Cars and attachments.

My top odometer reading of any car I’ve owned. Seeing the 9’s turn into 100,000 isn’t near as fun on a digital monitor as it is on analog.

Final photo.

I have never cared much about cars —their make, their model or how many horses are under the hood. I only cared if it started. In my early driving years, my love went as deep as the thoughts I had when I put the key in the ignition, while quietly reciting the mantra, “please oh please oh please, start.” If it started, and I’d say the odds were about 70%, I loved the car. If it didn’t, I hated the car and would have to think where the nearest pay phone was so I could call Dad to bail me out, which he always did, without fail. If I was at home, it meant scrambling for a ride or going for my last ditch option of calling in sick. That was as far as my caring went for cars went. I didn’t have a car when I was in high school, but had friends that did and that worked out fine because I really didn’t like to drive and preferred being a passenger over being the driver. I don’t remember buying my first car, a VW beetle (1968), but the price tag of $400 comes to mind. This seems like it should have been something I would have remembered, but I don’t, proving my point of not caring much about cars.

The first car I do remember purchasing was in 1977 and I remember it because it was my first introduction to financing. It was a light blue ’74 super beetle, and yes, adding the “super” to the car’s title was significant. It meant it had a dashboard instead of a flat panel where the instruments were located. The back windshield was also larger and the car was two inches longer than a regular beetle – hardly enough to market the extended leg room. It was $1500 and I financed it for two years, with payments of $65.00 a month — an amount that gave me a pit in my stomach.

Dad took me to Olathe Ford to help me find a cheap, safe, used car that I could afford. That meant having to walk past the shiny new Fords with stickers in the windows to get to the not so shiny used cars that were parked a football field away. It was like walking through a department store with beautiful clothing and heading straight out the back door to stacks of old clothes at someone’s garage sale. One day, I thought, I’ll be able to stop and look at the new cars and maybe even buy one.

When we spotted the ’74 VW, I was thrilled. It was an OK color (light blue), wasn’t very expensive and was relatively new (three years old) and because it was a VW, it was familiar. I learned how to drive in our family’s 2nd car, a white 1964 VW so knew the ins and outs of the car along with the quirks, and with VWs, there were many. It looked perfect and I was ready to flag a salesman over but Dad told me not so fast. He thought he recognized the car as being the same car the vice principal at the high school where he was a guidance counselor had driven. I didn’t see the problem. If he knew the previous owner, all the better as he’d have more information as to how well the car had been taken care of and why he had traded it in. He agreed, but it wasn’t that simple. Because the vice principal of the school holds the disciplinarian role with the students, they often become the recipient of pranks during the weeks before senior graduation. I still didn’t see the problem but Dad thought it would be a good idea to stop by and have a chat with the vice principal, Dr. Burns, to get more information about the car. This was the beauty of growing up in a small town. To stop by someone’s house, without invitation or warning, to obtain details on the car he had traded in, was not considered odd or invasive in the least. And so we did just that. We left Olathe Ford and drove the short distance to Dr. Burn’s house. He confirmed that yes, the ’74 light blue VW had been his and he had taken meticulous care of it since buying it as a new car a few years earlier. However, the car had been lifted up by a group of seniors and returned to its parking spot upside down. When Dr. Burns found his car at the end of the day in the parking spot where he had left it, but upside down, he took it in stride and found a handful of strong boys to return it to its upright position. He said other than that, it was a good car. Somehow that story made the light blue VW even more desirable to me. It had an interesting history that I would be adding to, although I doubted it would become the subject of pranks under my ownership.

I had a lot of history with that car. I loaded her up with all the possessions I could squeeze into its small interior and moved across the country to Phoenix. One of the guys I worked with at King Radio had a luggage rack he said he’d be happy to donate to the cause, which I gladly accepted but only if he’d agree to attach it. I strapped boxes onto the precariously attached rack and realized several miles into my journey that it had been a terrible idea because it slowed my already slow speeds down to a top speed in the low 50’s. It also added a background noise of wind whistling through it the entire journey. The car was not turned upside down by students under my ownership, but I did have my share of adventures with her.

