Raising Cane at Scots’ Festival Grand Finale | PD Blog

Recent days were dark with a bitter melancholy we’re warned PD may bring now and again, but I expected relief at the huge Scottish heritage festival I attend Memorial Day weekends since the 1960s, loud, rowdy, colorful and moving.

My elegant handlebar moustache has faded from a rich brawny auburn red over those decades, to the white of old men whose adventures and victories are in the past.

And besides having Parkinson’s Disease’s treacherous shadow over my path of uncertain footing and emotional stumbling blocks, I’d ruefully agreed to take up my cane again, this time for good.

Come to think of it, many disabled and handicapped persons of varied ages attend our annual salute to heritage and history.

Seated at one end of the grandstand’s handicapped section, I was aware of a young man about 16 and his mother beside me. He was neatly dressed in black slacks, a white dress shirt and a rakish Glengarry cap.

My cane, reminder of frailty, has lived in a closet after serving me well through two hip replacement surgeries. What the VA Medical Center says I have now dictates I’ll need a cane for the duration. I resisted, firmly, but finally caved in, sick of sudden imbalance,  falls, scrapes and bruises. Relieved loved ones assure I’ll feel so much stronger with a cane, even if it is merely a kinder way to concede I’m now permanently infirm.

And it hasn’t even seemed that long from 22 to 72 at all.

A cane can lend a dapper dignity to some old duffers in tweeds and handsome tartan ties; not me, now just an Old Fart with faded whiskers and a wobbly, uncertain gait.

Ah, but I still have a rover’s eye for the lassies.

And Sunday I managed to end up in the arms of one, a tale to be shared further on.

Come to think of it, many disabled or handicapped persons of varied ages attend “Scotsfest” as it is now known, instead of the original and more formal United Scottish Society Highland Gathering and Games, with roots in San Francisco 120-plus years ago.

For Scottish ethnic strength, pride, spirit and character transcends mere muscle and bone. The Good Lord gave those to every race, but we Scots all got a wee bit more.

Thousands attend the three-day event, with a fleet of wheelchairs for hire.

Once among the merry crowds in brilliant plaid kilts and thrilling hum and whine of bagpipes set off by the rattle  of snare drums, my blood began to stir. The old standard folk tunes of Scotland Grandma hummed took me back me to childhood in the 1940s, when my wee granny minded me as my parents worked civilian defense jobs in Navy shipyards. If anyone could defeat the evil enemy threatening us they could.

I have keepsake studio photos of myself aged about three years, clad in a Navy sailor suit with shiny buttons and a miniature Army dress uniform, with a visored aviator’s cap.

I looked so brave and serious.

Seated a few rows up in the grandstand’s handicapped section, a strapping young man about 16 scooted in next to me with his Mom on the other side. He wore a white dress shirt and Glengarry cap, black and banded by red and white checks with two black ribbons fluttering in back. They’re handsome and often worn with a military unit or clan insignia badge pinned to the left side.

The bandmaster raised his baton and prepared to open the ceremony with “Scotland the Brave” our beloved anthem.

“Here we go!,” my seatmate declared joyfully, as the rattle of snare drums began and he raised his arms to imitate the conductor. I noticed only then the youth had Down Syndrome, but one would scarcely notice.

A twinge of guilt reminded me life is what we make of it and my young fellow Scot was setting an example for me. We each suffer from a chronic, incurable condition that affects the quality of life and how we react involves choices.

Matter of fact, since getting the feel and gait of my cane back to some extent, I had noticed a difference. My kid sister observed that I seemed to be walking more rapidly and with a more even stride.

My deteriorating walk in recent months has led to a degree of self-consciousness, especially when and if I take a mis-step and fall down. People don’t seem to understand how one can lose balance at slow speed and simply topple over.

I wish I was not in a position to have to.

“Oh man, The worst is falling down when your witness speaks no English and my Spanish is rather limited to say the least.

The other day I opened my front gate to bring in some groceries and thought my neighbor Marisela was coming in the gate to go to her apartment. So I turned in a circle to catch the gate and hold it open for her.

But my PD acted up and I had a spell of vertigo.

I dropped my groceries and soda, then landed on them. Marisela is very emotional. She started to cry. She called to her husband who looked out the window and came running.

Marisela had grabbed her cell phone from her purse and I reached up as though trying to take it, but I was just trying to keep her from calling 911.

Remember how I said I wound up in the arms of a buxom lass at the Scottish festival and would dish on the details later? Well, we’re out of space for this week.

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