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A Stranger Returns…

So here it is, now late-January (as first written – now mid-February) and I am realizing that I failed to post a Happy New Year message. My apologies. Clearly the advent of watching my delightful 4th grandchild has affected my ability to write with any regularity and that is…well, it is what it is. I don’t think I could spend my time any more judiciously or wisely than loving and teaching my grandchildren. I know it is time better spent than writing posts to a blog that often amount to little or nothing. None the less, for those of you who have missed my ramblings and took the time to ask – I am fine, just busy. Thank you for asking!

The completion of our last planetary revolution was uneventful here; we did not go out, we stayed in and watched bad movies until midnight, then to bed. Simple and thoroughly enjoyable. Another thing I did not do was make a resolution – not sure I ever have and not about to start now! But like many of us, I fall victim to reflection as the old year ends; always a melancholic endeavor.

I’ve not been out to hike in weeks. Now that would not usually be odd given January in New England tends to discourage hiking. But more than halfway through the month and I do not believe we’ve had a single day where temps did not get above freezing; and very few nights as a matter of fact. Time is the overwhelming reason I have not been out on trail, but as of the last couple of days my knee has taken a surprising turn for the worse.

I’ve had issues with my right knee all the way back to my early 20’s. I injured it at work and went through a long diagnosis which included an arthroscopy, an arthrogram, X-rays, steroid injections in the tendons in the back of the knee, and physical therapy. Ultimately my doctor stated he had no idea what was going on inside and the we needed to operate. This was old school so it was the full-monty wide open knee surgery – three or four days in the hospital, full leg cast – all that fun. He found a tear of the lateral meniscus. It was torn but still attached ended up like a flap which would intermittently flap around and get caught between the bones but other times would end up folded up back in place and be basically invisible on X-ray, the arthrogram, and the arthroscopy. Going inside the joint and moving things around was the only way to see it.

Once I recovered from that, I’ve several other surgeries as time went on. One began as an arthroscopy but ended up with him partially opening the knee joint, this time on the medial meniscus. I’ve had (I think) two other arthroscopies since, the most recent maybe ten years ago – don’t recall the date. I had been hiking – Escoheag trail specifically – and noticed pain and tightness in the knee. There was no specific twist or fall associated with the moment, just the sudden discomfort. By the end of that day my knee was the size of the Pillsbury doughboy; and it stayed that way for the next full year.

Some days were “tolerable” and some were horrific leaving me limping like Hopalong Cassidy. I did see my orthopedic doctor and he tried therapy and possibly meds (don’t remember), but to no avail. I  kind of gave up after a while, but as weeks turned into months, I finally went back to see him with absolutely no change in the knee. He stated we needed an arthroscopy, and if we were going to do that, we had to do it the next morning because he was having his knee done the day after that and he’d he out of work for a few weeks.

So we went into surgery the next morning. What was to be an hour surgery turned in something like five or six hours. Turned out that the entire synovial lining of the interior of my knee had “melted” or “disintegrated” and was hanging off the joint like slimy icicles with much of it just floating around in the fluid inside the joint and cleaning all that up took hours. He had no immediate idea as to why this had happened, he sent a piece of it to pathology in case cancer was the cause (it was not). While in there he found some additional tearing of the lateral meniscus which he trimmed away and also did some repairs to my ACL.

Fast forward a few months and the knee remained as big and swollen as ever. I was in for my annual and the PA was asking about the swelling and I ran through the whole story. She asked if I had considered Lyme disease as a possible cause. We ended up placing me on the battery of meds this doctor always used for Lyme and  sure enough, inside of three weeks after starting the meds the swelling was gone and the knee was once again pain free and fully mobile.

And that is where I’ve been up until now. It is swollen, tight, and sore. I know my knee pretty well after all these years and something has gone awry inside; it is lateral (outer side) and in the back of the joint, probably another tear of the meniscus. Good timing for surgery from a weather perspective, but terrible from the baby-care aspect of my life. Teddy is a lot and while my wife could manage him alone just fine, it would exhaust her. But I’d hate to have to wait for summer for the surgery because I would spend half the summer recovering and rehabilitating it. So I don’t know….we’ll have to wait and see for now. Maybe the flap of the tear will go back to a place that doesn’t cause discomfort.

And….I’m back, several weeks after starting this post, hoping to actually complete it. Writing has been difficult and not just due to time; when you write regularly you tap into a stream of thought not normally touched, and once you do – ideas begin to flow; at least in my case. But the more you go without reflective writing, or writing at all, the more difficult it can be to tap back into that stream. I was so much more able to write when I did so several times a week. And not just able to write, but there were more ideas upon which to build thoughts and reflections. Now I sit here with a couple pf paragraphs about a bad knee….

It is mid-February already. We’ve not had any appreciable snow this winter (so far) aside from a dusting. The daily temps throughout all of January were above freezing with one bitter cold single exception. And much the same now for almost three weeks of February with one day climbing above 70dF. For all my life I recall a few days in February reaching spring-like temps, usually around Washington’s Birthday. But this year the entire month is spring-like. Say what you will, these are not the New England winters that we grew up with!

