16 Weeks Later

On Ash Wednesday, February 26, I went in to INOVA Loudoun for knee replacement surgery. It was nearly 25 years after I had had the same knee operated on for a torn meniscus. At that time I was as told that, because of the presence of arthritis, I would eventually need surgery. The “wait and see” period lasted far longer than I had expected, but eventually it caught up with me.

Total knee replacement surgery has become quite common here in the States. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, https://www.ahrq.gov more than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States. Several of my friends have had their’s done as have a number of my extended family members. One Aunt had both knees replaced and two hip surgeries! So it wasn’t something that I had any anxiety about. Still, I had some concerns regarding length of recuperation and, to be honest, whether or not I would actually be better off afterwards.

This past New Year’s Eve, a group of us went out together for dinner and dancing. This was the fifth year we had all celebrated together and it’s been a lot of fun. Since taking ballroom dance lessons as a group, we have all looked forward to getting together and ushering in the New Year, putting into practice the lessons learned in fox trot, swing, and waltz. But it was with difficulty I struggled through a couple of dances and I ended up sitting out most of the evening. My hope was that, with surgery and rehabilitation, I would at least be able to get back to an activity I enjoyed.

Surgery took longer than expected; years of compensating for my deteriorating condition had caused secondary issues with muscles and bone displacement. Thankfully my surgeon was able to correct my stance and now my legs are straighter than they’ve been in years (a decided plus for the fox trot!). 

But recovery was long, slow, and challenging. Shortly after I began physical therapy, the country went into quarantine as a result of Covid-19. Many businesses were closed, entire sectors of the economy shut down, schools closed, millions of people lost their jobs, tens of thousands have died from the effects of a virus we had not seen before.

And then we came face-to-face with the results of generations of unjust treatment when coast to coast demonstrations and protests exploded across America. Through all of this, we have just begun to recover and “get back to normal”. Yet, even as I know my newly refurbished knee won’t be the same as before, we recognize as a country we won’t be “returning to normal.” The challenge ahead of us lies in creating something stronger, better than before we were broken. Healing is never guaranteed but we can’t miss the opportunity to set things right, not restore but make better.

Twice a week for physical therapy, a Starbucks marker for each visit.

Missing the Holidays

Last year at this time, my father-in-law was in the hospital. For quite some time actually, he went in the day after Thanksgiving and wasn’t released until early January. So he missed a good deal of the holidays, all the preparations, putting up the Christmas tree, shopping for gifts, attending parties and the myriad of activities that occupy us over the holiday season.

Looking back thru the photos from that time, I see the little Christmas tree and small decorations in the hospital room. Looking up from his hospital bed, he is always smiling in the photos surrounded by family dressed in winter clothes. There is a poinsettia, a few gifts, other visitors. It’s not a picture of how we like to remember the holidays but I’m sure it is one shared by other families as well.

He passed away in March after a long illness, surrounded by family at his bedside. This past year has been a year of firsts for our family: first Easter without Dad; first Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving. As we come to the close of the year, the list grows shorter as well. We still miss him, but the passage of time helps alleviate some of the sorrow. Not all of it, but some.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

It (Still) Takes an Army

We live in an age that celebrates individual effort and achievement, often to the detriment it seems of group effort. But for some events, only a team approach will do.

Recently I had the opportunity to serve alongside an amazing volunteer force as they martialed all of their creative and logistical skills to put on an afternoon event in our community. Mobile Hope of Loudoun sponsors a yearly Holiday Party for the families of the clients that they serve. They provided clothing and a massive stack of wrapped Christmas gifts for the children (toys provided by Toys for Tots). While the kids were waiting for time with Santa and a family photo, they got to spend time at the many crafts tables staffed by volunteers.

But this is where the army really stepped in to serve. There were teams of young ladies at the nail salon table; groups of teenage guys stacking tables, chairs, and boxes of food; middle school students at the “reindeer food” table and others at the “make your own slime” craft table. And adults gamely wearing holiday attire or crazy light-up necklaces, elf shoes, Santa hats. Everyone working together, volunteering their Sunday so that others might have a Christmas that would be remembered.

It’s a great encouragement when one gets to see the Spirit of Christmas in action, that it truly is better to give than to receive. I was reminded recently by a friend at church that we aren’t lacking in volunteer opportunities or in areas to serve others, but that what we often are lacking is the willingness to serve others. But this day, the army was out in force, serving others in a powerful expression of love.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Papa Takes a Trip to Hot Topic

Today we took our granddaughter out for a little pre-Christmas shopping. If we were lucky enough to find something she liked, well then, bonus. If not, it was time well spent with someone we love and don’t see that often.

How do you think these look?

Our “final destination” was AC Moore, a regional arts and crafts supply store that was featuring “everything must go” sale prices. It seemed like a good opportunity to pick up art supplies for Christmas gifts. But first: a trip to Hot Topic.

Hot Topic stores have been around for years, since 1989 to be exact. Wikipedia describes them as

a retail chain specializing in counterculture-related clothing and accessories, as well as licensed music. The stores are aimed towards an audience interested in rock music and video gaming, and most of their audience ranges from teens to young adults.

I don’t think I’ve been in a Hot Topic store for at least 20 years, possibly even longer. So it felt a bit like venturing into foreign territory, vaguely familiar but still unsettling to someone who knows nothing about the rock music or video-gaming culture. But here I was being towed in by a pre-teen wearing a Hero Academie hoodie and furry cat ears. We fit right in. 30 minutes later we walked out with our purchases and a new appreciation for a world I’m just beginning to explore.

One final note: my niece commented online that her grandfather never would have taken her to Hot Topic. So I’m one up on my Dad after all, though I’m still glad I ventured out with my own 12-year old cultural interpreter.