I owned that light blue ’74 VW for six years, four years after my final monthly payment. The last two years I owned it, I commuted daily to the University of Kansas, 45 minutes from my apartment. Because I dealt with car issues more than once during those two years, my fiancé worried about its reliability and safety and bought me a Subaru. The next week, I sold the VW to the first person who responded to the ad I put in the paper. He gave me $200 less than the $700 I was asking, but I was happy with the $500. I’ve never been good at negotiating. I did not consult a blue book for pricing but rather based my price of the car on the cost of the wedding dress I had chosen ($500) and added another $200 for a rehearsal dinner dress and shoes for both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding. Later that day, I went to the bridal shop and put twenty five twenty dollar bills on the counter and walked out with my wedding dress. The rehearsal dinner dress and shoes for both, had to wait.

I still don’t care about cars, at least not much, but what I realize is that I develop strong attachments to the vehicles I own, maybe in part, because I don’t trade them in on a regular basis. We are usually together for at least four years, a long enough time to form bonds. Last week I traded in in my well-worn 2016 Rav 4 with 113,572 miles on it. I owned it for eight years, a personal record for me. I was at the dealership for a routine tire rotation when I purchased the new car. It was an impulse buy. For readers who haven’t read earlier blog posts, I once impulse bought a condo when I went into the bookstore in Frisco, Colorado to buy a book. I’m not good at making decisions but am good at impulse buys, which shortens the decision making process to something that doesn’t even feel like decision making. I started thinking about a new car in 2020 but was told by my brother, who is in the business, that it wasn’t a good time to buy as inventory was low. I assumed things hadn’t changed when I went in for routine maintenance and I saw a shiny, bright, white Rav 4 in the parking lot. I have to back up a bit here and share that while I was doing my physical therapy at Boulder Orthopedics, my view from my exercise bike on the 2nd floor, was the Boulder Toyota dealership. I watched new cars come in and go out for test drives. So maybe it wasn’t such an impulse buy. Maybe my intentions on a new car had been set while I was working on a full rotation on the pedals with my left leg. The day before Thanksgiving, I ended up driving home from the dealership in a new car and left my old car behind. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was someone on an exercise bike in the physical therapy room watching. I’m guessing not.

Before handing over the keys to my car, I told my salesman that I needed a minute to say my goodbyes. He understood, or at least he pretended to understand. I sat inside the car that I had just spent nine hours in the day before when I returned from Kansas City after celebrating my Mom’s birthday. I thought back to all of the trips I made in that car. It took me back and forth to Kansas City four times a year for the past four years, except for the one time I flew so I could see the new airport. Filled to capacity, she moved me from Leawood, Kansas to Boulder, Colorado and listened to me sigh and cry all the way to Salina, Kansas then, as if a switch had been turned on, finished the journey with hope and anticipation. A year later, I made the drive to South Egremont, Massachusetts by way of Kansas City because it was fall of 2020 and quarantining had kept me from my sisters. I missed them. I drove through eight states to get to Massachusetts, and with each state line crossed, the Covid protocol changed, from the span of full on masking outside while pumping gas, to mask shaming and denial that Covid was even a thing. She took me to countless trailheads in the Boulder area and my first hiking meet up group where I was reluctant to get out of the car, but eventually decided to put my insecurities aside and go for it — a decision I’m still grateful for. She helped me find my way around my new town, which wasn’t nearly as hard as I anticipated and got me back on the mountain roads that I had driven so often during my time in Frisco, Colorado but in the flat lands of Kansas, had lost my edge. I came home from the hospital with a new knee in her (with one of my sisters behind the wheel) and experienced the intense pain of getting in and out of her the first few weeks after surgery. I felt nostalgic and a little sad to tell her goodbye, knowing that several years from now I’ll be sitting in the car I had just bought with similar feelings of nostalgia. She’s a Toyota, not a Ford, but that day of walking past the new shiny cars with stickers in their windows some 46 years ago, did not go unnoticed.

My last car was never named, but I’m into naming things these days, which started with my new left knee. I named her Loretta. My 4 year-old granddaughter suggested Sparkles or Sprinkles or Cupcake and my 6 year-old grandson was pushing for Bud, but she looked like a Loretta to me. Loretta and Laurie… here we go. Let the road adventures begin.

Thanksgiving 2023

The “gang” less Ned, who is always the photographer.

