An Embarrassing Secret…

There’s an embarrassing secret on the back seat of my car. I find myself furtively slipping inside our front door hoping I won’t be seen. When my teenage daughter arrives home an hour later I dash to move my secret possessions into the walk-in closet so I won’t be caught.

Walking sticks. My shameful secret is an upgrade, on medical advice, from two timber canes to a pair of awkward, grey, elbow crutches. I liked to believe the canes gave me an air of old world sophistication! Gone is the shiny lacquer on wooden handles, gone the opportunity to pretend that my two timber sticks were more accessories than mobility aids. Now we have grey plastic and hospital grade aluminium; the latest evidence of a year long and undiagnosed health crisis. An intrusive ‘click-creak’ announces my every step to the world.

I find it hard to look my family in the eye, and with many friends I am the same. Instead, I drift towards the company of complete strangers behind shop counters; people whose eyes won’t alarm me with that hint of question, or pity, or disbelief, or fear, or hesitancy, or embarrassment, or – worst of all – the fixed stare that refuses to glance down and confirm the reality of my aluminium props.

How absurd! I really do make too much of all this don’t you think? Well, maybe. But then perhaps you’ve never experienced this vaguely ‘animal’ sense of walking on all fours. Perhaps you’ve never felt overwhelmed by the vast distances to be walked inside an airport terminal. And perhaps you’ve never been offered a senior’s discount at Mitre 10. I’m 47!

The odd thing is that I find myself largely at peace. I have, it’s true, shed my own tears. I have cried in doctors’ rooms, in my pastor’s office, and in secret places. I cried when I used one cane, I cried more when I needed two. But I am OK. No, I am much more than “OK”. I am at peace with God and full of gratitude for life in all its depth. I love life. I have a sense of joy that I don’t understand. I love being alive and I see the hand of the Almighty wherever I look.

There are times, though, where I feel awkward around people. I feel compelled to explain what cannot be explained, and to provide for them the very answers I don’t need. A subtle and widening gap is openning. It seems to me that my own contentment is not always shared by those around me. The language of the church movement I am privileged to serve is faith filled, successful and relentlessly upward. In contrast my year long journey through waiting rooms, doctor’s practices and hospital corridors has been progressively downward. I find it has been hard for some of my brothers to walk with me. I have not always been able to respond with a sturdy confidence about my future, and my hesitation leads to an awkwardness in the conversations that follow. One or two friends have even stopped ringing up; and because I don’t know what to say to them I don’t ring either. I miss their company very much: I have a ache to be in touch – in fact ‘touch’ is all I need. Opinions, concern, advice, even prayers: none of these things matter nearly as much as simple presence, even the vaguely absent presence of text messages and the web that we are all so used to.

I have great faith for the future; but I don’t know what the future looks like. What I do understand well is that Christ is the inseparable companion on my path. I feel I have paid a price to learn this, and I would not lose this knowledge at any cost.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

And, after all, with these plastic and aluminium contraptions I am making much firmer and faster progress on the pathway of triumph!

October 2009.

13 Responses to “An Embarrassing Secret…”


  1. 1 Glenn Kennedy November 17, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing Rod. Very nicely written. Most of the souls you have commented on in this piece would give their legs for a little of that peace you oddly find yourself having. Well Done !!

  2. 2 Deb Gould November 17, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    You certainly have a captivating way of putting things Roderick.You are very inspiring & I agree, you should write a book!!! I read a book years ago by a Presbyterian minister who had developed Alzhiemers & it was a remarkable testimony of God’s presence through the toughest trial.
    Thank you for your honesty & living WALKING faith even on horrible plastic & metal “aids”. 🙂 Deb

  3. 3 Alan Rosengarten November 17, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Bravely and beautifully written, Rod. Your outlook on life is an example to us all.

  4. 4 Patricia Tiffen November 17, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Fantastic, congratulations Roderick, it’s hard to believe that this is your first attempt at becoming a ‘blogger’! Thankyou for educating so many of us, we need to know how to treat and how to respond to, not only our very special friends, also others who need a gentle touch and kindness of understanding as they journey through life facing incredible struggles. You are our champion Roderick! We are wondering if you could do our shopping at Mitre 10 from now on. Cheers good friend.

  5. 5 Andy Brennan November 17, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Hi Brother, I thank you as well for your sharing; with us, and the confidance I as you would well know gain from your testimony and faith.
    I can feel the pain in your words as you write, however that quite confidance that you have in our creator and future gives us all hope. Love you man. Andy

  6. 6 Glen Powell November 18, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Rod, wonderful words. Thanks for including me on this journey…

    Glen

  7. 7 Sue Buckman November 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    What an inspiration to read of your experiences Rod! and thank you for sharing with others how it really is. You know, my mum has Alziemers disease, and on one level doesn’t know who I am, yet if I sit and read the bible to her, and pray with her, her whole countenance changes to one of rest, peace and utter joy!… You know we never prayed together when mum was able minded, and while other people see such a loss when they look at mum well there is precious gain in it all too. Blessings to you and your family

  8. 8 Lynne Harmer November 19, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Hey Rod,I am humbled by your walk and I call it your walk , for you are the one doing it an what comfort to experience the companionship of Jesus along side of you . I think that often we want to know all things and have understanding, when its not for us, as we really do have to trust our Lord and thats a easy thing to say but another matter to actually do so. One of your comments was about people you know not looking you in the eye as one who is much shorter then you ! even with you slightly stooped I find this a little difficult to accomplish It gives me encouragement to know also that I am alone when my spiritual ‘ walk’ is not measuting up to the mark . Thanks Rod Love Lynne

  9. 9 Boyd Harley November 19, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Thanks Rod for the effort in writing down how you feel. When I was a kid and had problem or hurt myself my mum would remind me that there is always someone worse off than me. ( usually some starving kid in Africa or India) I never found any comfort in that information and as a teenager stopped sharing any problems with her altogether. I didnt want an answer I just needed to know I was heard and didnt have to face things alone.

    We are not alone Rod and that small truth changes everything.

    Be thankful for Aluminium.

  10. 10 Pauleen Kite December 9, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Rodrick Your words and your witness have encouraged me immensely. Many times i have felt i have to explain why i cant do the things others can do and the embarresment of a walking stick that has to come out of the closet more and more. I feel it easier to stay home so i dont dissapoint people but deep down i know thats not what God wants me to do. Please keep writing your gift is writing. Your words are the silver lining. Praying Gods onointing will continue flow.
    Pauleen

  11. 11 Lynne Harmer December 24, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    I have reread your blog, and the comments and realized that in my comments. I meant to say that I was not alone on my walk , but also that I’m not sure that its a walk, more like someone trying to learn to walk for the first time ,because at times in this I dont seem to know which direction I’m suppose to be going, or what I’m actaully doing, trying to remain upright and focused, it can be a more aligned to being lost , but never mind, at least I’m going somewhere, and there are plenty on the same path , so that encourages me, but I’m suppose to be encouraging you Rod, so be encouraged,you do seem to be able to have a clearer view, while I perphaps should not refer to the height issue, again I do think it gives you a more favourable advantage. Lynne

  12. 12 roderickmallen June 10, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Hello Sue,
    Ive just re-read the comment you left here months ago, and realise that I never took the time to reply. I think I was way short of the courage needed to engage in conversation back then! I did appreciate your words. The way you speak of your mum is very moving, and reminds me of a saying a good friend has: ‘its all sad but its not all bad’. My friend lost his father and like you he recognised the tension between gain and loss that always exists in the walk of life.
    Blessings!
    R.


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