How low I have fallen

The surgeon drained 30 cc’s of fluid from the back of my knee yesterday. Fluid accumulation is a painful and recurrent problem for me, and I asked him for a couple of syringes so Peggy could drain it at home. He gave me some the size of canning jars so she won’t have to stick me twice. He was pleased with my progress; removed the bloody tape from the three puncture holes; told me I could begin taking showers, and said I should return in two weeks for a final checkup and a prescription for physical therapy. Meanwhile, I am to avoid walking as much as possible, and keep the knee iced and elevated.

Walking hurts, and I am obliged to do it slowly with my leg straight. If I am at one end of the house and need at from the other, I dread the trip; and God forbid that I should have to look for anything, because the pain increases with every step. I stopped taking Darvocet after I read about the side effects. I last took it in preparation for Fred’s funeral when I downed the maximum dose. Happiness and tranquility rolled over me in warm waves, and I understood how people get addicted to the stuff. On the downside, I felt as if my IQ had been reduced by a third.

I use one crutch around the house, and a combination of crutches and wheelchairs when I leave home. For example, I will use crutches to get inside a store, and then borrow one of the store’s wheelchairs. So far, I have had my pick of electric or manual, and I go for the manuals, because they are fun, fast, and maneuverable. I also have a wheelchair at home that I use when I want to take a little walk. Playing around with wheelchairs has been the only enjoyable part of all this. I often get myself into trouble while traversing slopes or trying to maneuver through heavy doors, and will use my good leg to extricate myself. Last night, I ran a wheel off the pavement, and, if I hadn’t been able to use my leg to push myself out, I would have been forced to yell for help or lower myself from the chair.

I’m unaware of any great change in the way people treat me now that I’m disabled. I am curious about how I look to others—like a cripple, or like a normally robust man who has been temporarily sidelined. Some tell me that I look like I’m in pain—I am—and those who know me say I look un-natural in a wheelchair. Indeed. How low I have fallen now that I am reduced to using elevators. I will catch myself grieving for my lost mobility, but will just as quickly feel ashamed since my condition is neither severe nor long-term. Sometimes, I pretend I’m Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July, not because I identify with Kovic but because pretending to be Franklin Roosevelt or Steven Hawkins is too much of a stretch.