Thankfulness. Today’s the day. I spend time every day with lists in a gratitude journal, but today is the day we get serious with those lists — the equivalent of getting out the yellow highlighter and saying it out loud. I was driving back to Boulder from Kansas City after celebrating my Mom’s 90th birthday, so had nine hours to ponder. My thankfulness list felt particularly long this year, even though it’s not been an easy year for me. As I mentally recapped my time in Kansas City with family, I wondered how many of my friends still have both of their parents? I could count them on one hand, minus the thumb and index finger. My sisters and brother and I arranged for a family dinner in the private dining room where Mom and Dad live. Mom chose a Thanksgiving dinner theme, which surprised me at first given all the choices, but when she explained why, it made sense. Our entire family has not been together for Thanksgiving since I was in college. Since my early 20’s, I always had at least one sibling living out of state and given that they always came home for Christmas, Thanksgiving became the holiday that was missed. I’m seeing the same pattern continue with 2/3 of my own children who live on the west coast. As I sat at that table celebrating Mom’s 90th, I thought about what an honor it is to be able to celebrate a parent entering their 9th decade. Four months earlier, I was in town lighting candles on a birthday cake and pouring glasses of champagne as we celebrated Dad’s 95th birthday. My family is truly blessed. Mom’s parents died in their mid 60’s and Dad’s in their late 70’s and early 80’s. They’ve created a new longevity thread in the family that I’m happy to weave my own life span into.

My knee. When thinking about it before surgery, gratitude certainly wouldn’t have been a word that I would have used. Instead, it was something I wanted to get through, passed, beyond and over with. I marked the day on the calendar when I’d be able to fly again and started making plans for when I’d get my life back, starting with my 50th class reunion at week 8. I didn’t give a thought to the lessons, the realizations and the gift that the process that began several months before the surgery, would bring. My doctor told me to get as healthy and strong as I could beforehand, and so I did. Anyone who knows me, knows that I will take a challenge to the inth degree, to prove something to myself more than anyone else. For three months, I directed my daily efforts on just that. Obsessed is a word that comes to mind, but the obsession paid off with a relatively easy and faster than expected, recovery. Since my surgery, my doctor has asked if it would be OK for him to give patients my name to call me before their upcoming knee replacement surgeries. I’m on my 3rd “patient consulting.” One more, and I’m going to have to send him a bill. Going through such a big physical and emotional process became far more than replacing an old knee with a new one. My new knee, which I named Rhoda, became the lens into parts of myself I hadn’t seen in a very long time and for some aspects, never. I was able to find my vulnerability, my strength, my compassion (for myself) and my words to document the process. My sisters came for the first week, a gift that I’ll always be grateful for, but once they left, I had a lot of time on my couch alone. My daughter would come by daily, but the nights were long, sleeping on my couch, still not ready to tackle the 18 steps to my bedroom. I would have never predicted it, but I have good memories of those evenings. I allowed myself to go deep and feel it all. I cried. I wrote. I planned and I made daily lists in my gratitude journal. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was creating my own retreat and it felt good. I also reconnected with a high school friend who was two weeks behind me on her knee replacement. It was such a gift to be able to message back and forth with someone who knew exactly what I was feeling, both physically and emotionally. And I healed. I had to cancel a volunteer trip to Tanzania and a sister trip around Colorado that had to be changed to a post op week of care for me. But I’m still calling it a journey of growth and one I’m so grateful to be on. If you saw me walk across a room or go down stairs now, you’d never know I had a knee replacement 2 1/2 months ago, but I know it because it still feels strange. Not painful, but strange.

Yesterday I joined my friends on a 4.5 mile hike that is relatively flat, although the first half of the hike is spent pacing precariously around large rocks. While walking the rocky path, being very mindful, I heard my doctor’s words “don’t fall, you’ll mess your knee up and I’ll have to go in and fix it, which you won’t like…” over and over again. In the beginning, I felt like a 90 year-old woman (no offense, Mom, maybe I should say 91…), in high heels, on ice, mindful of every step. After a short while, Dr. Bowman’s words faded and I felt like my old self again, weaving in and out of the rocks in search of the dirt. I was back. I was back with the group of friends who I first met when I came to Boulder. The friends who became my tribe and made me feel connected to the town where I had moved not knowing a soul short of my daughter, my son-in-law and my two year old grandson. The sky was Colorado blue, the weather was in the 60’s and I was weaving my way in and out of conversations with everyone in the group. I was back and although not with the strength yet to tackle hikes with much elevation, being back was enough. Thankfulness. It’s an adverb, it’s a noun and today it was a verb — walking towards the flatirons in Boulder, Colorado with a group of people who I feel connected to.

