Aches and pains worth it — maybe


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



There was a time when getting up from the floor was just as easy as getting down. I thought about that simple truth on Sunday as Clayton and I were assembling his Hot Wheels track.

We were designing the track to run from the top of a chair in the dining room, down the hallway, over another chair and onward to the front door. There it made a U-turn and headed back down the hallway. About halfway down, the track made a sharp right turn into the bathroom, stopping in front of the toilet.

Not every car could make the full trip. Clayton told me that cars that made it the entire distance were being driven by someone who really had to pee. That made sense.

At any rate, assembling Hot Wheels track on the hallway floor requires a lot of squatting, scooting, getting up, getting down and repeating the process over and over.

Years ago, when Logan was little and talked me into buying all that orange track, my knees had a lot more up-and-down in them. Now — following several injuries and surgeries to clean up my knees; ending with a total-knee replacement — these old knees just aren’t what they used to be.

My squatting days and popping-up-and-down days are history. Now my knees just pop a lot.

I left my good left knee behind on the ski slopes of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I was on an easy little ski run named “Why Not.”

I figured, sure: Why not? It wasn’t the result of a big jump gone bad. It was more of a bunny-jump with a surprising bump.

I just fell over and the bindings on the ski boot didn’t break loose. It wasn’t a major stop-the-trip-and-go-home type of injury. It just hurt like sin and eventually required my first surgical knee repair.

My right knee then became my only good knee. It was my good knee for a few years. That ended on the patio of Stella Maris Inn in the Bahamas. It started with a rum punch party and dinner. That was good, safe fun.

Then, we transitioned into dancing and the inevitable limbo contest. Limbo contests are simple. It’s single elimination – you lose, you’re out. At the time, I was in my late 30s. The contest came down to me and a skinny little 12-year-old girl. I was determined.

Assuming the limbo position, I had my feet wide apart and parallel and my knees close together; I leaned back and started scooting forward on the sides of my feet. I was making it under the bamboo bar. Then, I felt the pressure building up in my right knee, but I didn’t stop.

Suddenly… RIP. My anterior cruciate ligament was completely torn in half. Or course, at the time, I had no idea what had happened. I just knew it hurt like sin.

As a hobbled back to our table (having lost the limbo contest), Debbie asked, “Was that your knee?”

I asked, “You could hear that?” Debbie grimaced and said, “Absolutely.”

That happened on the second day of our week-long vacation. There was absolutely no medical care available on the island.

A doctor might stop by every few weeks, but other than that, I would have had to fly off the island, but I had a lot of scuba diving left to do, so I wrapped my knee with an ACE bandage and hobbled and wobbled around for the next week. I did find that large doses of rum seemed to help ease the pain.

The following week, my orthopedist yelled at me for not flying home immediately.

As it turned out, I ended my 30s by leaving one knee on the ski slopes and one knee on the dance floor. It was fun, but I certainly wish I had done a few things differently. I think I mean … smarter.

I’ve been trying to think of some advantages of getting older. If there are any, they are few and far between. Since I hit 50 years old, I get notices of discounts from AARP and Golden Buckeye. I would gladly trade in all those discounts to go back and avoid a certain ski slope and limbo contest.

The older my mother got, the more forgetful she became. Mom’s name was Adda Belle. The kids always called her Grannybelle. She loved that name. Now, when my memory starts to fail me, I tell Debbie I’m getting early-onset Grannybelle syndrome.

She knows exactly what I mean.

I’ve heard that ginkgo-biloba (an over-the-counter health supplement) is supposed to improve brain health and memory. I bought some a few months ago, but I always forgot to take it.

I bought one of those little pill caddies that holds a full week of pills and is marked with each day of the week. That might help, if I could remember where I put it.

Carol Burnett is quoted as saying that she didn’t realize how old she was getting until she saw her mother’s hand coming out the sleeve of her sweater one morning as she was dressing.

I keep hearing my mother’s words coming out of my mouth asking, “Where did I leave my cell phone?”

It took me a lifetime to get my head together. Now, my body’s falling apart.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist