By Judy Dean
This morning I woke up with my cheeks wet with tears. It wasn’t a dream, exactly – more like a memory. Coming to wakefulness I found myself back in 2020, half-reclined on a surgical gurney as two nurses bustled about, prepping me for a total replacement of my knee. They were ticking tasks off their checklist when one of them noticed an odd look on my face and tears in my eyes.
“Oh dear, are you OK? Please don’t be scared, everything’s going to be fine.”
“I’m not scared. I just need a minute.” I leaned forward and reached down to stroke my right knee, now covered with surgical markings. “It’s just a feeling but…. I need to thank my knee. And say goodbye. ” Both women froze, as if I’d just confessed I had a bomb tucked under my surgical gown.
I gently squeezed my knee and said out loud, “Thank you for all the places you took me. And all the wonderful things you made possible. You were amazing. I’m sorry I got mad at you. Thank you, thank you.”
I looked up at the nurses, frozen in place and gaping at me. I took a breath. “It’s OK, you can wrap it up. I’m ready.” My declaration set them back in motion.
I hadn’t thought one iota about thanking my knee before the very moment it popped into my brain in that prep room. But after I did, I settled back, closed my eyes, and focused my thoughts on the near future where I’d be able to walk again without pain, and experience who-knows-what adventures that may be awaiting me.
This morning I’m wide-awake and the year is 2023. Two and a half years post-surgery, I’m sad to report that now it’s my left knee that’s on its way out. I’ll be facing my second replacement surgery less than a month from now, and in its infinite wisdom, my subconscious mind figured I needed an important reminder.
I’ve been mad at my left knee. It hurts like crazy and it’s getting worse. “Dammit! Why are you in such a hurry to fail me too?” I curse my poor knee when no one’s listening. The first recovery was far tougher than I’d imagined, and the post-surgery ambulatory life I’d envisioned had been painfully brief. I’ve been living in dread of going through that hell again.
But wait! Didn’t I apologize to my right knee, and thank it for all of its amazing service? I did – and it was the honorable thing to do. My left knee, in fact, deserves that consideration and more. After all, it got me through more than a year of hard recovery all by itself. It was heroic, actually. I need an attitude adjustment.
Why should I presume my bones and joints come with an unconditional warranty of, say, ninety years or more? Why should I feel cheated when they get me only two-thirds of the way there?
We age, and our hard-working, very human parts fail from time to time. Those of us who’ve had the great good fortune to live in high-functioning bodies well into middle age are lucky beyond measure. And I’m not even taking into consideration that surgeons are now often able to take out our broken-down parts and put in brand new ones. Wow, really? That’s just a tick shy of miraculous.
So, a few parting thoughts for my left knee: Thank you for all the places you’ve taken me. And all the wonderful things you’ve made possible. You are amazing. I’m sorry I’ve been mad at you. Thank you, thank you.