Later today, I’ll have Thanksgiving dinner with my daughter and her family. I’ll miss my west coast kids but it gives me peace to know that they also will spend some time today in gratitude for their family. As the hostess for Thanksgiving for my family of origin and my children for many years, I’d always stress the importance of the “thankfulness” part of the holiday, with the never changing menu coming in second. I tried many different approaches including 3 x 5 cards that everyone wrote what they were thankful for on the cards then the cards were placed in the center of the table and read throughout the meal. No names were on the cards so we also had to guess who wrote them. We’re family. That part was easy. In all the things that were sold, given away or thrown away before my move to Boulder, somehow those cards made the journey. I found a stack of them the other day and will wrap up my thoughts on thankfulness by sharing:

I’m thankful that we’re all sitting at this table together.
I’m thankful for pumpkin pie.
I’m thankful for Grandma and Grandpa.
I’m thankful the Chiefs are playing later today.
I’m thankful for my health and every person at this table.
I’m thankful that I don’t have to do the dishes afterwards. (I’m still puzzled by that one, because no one got a pass on clean up…)
I’m thankful that Mom cooked such a nice meal. (I moved that one to the top of the stack).

Physical Therapy Peers

It helps to have a bit of a view….

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, at 9:30 am, I meet up with a group of friends. We’re not meeting for breakfast or coffee or anything that would require talking to each other. Instead, we meet at the Boulder Centre for Orthopedics. Actually, these people I’m speaking of have no idea they’ve become a part of my twice a week circle or that I’d refer to them as “friends.” It’s best that way. It started the first time I did PT on site – week 3 post op. I arrived 15 minutes early because I always arrive places 15 minutes early. I’ve still not gotten used to the fact that Boulder is a much smaller town than I’m used to and it never takes me as long as I anticipate to get from place to place. As I sat in the lobby area that held a dozen or so chairs and looked out onto the open area with exercise bikes, weights, portable steps and a reformer-like machine, I did what I always do. I people watched, which is what I call it as it doesn’t sound as rude as blatant staring. This time and place felt different from my usual “spying” because I could see that I had something in common with many people in the room, namely the ones in shorts who were exercising a new knee. Watching them, OK, spying on them, has given me the opportunity of seeing either what’s next for me in my knee journey, or taking pride in how far I’ve come when I see the new patients, still in their hospital issued, white, and terribly unattractive, support hose. If I’m close enough to see either the steri-strips or the vertical scar that runs the distance of the knee cap, I take note because we’re members of the same club.

On my first visit, I still had the stere-strips lined up over my incision and was using a cane. A month later, in the same lobby, I’m drawn to the patients that come in (in shorts) that are using a walker or a cane, also with the steri-strips evenly spaced down the long incision. I know the pain they are in and I know the fear they will experience when the compass-like measuring device comes out because I’ve been there and it wasn’t that long ago. They have become my measuring stick for how far I’ve come. It’s a necessary part of recovery because sometimes, especially on a bad day, it’s hard to remember those days of maneuvering up and down the two steps that connect my kitchen to my living room. It’s also important for me to see the patients whose knee scar is a faint line and who are doing high reps of deep squats. They are ahead of me. They are my goal.

I’m gathering information. I’m in detective mode.

