Earlier this summer, Barbara and I were leisurely enjoying ice cream cones outside at a nearby store when a teenager ran by our chairs as if he were fired from a cannon.
“How is he moving so fast?” I wondered aloud.
“He’s young,” Barbara answered nonchalantly, as if that were the most obvious answer in the world. And she was right. At age 71 myself, I had completely forgotten how easy it is to move quickly and fearlessly. That young man felt no stiffness in his legs, no pain in his knees, and no worry in his heart that anything could go wrong. Ah, as George Burns used to sing, “I wish I was 18 again.”
I’m writing about pain today because I have an appointment soon with an orthopedist to talk about my achy knees. I made a similar visit about five years ago, and the orthopedist at that time said, “You have arthritis in both knees,” and he handed me a sheet with a set of exercises to perform every day. “These should help.”
At first, I performed the exercises regularly, and they did provide some relief. “Motion is like lotion,” my brother-in-law, who has aches of his own, used to tell me. After a while, though, I gave up on the exercises because I found that riding ten to fifteen minutes on a stationary bike a few times a week provided similar relief. Until it didn’t.
So now, I’m at the point where I experience all of the following:
When I get out of bed in the morning or get up off the couch after an hour of sitting, I’m stiff and not sure my knees will support my weight, so I hold onto nearby furniture.
Then, when I walk up or down stairs, I grab for the handrails and step carefully, again afraid that my old knees might just resign mid-step because of the added pressure. I feel a little bit like Chester who always limped on the old television show Gunsmoke. Going downstairs is more painful, but if I’m carrying a box of books upstairs, for example, I have to really push and elevate to get up there.