phone rang.

“Marica, I am worried. Your tata hasn’t arrived back yet. I hope he is alright,” said mama on the other end of the phone. The worry gene is strong in our family as is the gene associated with imagining the worst scenario!

“He’ll be fine mama. He’ll be home soon. Maybe he hasn’t been able to find a walking stick for you and he’s still looking,” I found myself saying. In my mind I thought about the many things that could have distracted him because I would have thought buying a walking stick with an ever ageing population would be a simple process. It turns out I was wrong.

All the shops my father went to had sold out of walking sticks. Someone suggested he try the Salvation Army second hand store on the corner of Taranaki and Ghuznee streets. They had also sold out. My tata felt so frustrated; he wanted to home with a walking stick for his wife.

“Wait there and I’ll check out the back,” said the young man behind the counter, “We have just had a load of goods delivered and I haven’t been through it yet. There might be one there.”

A few minutes later he returned with a walking stick.

“I found this one. Is this okay?” he asked tata as he handed it over to him.

I could just imagine my tata’s face at that moment. He would have been really relieved and overjoyed. My tata is the type of person who bottle’s everything up inside. He doesn’t show his feelings easily but he still feels very deeply. He doesn’t express what he feels with words he does it through his actions. He also doesn’t know how to cope when people he loves are sick, so his natural inclination is to do things for them. Buying this walking stick for mama was important. He would have felt that he had to come home with one for her. It was his way of saying “I love you” and “I am here for you.”

“How much do I owe you?” asked tata?

“Nothing,” said the young man.

Tata had difficulty accepting this gift. He tried to give the young man some money but to no avail.

Later, as I walked into my parent’s home, I was greeted with mama and her new walking stick, and a smiling tata who looked very pleased with himself. Mama was thrilled with her umbrella replacement; it was already making a difference as she tried to move around. Everyone was happy.

I then had to take mama to her doctor’s appointment. As we were leaving the house tata said to me: “Make sure you bring her back to me.” He stood at the doorway watching us drive away and I saw concern written all over his face. He was scared. I realised in that moment the depth of his love for his wife of 53 years. The only way he knew how to express that love was to make sure she had a walking stick to help her move and he did that.

After seeing the doctor we had to wait around for the nurse to make an appointment for an ultrasound scan. When the nurse came into the room she commented on mama’s new walking stick and naturally mama had to tell her the story of how it came to be in her possession.

“You deserve a better stick than that,” said the nurse. Mama’s body language told me that she was taken aback at this comment.

“You can order one from the pharmacy across the road,” continued the nurse.” Even better, tell your husband to go down to the local retirement home – they have a room full of walking sticks from resident’s who have died. I know this because I used to work there.” She then gave mama the name of the nurse manager and said tata should ask for this woman when he goes down there.

As we walked out the doctor’s surgery mama laughed about what had just happened and she asked: “What’s wrong with my walking stick?”

“I am happy with it,” she continued. After all her husband had gone to the effort of going from shop to shop to try and get it for her and she appreciated this. She knew what it meant.

When a friend came to visit she looked at the walking stick and said: “Danica, you can’t walk around with that stick, people will think you’re blind. Didn’t you know a white stick is only meant to be used by people who can’t see?”

“I’ll paint it a different colour,” was tata’s response. Everyone laughed at the suggestion.

This walking stick may not be a thing of beauty. It may send the wrong messages. It definitely serves its purpose more than adequately. All this aside, I have come to realise that this walking stick has significance way beyond what others see. It is a sign of the love between my parents. This simple white metal walking stick with its wooden handle is part of their love story.

As I write I do wonder what this walking stick’s story was before it came to us. If only it could talk.

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