A few days ago, while working on some balancing exercises with my therapist, Esther, she told me (nicely) that I needed to focus on what I was doing. I told her I agreed whole heartedly but was a bit distracted at the moment. A police officer with a shackled prisoner in an orange jump suit, were making their way to the other side of the room, passing just feet away from where we were working. I realized I was staring, full on, wide eyed and with my mouth dropped open. Esther didn’t seem to be as distracted as I was, which indicated to me she had seen this before. She stopped counting reps and explained.
“We get prisoners on occasion who need physical therapy. Usually on their hands. If a hand injury isn’t treated soon, mobility is lost.”
“How do they injure their hands,” I asked, wanting to dig into every detail of the strange and somewhat uncomfortable situation that was unfolding in front of me.“I don’t know… well, I have ideas about it… maybe from punching people?? But I can’t say for sure,” Esther answered.
The police officer and his prisoner moved to the back of the room where the prisoner sat down at a table and a therapist took her place on the opposite side. I couldn’t see what was going on, but assumed it was the hand therapy Esther had spoken of. Unfortunately, once I had completed the exercised, Esther, had me move to a different area to work and I lost my view of what was far more interesting than people limping in with canes or walkers on what I guessed were 3 week old, knees.

Yesterday, I saw a man walk into the physical therapy room with slow, measured steps. I was on the Exercycle, getting in my 30 minutes of warm up before my session when I saw him. He was wearing the hospital-issued white ted hose and was using a walker. I put him at 2 weeks out — long enough that he was driving (he was by himself) but not long enough that he could take the ted hose off. He looked like he was in pain and I knew exactly what that pain felt like. I wanted to shout out words of comfort to him, but also didn’t want to be creepy. Thankfully, someone beat me to it and casually told him as they walked past that it would get better. That person, also in shorts, with the long scar that ran vertically down his knee cap, had just finished a round of squats with his therapist. I’d put him at 2 months out. Ahead of me. I’m getting good at this.

I don’t know any of their names, nor do they know mine, but I am connected to this group because of the scars we share. I also know where they are in their journey. We all know, but it’s possible that the others aren’t as invested as I am with their spying followed by writing about it. I’ve been coming to this place for PT for a month, but it seems like a very long time ago that I was the new one in the room when I walked in for my first sesion. It was an assessment session, with no exercising, along with measuring my flexion and removing the stere-strips. That appointment opened my floodgates of emotional tears and an intimacy that my all business, not much fun therapist probably hadn’t expected. It was my last crying episode and now I spend my time trying to get Ingrid to engage with me rather than have her uncomfortably handing me a tissue. (Esther is her assistant and is much more talkative, but my sessions always begin with Ingrid.). On one of my first visits, I asked her when she thought we might have our first snow. Weather is always a good conversation starter (I’m from the midwest after all) and although I don’t care for small talk, I dove right in with my snow question. Her answer was brief and immediate.
“Depends on where you live. In the mountains, it will be sooner.”
I let it go and tried to redirect my attempts at conversation to something I thought might interest her more. I asked her if it’s hard if her patients don’t do the exercises or after a few weeks decide they don’t need to come any more. Bingo. I hit my target. For the first time, Ingrid was animated and began to share stories that confirmed my theory of the frustrations physical therapists face with some of their patients. That is what I now reach for when I’m tired of the silence as she massages my leg followed by the flexion measurement, which no longer has me bracing but instead, puts me in competitive mode as I want to beat my last measurement. For those who have gotten a knee replacement and are familiar with the measurement, I’m at 135, or about the same as my other knee. I’m thrilled. Today, I added another talking point – my Halloween costume. I described how I added my own “artificial knee” to a skeleton unitard, complete with a little stuffing to show some swelling. She loved it and insisted I get a picture of me in it and made me promise I would show it to Dr. Bowman at my next appointment, which happens to be in a few days. I figured he should get the credit, so added the tag. It could be a business booster for him.

Exaggerated size and puffed up to show swelling, but my new knee really does look like a bikini (I used my X-Ray for reference…). Card says: “Knee by: Dr. Bowman”

As I was leaving my last appointment, a very fit man came in wearing shorts, with the telltale line running down his left knee, visible, but faint. As he and his therapist were walking back to one of the rooms, I heard the therapist say,
“We always have to tell our Boulderites that a a rest day is not a bad thing. It’s important and necessary.”
I couldn’t hear his response, but assumed the therapist’s words were directed at him. I did a quick assessment of my own rehab and recovery situation, wondering if I would fall into the “typical Boulderite” category of one who is pushing their way too hard and too fast towards recovery. For one, I drove to my physical therapy appointment, and didn’t ride my bike or roller blade or skateboard or any number of ways people in my very fit town navigate their way from one place to another. No, I’m good. I do my daily walk(s), my exercises and hop on an exercise bike at the gym for 30 minutes several times a week. I also feel no guilt if I want to chuck it all and sit on my couch and watch old movies or reruns of Friends. Those days don’t happen often, but when they do, I get the ice and the pillows for elevation and embrace them, remembering the therapist’s words about rest days. I’m an obedient patient.

