The Walker

I’ve come to recognize a particular sound. The sound of a walker as it thumps, drags, and scrapes across the floor.

My husband, Mark, is now using a walker. I’m not sure if he is pushing the walker or the walker is pulling him. Whichever it is, I am grateful it is keeping my husband mobile, upright, and able to walk.

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I am not yet used to the words: “my husband is using a walker.”

It is not likely he will ever be without it in the future, something I couldn’t have imagined saying a few years ago. Nor could I have understood the concept of “caregiver.”  You can’t think your way into an experience.

Caregiving, at its best, is stressful, painful and brings on untoward anxiety. Caregiving has unleashed several of my character defects, one of them being impatience. I struggle between impatience and understanding, grief and gratitude, guilt and acceptance, joy, and sorrow.

I have always been a fast walker and walked ahead of my husband most of our married life. We have different walking rhythms, just as we have other differences. I probably never got anywhere much faster than my husband, but I have prided myself on my strong gait, moving with gusto and purpose.

Through all the years when he and I would walk, I would turn my head around and look back to see if he was coming along. I must admit, it was not always an altruistic glance. Sometimes it was filled with irritation and impatience.

I’d like to tell you that all my impatience has morphed into compassion as he has become more compromised. Not so. What I can tell you is I have learned to keep my mouth shut and my thoughts to myself most of the time. Thoughts like “can’t you walk a little faster,” or “hurry up we’re going to be late.”  Things I know would only make him feel bad.

Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic says: “It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve.”  I am practicing keeping negative comments to myself.

Outwardly nothing much has changed. I still walk ahead of my husband. I still get impatient from time to time and once in a while I still remind him to please walk a little faster even though I know he can’t. My backward glances now are to be sure he is safe.

There is, however, one major thought that helps me pull myself up to be a better self. It is this. Depending on life circumstances, one day I may turn around to see if my husband is following me, and he’ll be gone.

1 thought on “The Walker”

  1. Dolores Thompson

    this is a great article, thank you for writing it. I’m in a very comparable situation with my husband, only it’s been going on for 3 years. Despite a lot of rehab & ongoing PT, that we pay for (Medicare benefit ran out long ago), he cannot walk without the walker – both outside and in the house. We have one for each! He had a hairline hip fracture that everyone thought would heal OK but it didn’t so he is “mobility challenged” and it’s very hard for both of us. We used to do long walks & long bike rides & he can’t do either. What he can do now is about 1 mile, it takes about 1 hour! Sometime the slowness drives me crazy! but your last sentence really hit home – I still love him & want to be with him, so you take the good with the bad, right?

    I’m still an avid walker though I’ve given up bike riding, so as not to make him feel even worse than he does about his situation. It’s hard for people who aren’t in this situation to understand: steps are a real issue, for example, so we can’t visit friends where you have to go up or down steps to get into their house (unless they have a ramp of course which most do not). He can’t dance anymore, of course, and we used to love dancing together. He sits a lot, and I nag a lot, to get him up & moving in the house (in addition to the one mile daily walk).

    That fall truly changed our lives. I do my best to see the good side but sometimes its hard. Thank you for expressing this so well & especially for your last sentence

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