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The Obvious Explanation

While visiting an area elementary school recently, one youngster came skipping toward me in welcome. His eyes were bright and curious with a confidence beyond his years.

"I know you!" He nearly clapped his hands with excitement.

"I know her!" His exuberance attracted the needed amount of attention among his peers, as he pointed excitedly towards me.

With only the chance to nod in agreement, he continued his impromptu performance.

"In second grade! You came to our class last year! I remember your cane! I know you!"

(Okay, so...I have tried to download a pic of my exquisite cane for three days now, only to be denied. So, try to imagine a folksy hand painted craft in a combination of pastels and artsy hues of green, red, pink, blue, and purple. Real descriptive, right? Trust me, it's gorgeous and very memorable.)

And, indeed he did know me. Or at least, he knew my cane.

When I was diagnosed in July 2001, I knew nothing about multiple sclerosis. 
MS...just another one of those alphabet diseases. I remember thinking about the benefit walk that my aerobics class participated in years before. We raised money for one of those physical conditions and had an absolute blast on our Girls Weekend in our state capital. We had trained for weeks to assure a finish line presence. We were not in a race, but we knew we wanted to  cross the finish line. And we did, even if the temperature climbed to a humid afternoon and unexpected blisters plagued our heels. We all realized far too late that our dinner of burritos and margaritas the night before probably (absolutely) was not the right choice for a pre-walk meal.

I remember being humbled (and I still am) by the individuals who crossed the finish line that day. Many of them were in wheel chairs. Quite a few wielded not one, but two walking sticks. I was fiercely ashamed of my light-hearted approach to such an obviously important event.

There were a lot of tears that day among everyone there in  Charleston, West Virginia. The tears were for many reasons: in honor of those individual who could no longer make the walk; in memory of those who had passed; as respect for those who continued to hold on to the hope that their condition could and would be abolished.

The one thing I remember most is that atmosphere of obvious hope.

My unique cane makes it obvious that I have something wrong with me. To the onlooker, this could be just about anything: MS, MD, stroke, sprained muscle, vertigo, a strange fashion sense, old age...
It really doesn't matter to most folks what that condition might be. The important thing is that there is an obvious explanation to our dilemma.  

Physical handicaps aren't always obvious, though. There are days when my foot doesn't drag, my hands are steady and that annoying head tick isn't discernible to the naked eye. These are the days I often hear the comments about my handicap parking ticket, the length of time it takes me to check out of retail line, that fact that I always select the aisle seat, the fact that I carry a walking device when there is obviously nothing wrong with me. These are days when I just want to stand up and announce that I just want attention. I have a passionate need for people to notice me. My day is not complete without a perfect stranger offering condolences for my pain.

Do I prefer to be part of the non-obvious population?

You betcha!

So, why, please  tell me, do some people insist that the public takes notice of such ridiculous afflictions as this Walmart ('cause Walmart is the obvious location choice, right?) patron? 

Take another look: 

I really, really hope that this fellow is not such a physical mess, but I will nev-er discount the possibility. Fifteen years with an official diagnosis of multiple sclerosis has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of the physical condition. The logical  or obvious explanation is not always the correct explanation.

I do not feel that I owe anyone an explanation for my decorative walking stick, but I really don't mind explaining...if the questioner appears genuinely interested. Although I am not a medical expert, I find that the longer I live with MS, the more I have to say about it.
Have a great weekend! Lisa


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