Left Knee, Part 3

Rhoda’s first portrait (she’s the one that looks a little brighter and shinier than the other one…)

Three and a half weeks ago, I was resting comfortably in the pre-op bed under a heated blanket with my sisters and my daughter seated across the room from me. I remember commenting on how “spa-like” the experience was given the heated blanket. The nurse told me to let her know when the blanket loses its heat and she’d bring me another one, then added that the “spa-like” feeling would be short term. Unlike a spa, I had an IV in my arm and instead of the gentle sounds of nature being piped into the background, I heard doctors being paged. And I was afraid. Afraid because I knew what to expect and the warnings of “it will be painful and the recovery is long and difficult,” were hard to dismiss. (The “warning,” by the way, came directly from my doctor). My left leg was marked with an “X” to indicate it was the knee that was getting “replaced” and below the “X” was my doctor’s signature. Every one who entered the room first asked my name, my birthday and which knee was to be operated on before introducing themselves. I know it was protocol but it became almost comical. I couldn’t help but think about what my 4 year-old granddaughter had asked me a few days before my surgery.
“What if they saw the wrong knee off?”
I told her they check and double check to make sure it’s the right knee before they do any “sawing.”

My doctor had come in briefly and went over the timeline with me, answered my questions and said he’d return when it was surgery time. He wasn’t wearing the usual blue scrubs I was expecting, but instead, had on biking shorts and a tee shirt that looked like it had seen better days. His hair was smashed and misshapen on one side, I’m guessing from the bike helmet. I asked him, jokingly, if he had ridden his bike over and he said he had, but only from a nearby surgery center. Given that this is Boulder where the athleticism is constantly surprising me, that other hospital could have been in Denver.

And now here I sit, 3 1/2 weeks later, on my couch, with my legs not stretched out, not in a massaging ice cuff, but rather, in an 80 degree angle with my feet on the floor. It won’t last very long because it’s still uncomfortable, but for now, I’m sitting like most of the world sits and am feeling pretty proud of the position.

I never knew about knee flexion degrees or angles until a few days after surgery when a physical therapist came to my house and got out her measuring device — a device I would become very familiar with. The oversized protractor, that took me back to my elementary school days and trying to remember which math device was the protractor and which was the compass, now indicates to me that discomfort is coming. When I realized the angle was going to be measured every PT visit, I became competitive (with myself) and would push to get my knee to bend just a tiny bit more than I thought possible. I’ve been told I will probably never have the extension I used to, which would be bringing my heel to touch my backside as in a quad stretch exercise, but I’ll be close. It’s hard to hear things I’ll possibly never be able to do again and I hadn’t given it a thought until the first physical therapist I worked with mentioned that 50% of knee replacement patients can no longer kneel. Really? What if I was Catholic? I’m not, but what if?? What about yoga poses that begin in a kneeling position? She also told me there would be a handful of sports I’d need to give up — basketball, soccer, pickle ball and running for sport. I’m good with that given that none of them are sports I participate in, and as far as the pickle ball goes, I will now have a valid excuse for turning down the many invites I’ve gotten. And one more — skiing moguls. Unless I want to come back in because my replacement has worn out, I’ve been told to stay away from the bumps on the mountains when skiing. I don’t care about any of those things but when you’re told you should never do something again, I’m suddenly interested in women’s soccer leagues and moguls and the Boulder Marathon that was this past weekend. Of course these are activities I never would have taken part in before, but hearing that they are no longer an option if I want to maintain a healthy joint makes me feel like I’m missing out. Even the kneeling, that I may no longer be able to do, is now suddenly appealing to me. There is weight in the word “never.”

My emotions the past three weeks have run the gamut. I’ve been thrilled with my success, discouraged that I’m not further in my recovery, proud that according to the PT’s I’m so far ahead of the game that “if it was a race, you’d be on the other side of the finish line while others are still tying their shoes,” yet discouraged because it still hurts. I’m trying to be patient. I’m trying to give the pain free moments the same amount of time as the ones with pain. I’m trying.

