Two Steps at a Time

Hurrying, I grabbed the moving box containing bathroom toiletries and bounded up the staircase in our new house, two steps at a time. Undaunted by the effort, I immediately began to put them into a cupboard. At the moment, the house my husband Arnie and I had bought was a hollow shell. All the rooms were empty. None of them showed that they now belonged to us. Turning this house into a beloved, cozy home for our little family, was up to me.

With the recklessness of youth, I never questioned if I was able do something or not. In addition to being a homemaker, I worked outside of the home as a Certified Nursing Assistant. When male patients worried that I wasn’t big or strong enough to get them up for a walk after surgery, I’d laugh and say, “I’m a farm girl. I can carry two bales of hay the full length of a barn with no problem.” My busy, active life was all as easy as running up a staircase two steps at a time.

I started to get hints that I wouldn’t always be young and physically strong in my mid-thirty’s. Arthritis began to make my hands ache and after sitting for a while my feet and hips would be very stiff and sore. No problem. I just barreled through life ignoring these minor discomforts. If I had stopped to think about it, I would have recognized that my twinges and aches sounded very much like the twinges and aches my elderly mother had described. It was hard to take Mom seriously though. When she had a bad day, she just limped and laugh it off with a complaint of, “Oh, my aching pinfeathers!”

It’s hard to ignore achy feet, though, when you spent the majority of your work day on them. At first, I thought all they needed was surgery to fix the bunions that seemed to be on fire as they burned and throbbed.

The surgery helped, but not entirely.

Several years later I retired from working at the hospital after a doctor looked at my X-rays. She explained to me what was wrong in blunt, easy-to-understand words. “All the joints in your feet are arthritic. In some cases, they are bone-on-bone. There is nothing we can do for them.”

I took to retirement as if it was a natural way of life. For over 46 years, I’d hated getting up early for work, so I made of point of always sleeping in every day until at least 7:30 or later! My joints were still good enough for taking small walks, working in my garden and going on trips.

Last summer my left knee started to hurt. I thought it would eventually get better. There were days I had a hard time moving around because bearing weight on the leg hurt so badly. Working in the garden became unpleasant. Although I like shopping, I stopped wanting to go because so many things I wanted or needed were in the back of the stores. The backside of most big box stores seem to be five miles from the cash registers.

Optimism kept bubbling up. I’d tell people, “My knee is getting better.” Then the weather changed or I did too much the day before. I started to feel old and feeble. Climbing the steps to my bedroom was a painful chore.

This time the doctor I visited looked at my X-ray and informed me, “Your left knee joint is bone on bone. I can replace it. There are openings in my surgical schedule six to eight weeks from now.”

Over half of my work life was spent taking care of patients in the hospital who had joint replacements. They were in a lot of pain and spent several days on the unit. Most went to nursing home care after their hospital stay for a few more weeks.

Last Friday my surgery began at 8:00 a.m. By 4:00 p.m. that same afternoon I was packed up and sent home where my daughter would help out until I was back on my feet.

I’ve been in a lot of pain, but I would have been in pain wherever I was. One thing I’ve always known is that pain does not stop a person from moving. Since I compulsively need to move around frequently, I’ve been doing well with physical therapy.

I may never again run up the staircase two steps at a time like I did when I was thirty years old, but on Thursday afternoon, six days after my knee replacement, I slowly walked up the steps, taking one step at a time.

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