I’ve not been hiking, despite the magnificent weather. We have our grandkids Mon-Sat each week and the last few weeks my eldest grandson has had wrestling tournaments that I really wanted to go to. So literally no time to hike! And that’s fine, I usually don’t get out a lot in the winter anyway. We’ve now reached the vacation week and while I still may get out, it is not a certainty. We are going to the Cape for a few days, back mid-week. But once we are back, my wife’s sister may be coming down and that could either work to my advantage and afford me more free time, or it may work to limit my time. But beyond that, the weather promises rain every day right through the entire week! 

It is rapidly approaching the four-year mark since I retired. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a get together with a few of my friends from work to celebrate job changes for several of them. It was wonderful beyond words to see them again, although also bittersweet as things at work have completely changed since I was last there. None the less we had a great time and collectively agreed to do it more often than every few years… like maybe several times a year. I hope we do. Connections with friends is important and I’ve sorely missed that.

Speaking of rapidly approaching, tomorrow is my birthday. We are heading to the Cape in the morning so I won’t see any of my kids or grandkids tomorrow, but we “celebrated” it at our weekly family night last Wednesday so that’s fine. I am not a fan of birthdays; I am reminded daily of my advancing age and surely do not need an “event” to remind me. I’ve written often of the physical decline of age: vision and hearing for example. But I am finding other, more troubling losses, such as a decline in balance and coordination. Things I used to do without thought or issue now require more attention and focus. I am not as surefooted as I have been my entire life. As an example, I climbed down out of the attic the other day and as I made the long and awkward step to transition from the ladder to the floor, I found myself tipping over backwards and fell down – to my total astonishment. It made no sense to me. Yet that is where I found myself. A sure sign of decline (pardon the pun).

It is, of course, inevitable. But any remote definition of frailty was never considered in my thoughts as I’ve aged. And I fear it may well be starting. No – not as in stooped over and shuffling my steps! (Not yet anyway.) But I definitely sense the advent of the stiffening of age. I am hopeful that part of it is due to spending far too much time sitting around and that once I get out hiking and working in the yard, that I will regain more a sense and semblance of myself. And yes – the doc’s words that I don’t belong on ladders anymore still ring in my ear!

I won’t dive into current events in this – at least much. But I would be remiss in at least not mentioning the great balloon debacle and the insane fallout of it by…well pretty much by everyone. And of course the other three balloon events that somehow even now, a week later, remain veiled in some measure of mystery and a large measure of misinformation and speculation. It now seems that the Chinese balloon may well have never been intended to traverse the USA, but rather got caught in an unplanned wind current resulting in an abrupt and undesired change of course leading it to our shores.

I suppose shooting it down was the only correct action. I am not sure missiles were the right choice, but I am not a military strategist so perhaps missiles were the right choice after all. But that aside, the timing to shoot it down is interesting. I am willing to bet that there were countless meetings around the clock as the experts all weighed in on what to do and when to do it. And all the while the balloon raced across the country. The administration claims they waited until it no longer over land in order to safely shoot it down and that may well be very true. But it may also be true that they waited so long to arrive at the decision that shooting down the balloon was no longer viable until it did clear our land (bear in mind that the west and mid-west is vastly barren and sparsely populated while the east cost is densely populated).

As to the other three balloon events that occurred shortly after, I was gobsmacked – completely astounded – as report followed report followed report of another fighter intercept resulting in downing an object with a missile. In just a few short days we were subjected to breaking news reports of our fighters shooting down “unidentified objects”. I don’t know about you dear reader, but I was more than a little curious, albeit only briefly, if something “otherworldly” was going on!

Of course, it now appears not, even despite the lack of a full explanation. And that has lit the fuse of the conspiracy folks who claim that all these balloon episodes have been faked; they are decoys meant to distract our collective attention from “other” things. And naturally “other” things is where it gets cloudy and refracted. Some say it is to distract us from Epstein’s list; others claim Hunter’s laptop or even the train derailment in Ohio, along with other equally odd claims.

The idea – the concept – that ALL of us in the world are incapable of focusing on more than one event is ludicrous; even some of us. I think every one of us can closely follow a balloon in the sky, a train derailment, climate issues, racial unrest, Epstein’s list, and laptops, mishandled secret documents, emails, and a dozen other things as well. So as a distraction? I don’t think so – nor do I think our military would capriciously launch an F-22 fighter and fire sidewinder missiles just to create a political smokescreen – not how the military works.

Now the train derailment – the Ohio derailment to be specific as there have been several of late – is nasty. I am not aware (yet…) that any rules were broken or even bent. It is an ugly mess, from both an environmental as well as a human health perspective. So much so that I fear this may well become our new Love Canal (Google it if you are unfamiliar with it). My heart goes out to all of them impacted by this.

And back…yet again…hopefully to complete this and get it posted today! It is officially my birthday and…well….so what? The “big day” of the past has certainly lost its luster with age! I suspect that is true for almost everyone in fact. That aside, we had a cake/candle/Happy Birthday singing at our Family night last Wednesday and I was blessed enough to have my entire pack here for it. So today is even more anti-climatic and that is fine. We are heading to the Cape shortly and that will be a wonderful way to celebrate…British Beer Company for lunch and a lot of choices for dinner, then a full day Monday including our favorite antique store in Yarmouth, and heading home Tuesday. So come to think of it, I am looking forward to this birthday day!! Stay well and stay safe dear reader! Hopefully I will be back more often over the next few months.

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