Last week, I went to my first PT session away from my home and I drove. Small victories. Before starting any exercises, my physical therapist had me lay on the table and began removing the steri-strips that had been placed over the incision that was joined with glue. Although it had been three weeks, it still felt like the small line of steri-strips were what was holding both sides of the incision together. I questioned removing them so soon. Ingrid, my therapist, reassured me that the “cement had hardened” and the strips were no longer needed. I couldn’t see what she was doing but still felt uncomfortable with what she was doing.
“I think it’s going to bleed,” I said. As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew how ridiculous they sounded. I thought about my 4 year-old granddaughter who walked into my house a few days earlier barefoot, because she likes shoes but hates wearing them, and noticed she had a bloody big toe. I asked her what happened and did she need a bandaid? Did it hurt? Was she OK? She calmly glanced down to her her toe and said,
“Oh this? Yea. It’s fine.”
She’s 4. Be like Muna, I thought to myself while I braced myself on the table.

Ingrid reassured me that it would not bleed then gave me a towel to put over my face to give me further separation from what she was doing. When she finished, she reassured me that no tourniquets were needed (a sense of humor is a bonus for physical therapists), and she was finished and although I didn’t need to look at it at that moment, eventually I would have to look at my leg. I had shorts on (as requested) so it was hard not to see the 7 inch scar that now divided the center of my leg into halves. Tears started flowing because that seems to be what I do now when I see physical therapists. Ingrid asked me if it hurt. Not physically, I answered, but it no longer looked like my leg. I’m not familiar with my new leg and for some reason it’s making me sad. She nodded and gave me the box of Kleenex from a nearby table and we proceeded with the exercises. In between exercises she stopped, looked at me and said,
“It’s probably a good thing you didn’t go into the medical field… you know, with the whole bleeding thing and all…”
Ingrid is serious and focused, and doesn’t say much, but what she does say makes me smile.
“Yea, I’d have my eyes closed too much to be good in the medical field,” I confirmed.

I couldn’t help but think about what a friend had told me regarding her first PT appointment and how she sobbed the entire time, not really knowing why. Maybe her telling me that had freed me up for doing the same. It’s sure easier than holding back the tears. Another friend who had gone through a knee replacement a few months earlier told me not forget the emotional aspect of a knee replacement, even though the physical part is the part that gets all the attention. I didn’t really understand what she meant when she told me that just days after my surgery, but I do now as I’m trying to find ease and comfort with something that isn’t either. Ingrid told me that as much as I’m getting used to the new knee, the new knee is also getting used to me. And that’s when I named her. If I’m going to have this part of my body tag along with me for the rest of my life, the least I can do is try to become more familiar with her and giving her a name felt like a good start. Her name is Rhoda. It came to me instantly, but there could be a lot of reasons for her name. First off, the character in the Mary Tyler Moore show, who was my favorite — the outspoken, bohemian, free-spirited woman who lived upstairs — the character who I felt I had a better chance being like than Mary, the star of the show. And secondly, rodilla is knee in Spanish, and I always love giving the language I’ve spent so much time trying to learn some recognition. And so I named her Rhoda.

Before I left the physical therapist office, my therapist’s assistant, Esther, said something about a client she had come in right before me and I thought she said her name was Samantha. When I asked what body part Samantha was working on, Esther quickly corrected me and said,
“Oh that’s not the patient’s name. It’s her new shoulder’s name.”
I’m right in line with Rhoda. Given that I see my physical therapists twice a week for at least a few months, I need to make sure they are both properly introduced to Rhoda. They may also offer her apologies in advance for the pain they might inflict during future appointments.

And so my journey continues… days are slow, weeks are faster. I’d much rather be writing about walking adventures in other countries and my discoveries encountered along the way, but instead, I’ll continue to record the journey of the hinge in the center of my left leg that is forging its own trails as it learns to bend. It’s not as exciting as the walks I’ve written about for so many of the past Septembers and Octobers, but trust me, it’s every bit as hard as an 18 miles day climbing uphill, with a head wind in the Pyrenees. Just not as scenic.