Back before I began being mistaken for Harrison Ford, I was (and remain) an old fat guy. No false modesty here: I am old, fat, and a guy.
It wasn’t always like that—I wasn’t always fat, nor always old. I have, however, always been guy. But one thing leads to another, and now instead of bicycling to work year round (-29F my personal best, not including windchill!), I work in the suburbs and am chained to my desk all day. The last straw was after last year’s ski trip with our older son who told me, you know, Dad, maybe we need to be done if you just can’t keep up anymore. This was not well received.
I decided to go to the gym. This is not an easy choice. As everyone knows, everyone else in the gym is younger, leaner, better looking, and has more hair. Plus, I’m sure all of them are judging my meager attempts at fitness with a haughty disdain. This is a hard thing to overcome, even when you know it is nonsense. Reluctantly, I loosen the chains at the end of the day and go to the Y before going home. Strangely, although I hate going, I always feel better once I’m done. It’s kind of like church that way.
Astonishingly, there is progress. Who knew that exercise works?
Then, one day while jogging around the track, I feel a strange twinge. I have never felt this before. It was not a good twinge. I knew there was a reason I hated jogging. Still, I continue my trips to the Y, only to find out that it never gets better. This is unacceptable. Off to see Dr. Gary Sager at TCO. After the usual array of tests, we agree that my meniscus is old (no surprise there) and needs some trimming. No big deal: sort of like a 60,000 mile checkup. And if we don’t delay, I can still ski!
After six weeks, the weird twinge still barks. I complain. Dr. Gary, a very patient man, explains that my meniscus is fine—it’s the stage 4 arthritis that is causing the discomfort. I am stunned. Arthritis? Me? I am so shocked I forget to ask what stage 4 means. I have to go home and look it up. Stage 1 is mild. Stage 4 means you’re toast. I decide to go skiing anyway. No bumps, he says. The first thing I do is try the bumps. Two bumps later I decide, no bumps.
This is a little humbling. All I do is eat his dust and later hear about the great snow on the double-black diamond runs while I stay on the blue—and even green!—groomers. Still, we have a good time. I follow directions and ice every day. But when we get home, I am hobbling around like Walter Brennan in To Have and Have Not. Ever been bit by a dead bee? Me neither! Back to TCO I go. We agree that a knee replacement is in order. I am shocked, a little horrified, and pretty much wet my pants thinking about it on the way home, but there isn’t any alternative.
I get surgery. It hurts. A lot. It’s the kind of hurt that blocks out everything else. The drugs, when they work, take the edge off, but it’s a long way from bliss. Also, I decide that I will never be a danger for opiate addiction since mostly they make me dizzy and slightly nauseated. I miss the first day of therapy entirely, lost in a miasma of wooziness and a queasy stomach. Day one post-op, and I’m already behind!
We go home. Things start to get better. After just six days post-op, I graduate to a cane! Canes bespeak dignity. Canes confer respect. I begin to take walks with my cane and my Stetson hat, and life greatly improves.
Physical therapy is, to my great surprise, neither painful nor unpleasant. Instead, I have these nice young men and women (the same ones at the gym, I’m pretty sure) telling me how well things are going. I begin to think I might be eligible for the National Knee Replacement Hall of Fame! Meanwhile, I continue to do my exercises at home under the watchful eye of my long-suffering wife, Jane. Jane is no stranger to major surgery, having had not one, but both (!) hips replaced at TCO. She tells me to keep the faith, keep after it, and to not succumb to the ennui of despair that stalks on the sidelines. She knows I’m pretty sure the glass isn’t even half full, plus the water is probably tainted. She patiently ignores my grumbling and gently inquires if I’ve done my exercises or would I like to take a walk.
We are only four weeks into this, but some things are becoming clear. I will go skiing next year. We’ll just see about the bumps. I will ride a bicycle again. I will go canoeing. I am getting better. And, if I could only convince Dr. Sager to join me in a guitar duo (I’m pretty sure he’s better than he thinks), I have a name all ready: The Bees’ Knees.
As for Harrison Ford: I’m pretty sure I heard someone say recently, why, isn’t that Harrison Ford? Gosh, she exclaims, I think so….but I didn’t know he was so short! Camera angles, I tell them—it’s just camera angles. Then I keep walking, because that’s what Harrison would do if only his knees were as spiffy as mine.