Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Tough Decision

It was back in college when I was playing the accordion in a polka band that I believe I damaged my right knee.  I was trying to dance like an Eastern European who knows what he's doing, specifically the maneuver where one squats quickly, jumps from the squat while extending one leg, squats again and jumps extending the other leg, and then repeats the move a number of times.  Forty pounds of accordion didn't help the night I was dancing like that at a dumpy club in Nanticoke, PA and I heard something crunch in my knee and felt a stabbing pain.

It was my senior year, a few months before finals when I went to an orthopedic surgeon who summarily told me that I had torn cartilage and that the knee needed surgery.  Against his advice to have it corrected immediately I waited because finals were coming up in another month or so and I didn't want to miss classes.  I figured that after exams I'd get it fixed, but by then the pain had gone away, and being the guy I am, I avoided that return trip to the doctor.  Gradually, through the years, and insidiously, the damage apparently worsened.  Maybe ten years ago or so the knee started hurting again, and the pain and resulting limp have only been getting worse as the years have been steadily marching on.

Severe osteoarthritis was the diagnosis when I gave in
 to the caterwaulings of loved ones who clamored for
me to get the old knee checked out again.

I got a handicap parking plate for the Impala some months ago because the pain and its resulting limp had gotten truly debilitating, and it was shortly after that when I finally caved in to the annoying pleas of those who love me to have the knee looked at again by an orthopedic surgeon.  The good news is that it won't need to be replaced yet, though I'm walking now and then with a cane or using a shopping cart as a walker, and at times avoiding going out all together when the pain is pronounced.

I was a little surprised when I filled out the application for the plate for the car to see that one could get a handicap plate for a motorcycle.  Although I could see that being handicapped and a bike rider weren't mutually exclusive, I wasn't certain that the powers that be in Harrisburg would see it that way.  I thought I remembered Dr. House on HOUSE M.D. parking his bike in a handicap space, but then again, his character might not have cared if he was legally parked.

During the summers, especially, and whenever the weather allows, I use the scooter for local and semi-local errands, but there were times when I'd take the car simply to enjoy being able to park closer to the entrance of wherever I needed or wanted to be.  I had a problem with applying for a handicap plate for the Piaggio, namely that the plate that was on it was a vanity plate gotten for me by my younger daughter, and on it were letters that had special meaning for her and me.

Now, the few of you who know me personally know that I have a quite warped sense of humor, and it would come as no surprise to you that the letters on my plate referred to a nickname my daughters coined for me after I told them about a gut bursting comedy sketch I watched late one night on cable that made fun of a kid who couldn't read.  Well, not one kid in particular, but that one kid in everybody's class who couldn't read the most basic sentences without sounding out syllables awkwardly, even at age 17 and in the seventh grade.  The kid in the sketch reads "bear" as "Bee-Are" and my girls started calling me that because I was their big teddy bear of a daddy.  Not "bear."  They called me, "Bee-Are."  It was some phonetic variation of that which my baby had put on the vanity plate she got me in 2008, and it was because it was a very special gift from her that I was reluctant to replace it.

Funny on another level, is that my Grandma
occasionally called me "Bruno" endearingly.

Well, it was a few weeks ago, after the first orthopod had me visit another who specializes in replacements of deformed joints, that I broke down and decided to get the handicap plate for the scooter.  It was only after much gut wrenching indecision and some tears on my part that I made the decision, and then after I turned in the application I had pangs of remorse and regret with which to contend.  I didn't want my daughter to be hurt by my choice because the plate she got for me means so much, but I was tired of walking like my Dad did before his knee replacements with that extra distance to trudge through parking lots whenever I took the scooter shopping or to keep appointments.  I'd timed turning in the application with the start of my second summer trip so I wouldn't have to think about it while I was away.  The nice lady at AAA told me that it would take about three weeks for the plate to arrive, so I left town more or less forgetting about the whole thing.

When I got back yesterday there was a message on the answering machine.  I'd assumed it was my dentist's office confirming my appointment for today, but it was AAA letting me know that my handicap plate for the Piaggio had arrived.  I ran up to their office to pick it up, but when I got it back to the house I was in no hurry to swap it out for the precious plate that was already on the bike.  I hemmed and I hawed, and then I hemmed some more.  The plate sat on my desk in its envelope until it was almost too dark to make the change, but with a heavy sigh I took off the old one and put on the new.

It wasn't until an hour or two later that I got up the nerve to call my daughter and tell her that I'd retired the plate she'd given me, and it was through tears that I told her what I'd done.  "Dad!" she admonished me through a knowing chuckle, "There's no need to cry over a license plate."  In my head I knew that, but other parts of me felt as if I were burying a member of the family.  Although technically I think I'm supposed to destroy it, that vanity plate will be one of the things I'll take to the nursing home with me when it's time.  It will remind me forever of one of my finest achievements in this lifetime, that of being a Daddy - a Daddy who was a big, sweet, cuddly bee-are to his girls.

1 comment:

Doug Klassen said...

Joe, you seem to be a sentimental guy. First there was the old camera, now a license plate? Goodness knows how you're going to react when it's time to trade your scooter for a Harley.

About that knee: I know a few people, among them my best friend, who have had knee replacements. They all feared the surgery and hated the rehab but none regretted it after they regained near normal, pain free mobility. Don't delay when the time comes, you're not old enough yet to hobble around like a geezer.