By The Time You Finish Reading This You’ll Wish You Had A Torn Meniscus Too

You don’t always get choices about what happens to you in life. Things happen. Sometimes that thing is that you tear your meniscus and it turns into a dragged-out affair in which you take way too much ibuprofen and eventually have to walk with a cane. All because the insurance company seems to prefer that you live with the pain for several months before you are permitted to have the surgery that will fix it. Because that is how they roll. 

And some people – I feel kind of bad for these people – might believe that having to use a cane is bad news all around. How old am I, anyway? they might think. Or, oh I just wish this pain would go away and I could walk normally again! This is a shame, because all they really need to do is to realize that there is such a thing as a “Stiletto Rapier Cane.” Then, instead of feeling elderly-ish and sad when they’re walking down the street, they can feel more like a movie villain with a deadly walking stick. The product description of the “Stiletto Rapier Cane” boasts that it makes “walking a pleasure and defending yourself truly possible.” As I hobble down any given street, leaning on my entirely average cane, I project an aura that says, “Go ahead, try to take my purse. Try to even speak to me, because I feel rather introverted today and there is a lethal weapon inside this cane with which I will not hesitate to take your right arm off.” 

Actually now I see that the “Stiletto Rapier Cane” has been discontinued. No matter. The website has a whole category called “Sword Canes,” and the fact that such a thing exists is really all you need to know. I was never suggesting you actually buy one. Please don’t. Just adopt the attitude. Like me. 

This is what they call the bright side. 

Next time I think I’ll pick one like this.

Life got even better for me after I finally had the surgery and was released from the hospital with an actual walker. They were going to give me crutches but then they saw my tremendously unstable gait and decided a walker would be much easier. The nurse seemed surprised that I didn’t protest. “People your age generally don’t want the walker,” she said. Apparently when you are 46 like me, you are supposed to want crutches because they give a more youthful appearance. “Oh yeah? Well, whatevs,” I told her, to show how young I really am.  

I am considering buying a basket for the front of the walker and using it forever. Imagine having something to lean on, everywhere you go. You’re crossing the parking lot to visit your dad at the nursing home and you feel like you need a break sometimes, am I right? And then, even better, you get to actually go in to the nursing home — with a walker! Now you can feel like one of the gang. No more worries about not fitting in. It’s like being in eighth grade and finally getting your ears pierced when all your friends have had earrings for years. Fabulous. 

Today I am going to unwrap the bandage from my knee and I’m telling you, it will be like taking off a painful pair of shoes after a long night at a wedding of people you don’t particularly like. It will be so wonderful that I may actually cry, and then I will take some more of my pain pills and point at things I need my kids to bring to me. “My Kindle,” I’ll say. “It’s right over there… can you get it? Oh, and while you’re up, I could probably use the ice pack too.” 

Honestly, though. I mean, if I’m being perfectly honest, I guess I’m not really anxious to tear my other meniscus. I’ll be glad to put this minor injury – because it is truly quite minor, in the grand scheme of things – behind me. But if I do end up in this situation again, I will know how to look on the bright side. Because as I tell people all the time, there is always a goddamned bright side. 

 

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Fat Is The Memory That Never Fades

Cloud, tree, chair, shoe. Nose. Hat. These are just a few of the many, many words that my dad no longer knows. He can still put together a coherent sentence, usually – as in, “here, have some” (when trying to share his lunch) or, “go that way,” (when I’m pushing his wheelchair to take him outside). Object names, though, are lost to him. As are most descriptive terms.  

Except for one, and that is FAT. Fat, he remembers very well. 

“Look at her,” he’ll say, chuckling, nodding toward a nurse or aide. “Fat, huh?” 

The nurse or aide will pretend she didn’t hear and maybe put rat poison is his dessert later, who knows. I will say “shut up!” under my breath, but by now he has forgotten all about it and gone silent. You have to wonder what he’s thinking about, at those moments. Maybe it makes him happy to get something right, for once. Maybe he’s clinging to fat as his last known adjective, and wants to throw it around whenever possible. Whatever. The rat poison won’t kill him so I let it go. 

He’s never called me fat, or at least, he’s never used the word directly. One day he told me, “You’re different . . . there’s more of you.” If ever you need to tell a person they’ve gained weight, I suggest this particular wording. More of me! How can that not be a good thing? It was practically a compliment. Except not. 

Another time, the only seat available in the TV lounge was a smallish metal folding chair, which I pulled up next to him. He watched in horror as I sat down. “Jesus,” he said. “You’re lucky that thing didn’t break.” I laughed, because it was funny. I mean, coming from a dementia patient. If a guy sitting near me in a restaurant said it I guess I’d have to stab him. 

I found this while searching for images related to “fat.” I am truly mystified this time.

It’s sort of amazing to me, how “fat” has become such an insult. Like, you could describe a person as tall, and no one would be mad at you. But fat – really, just another word to describe shape or size – is enough to make me want to crawl under my seat when my dad says it about a nurse. If I could fit under my seat. Which I cannot. Dammit. 

Say we were living in a society where food was scarce. In that case, we’d all be praying for fatness. Instead, we live in a world where food is in sometimes appalling abundance, and so for that reason, it is most virtuous to avoid it. Even if you must take drugs to do it, or to take a stapler to your internal organs, or worse.

My husband, I think, has worried that I’m on some kind of fat crusade. Like, I’m purposefully rebelling against the system to make a point. That is not the case. I became fat because I wanted to learn how to be normal, and it turned out that weight gain was an inevitable byproduct of ditching 30-plus years of dieting. I think I am closer to normal now than I have been since approximately 1984. I have not eaten ice cream in probably two weeks or more, and not because I’m on a diet, but because I didn’t want any goddamn ice cream. I try new things. I cooked Brussels sprouts and liked them. I had never eaten Brussels sprouts before that. 

I think this is progress and I think it’s health. And too bad for anyone who looks at my appearance and thinks otherwise.  

As for my dad, I will go to see him later today, and he will likely look me up and down and laugh, or poke me in the stomach and say, “that’s big!” And I’ll say, “I might be fat, but you’re the one who’s trying to drink coleslaw through a straw.” And then I’ll laugh, and he’ll laugh along with me, because as we all know, insults only hurt when we agree that they’re insulting.

My family and I will participate again this year in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. You can join our team or make a donation here. We will not cure my dad, and I will continue to write ‘POA’ after my name even when it’s totally not needed because I have just gotten that used to it. All the same, I’m pretty sure future generations will thank us if we can put this nonsense behind us once and for all.

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