The calendar still says November and the falling pine needles in my front yard and crisp snap in the air feel just about right for Southeastern Virginia—but that didn’t stop Friday from feeling an awful lot like Punxsutawney in early February.
Friday was knee surgery day—not for me, but for Mr. RW Letters, who some of you may recall was injured in a soccer accident on October Eve. After five weeks of not being able to straighten his leg, he was scheduled for surgery that he was fully expected to walk away from with just a couple of band aids and a day or two on pain meds. In a pre-op consult, however, the surgeon informed us of the slight possibility that depending on what he “saw when he got in there,” he may actually be able to fix the torn miniscal tissue, which ultimately would be better than a removal, but would result in my husband being on crutches for six weeks followed by an undetermined amount of physical therapy.
The first option sounded more immediately rewarding—a near instant fix. My husband imagined a walk around the neighborhood before the weekend was out—not to mention the ability to revel in some glorious full-extension stretches. The thought of a speedy return to normal activity had him about as excited as a freshman the first day of spring break.
The second option was vague and remote, and not one upon which Mr.RW Letters wished to dwell. Although less immediately satisfying, the repair surgery provided potentially better long term results—I mean, really, how many of our body parts are really, truly expendable? Although my husband may not miss some tattered tissue today, chances are he’d sorely miss it some future tomorrow if arthritis snagged the opportunity to settle in the uncushioned joint.
Even though we had a pretty good idea how the surgery was expected to play out, it was hard for me to think about the near future beyond the surgery in concrete terms. I found myself, not unlike the good folks of Punxsutawney on Ground Hog Day, in a state of waiting. Would things simply just go back to normal, or were we in for a six weeks more long weeks of uncertainty? And what was really best to hope for, anyway? Heading to the hospital, Mr. RWL was upbeat and pretty positive that he was looking ahead at some pretty sunny skies. But as nice as that sounded for a 10-day outlook, I was looking further down the calendar. After a happenchance conversation with a neighbor married to a relatively grumpy and increasingly reclusive man with arthritic knees, I was about as split as the severed tissue on what I thought was best.
It was easy to want to resume our walks around the neighborhood. With the holidays upon us, it was natural to want to enjoy festivities with my best friend at my side. But a single glance at the walker on the porch of the overgrown house next door always got my praying for a better outcome. Even if it meant another six weeks of metaphoric winter.
So on surgery day I just sat in the waiting room and waited for someone—anyone-- to poke their head out of the OR and give me the forecast.
It’s winter, folks. A long, six weeks of trudging through some pretty stiff conditions, pretty much literally. My husband woke up to find his leg in an enormous, cage-like brace running from calf to ankle, which seems to weigh about a fourth of his body weight,but really doesn't. It’s apparently a permanent fixture for the next six weeks, a fact that's promoted me to the position of full-time nurse. And the real kicker is that the surgery only has a 50% chance of working—if it doesn’t, he’ll have that “instant fix´ surgery anyway.
So I’ve spent the weekend trying to remember things I like about winter. Mostly, what I’ve come up with is that it’s a time to snuggle in close to someone you love, to shield each other from the harsh edge of the cold. It’s an opportunity to invent your own fun when conditions don’t naturally suggest frivolity. It’s a season of making your own warmth, embracing daylight all the more for its brevity, and clinging to the hope of impending spring.
It may be an early winter, but I choose to embrace it for the opportunities embedded within its chill. I choose not to live within the shadow, but rather to seek the sunbeams. And above all else, I choose to believe that an early winter means an even earlier spring.
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