The Mind-Body Image Discrepancy

I am steadily improving after my knee surgery this week. I shifted from crutches to a cane and anticipate soon being able to walk on my own. Yesterday, I ventured out of the house for the first time to go grocery shopping with my husband. I felt proud to be able to walk up and down the aisles and even carry one object at a time to place in the cart. The looks or avoidance I got from my fellow shoppers, however, made me very aware of the discrepancy between how we look to others and how we feel.

2013-11-16 11.56.43-1

Out for a brief stroll on a beautiful day!

To people who don’t know me and understand that this is only a temporary setback, I must look like the victim of a car accident and may even be permanently handicapped. To my family and friends, I am a brave, resilient woman making an amazing recovery from an injury that started four months ago. Most of the time, though, it doesn’t take anything remarkable to cause this mind-body discrepancy, just age. Therefore, I would like to share this short tribute to a special person whom I only knew as an old man, but who obviously saw himself much differently.

When I first met Harry, he was already approaching the ripe old age of 90. He didn’t move as quickly as his grandsons, but his mind was still sharp and he played a good game of chess. I was invited to go camping with “the boys” that summer.

The Boys

The Boys

Canoe

We spent six days paddling down river, setting up tents, fishing and swimming and Grandpa Harry certainly pulled his share of the work. Looking back, I feel extremely privileged to have been part of that guy-bonding trip.

By the time my daughter, his first great-grandchild, was born, Harry was no longer up for that level of activity; but that didn’t stop him from gardening and getting down to her level to teach her what he knew.

Gardening lesson

Gardening lesson

He still loved to fish and wore his favorite hat, although he now needed a cane to climb in and out of the boat. Even though his body weakened, he enjoyed life to the end. Sadly, he passed away before either of my children could form coherent memories of him.

Years later, in an effort to downsize (see saving family heirlooms https://themiddlegeneration.wordpress.com/saving-family-heirlooms ) , my mother-in-law, Harry’s daughter, passed on his fishing hat and cane to my children -sad but meaningful tokens to them.

Four generations

Four generations

In spite of the fact that my son never met Grandpa Harry, he always knows it is his cane. The other day, he came home from school to see me walking and his face lit up as he proclaimed:”You’re using Grandpa Harry’s cane, mom! He would like that!”

It amazes me how a cane, which Harry only used for a few of his 94 years, has served as a bridge between him and his great grandson. Even though it is a symbol of weakness and old age- certainly not how he saw himself until the very end- it has become a way to keep Harry’s memory alive at whatever age we knew him. So, as I walk with the aid of his cane I think of him and smile. Some people might see me as weak, but they don’t know the strength of the spirit behind this cane.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wilma Hall
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 17:32:18

    This is a lovely blog with wonderful photos of a special time that I well remember. Especially strong in my mind is the joint birthday party for a one year old and a ninety year old. It is perhaps less astonsing to me that the 90 old is no longer bodily with us than that the one year old will soon be off to college!

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  2. Carol
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 18:35:24

    Too often we pass judgement based on the superficial – a good reminder that we should not do that. How wonderful your family has these memories.
    Good luck with a quick healing to you!

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  3. Looking Out The Window
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 22:26:04

    How wonderful to have the support for Grandpa Harry even though he is no longer with you.

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