On our first official weekend together as a new couple with my now husband up in Chicagoland, I had a bad spill walking the dog. I tried to soldier on as they say, but after trying to walk on and doing several flights of stairs, it finally gave out and I ended up in the local ER with a diagnosis of a torn meniscus. We were at this funky antique place when it finally gave out so the hospital was NOT in the best part of town (think armed security walking in). Fortunately, when they found out I actually had insurance, there was a team of medical professionals all over me.
The doctors suspected a torn meniscus I was told to make plans for an MRI and an orthopedic surgeon back in my hometown.
Partner in Grime canceled his Christmas plans and drove me over 200 miles to my own doctor and home and stayed and took care of Barkley and me while I recovered from surgery. I knew then he was a keeper.
But the recovery from such things is never fun, even with the most loving of company but it provided a great memory and a chapter for The Book of Barkley.
CHAPTER 25 From The Book of Barkley – The Great Knee Caper
It was supposed to be a perfect weekend - a first weekend-long visit to my friend EJ’s house. After the autumn of outings, our friendship was evolving into a bond that knew not the span of years or miles between us.
He was inviting a few of his friends over to meet me. I had a new outfit; Barkley was going to be on his best behavior. All his friends would like me. There would be crème Brulee that had absolutely no calories.
So how did I end up in an MRI machine, after two days in his easy chair with a pack of frozen peas on my knee, followed by a long drive?
Take one black lab, excited for a walk after a long drive. Add a flight of icy steps and a female golden retriever across the street. The fact that the vet rendered him incapable of knowing exactly what to do with a female did not deter him. He lunged to greet her at the same moment my knee turned ninety degrees to go the other way and my center of gravity, always far forward anyway, was pointed the wrong way.
The doctor at the emergency room said, “You likely have a torn meniscus, you will need an orthopedic specialist and an MRI.”
Christmas itself was subdued, myself in pain and feeling bad about ruining his holiday. But we made the best of it, opening gifts, setting the 60s aluminum tree and matching color wheel briefly out on the covered porch. That, of course, resulted in comments that we should not have the color wheel out there on a final approach to an airport, due to the dangers of pilots being blinded by bright laser lights.
"Captain! There's a bright light in my eyes! It's Green. Wait it's Blue, now it's
Orange, now it's Red!"
Even as much as I hurt, I laughed, with a vision of law enforcement showing up to confiscate the color wheel and we made the best we could of our Christmas.
With driving out of the question for me, EJ canceled everything and drove me back to my place, an appointment made to get an MRI and an orthopedic consult.
That first night home night Barkley stayed glued to my side. There was nothing to do but wait as serene and still as possible, while others did the worrying for me. Outside, the moon shone on nibbled shadow, the only other lights as far off and distant as memories of shame or pride or loss, remembered there with a sharp twinge of the knee, then fading to dim memory as Barkley leaned into me with a comforting snuggle.
The MRI was done the next day, the news confirming that I would need surgery, and right away.
Barkley hovered with that worried concern that dogs can convey, he more so than most, with Groucho Marx eyebrows that could move up and down with the most expressive of facial expressions.
He wasn’t the only one hovering.
EJ canceled a business trip and stayed with me through the surgery and the first week of recovery, cooking for me, helping me up and down and making sure Barkley was fed and exercised.
I was not the best of patients, not wanting to take the pain meds, other than that first day, so as not to feel loopy.
I was also anxious to get out of the house. I hated the crutches, but at least they were so big Barkley could not get them in his mouth and carry them around like the cane.
After a week, EJ needed to get back to work and we confirmed I could manage on my own. An old exercise step had a hole drilled through it with a cord that attached to my truck’s headrest. I could drop it on the ground; step in, then pull it up, the truck too tall for me to manage otherwise.
I got checked out on the scooters at the local stores, until such time as I could ditch the crutches.
The scooter was fun, though one of the greeters came over and asked if I needed help operating the controls (consisting of forward, backward, right and left). Granted, it might be more difficult than a jet aircraft, but I was good to go, thanking them for their help. Speed wise, it was fair to say the scooters were slower than the INDY 500 and faster than a snail on Demerol. But I was not only able to do a cookie in the chicken aisle; I found that the displays in the electronic section made for great S patterns at top speed. I also discovered that large guys with carts containing a hundred bags of Tater Tots and beer can move surprisingly fast when faced with a redhead in a Springfield Armory T-shirt, converging at top scooter speed.
Dealing with the crutches and the scooter was the hardest part. I tried holding them, but that made it hard to work the controls. I put one out front. Jousting – Big Box Mart Style (if you can knock a Billy Bass out of someone's cart with it, it's bonus points). I finally gave in and let EJ carry them while I tried to burn rubber doing .02 mph, keeping watch that the store manager was not involved in radar trail tactics.
I also set up a schedule of friends to come over and walk Barkley for a few weeks. He’d been great, viewing the whole crutch thing as a human equivalent of “the Cone of Shame,” looking at me with pity for my having to use them, and convincing me that his body heat would be the only thing keeping me from freezing to death there in my big bed.
Before EJ leaves, I will make us a dinner of pancakes, if I can keep upright long enough to cook.
When I was a kid we’d have pancakes for Sunday breakfast, but sometimes we'd have them for dinner as well. It was usually when the household budget was tight. My Mom quit her seventeen-year career as an LEO to be a full-time Mom, and Dad took a lesser paying position that allowed him to be home every night, sacrifices I know that made a difference in our lives. Certainly, I remember those dinners and the laughter and the love that lived in the house 24/7, more than any brand new bike I didn't get.
We’d have different toppings for them, maple syrup and lingonberry jam, perhaps some real butter from a nearby farm and a little molasses.
As we ate, Dad would finally relax after a long stressful day at work, and we'd tell the tales of our day and small childhood victories. For these breakfasts at dinner, no worries about money, or the mortgage or the future. Simply bites of life shared with those you love. I'd savor one bite, even while anticipating the next, the golden disks disappearing like coins well spent.
Tonight, I toss one plain one like a Frisbee, as I give my knee a rest, caught in the mouth of a dog that’s shown nothing but patience. Like pancakes for dinner, such was this Christmas, unexpected, not ending as planned, but full of little bits of sweetness and caring from those that are becoming like family.