Besides being a terrible time waster, the Internet occasionally shines as a tool for medical research. When I entered the doctor’s office I had a very good foundation of knowledge concerning knee injuries, treatments and procedural expenses. I understood terminology of both the knee and remedies for repairing various parts of the knee, which procedures have questionable outcomes and which are positive, the limitations of medical science and more than a few cautionary notes from respected organizations such as the Mayo Clinic and others. Had I known then what I know now, I would have cancelled the appointment and saved myself the time and expense of the visit.
It wasn’t much, and perhaps I’m being too harsh. Thirty-five dollars for a doctor’s advice is cheap, especially when the pessimistic side of my nature was ogling a minimum of ten thousand dollars or so plus the loss of my highest-paying job. And it might turn out that the pessimist was right. But the doctor’s tentative diagnosis fit my own fairly well, even if his recommendation for an MRI went unheeded.
Because there was no play in my kneecap nor had I experienced any popping or lock-ups which would indicate major torn ligaments, he felt I had either or all of the following: torn meniscus, torn ligament or degenerative cartilage. Rest, physical therapy and a week’s dosage of Alleve might put me on the road to recovery, he said.
He asked if I wanted a cortisone shot.
“Nah,” I said. “I’m on the mend.”
Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
When I got tired of calling myself stupid I switched to brilliant. Brilliant as in stupid.
My self-castigation followed a renewed sense of freedom and optimism. That evening I demanded that Lori stay home when I went to work rather than tag along to help. She did but under protest. It was a huge mistake on my part.
Besides the office being buried under several layers of fine sand and silt, meetings had been held in the basement. For weeks I’d put off mopping the basement but suddenly waiting was no longer an option. While lugging the mop bucket down the stairs my knee popped twice and almost gave out once. Nor was the return trip much better. After three hours of this I dragged myself home, more dead than alive. Whatever optimism I’d imagined turned to dust.
I’ve heard it said that healing is as much mental as it is physical. The power of positive thinking, all that. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a glass-three-quarters-empty kind of guy, only now the level of fluid had depleted even further.
For several days Lori helped me at work, and I hobbled around the house when I could and rested when I couldn’t and applied ice packs and heat and started working the knee a little more. Mostly I imagined myself back in the doctor’s office groveling for the cortisone shot. My family, all firm cortisone believers, were a little put out by my refusal to get the shot. I promised them I’d get one if the pain worsened.
It worsened, but the weekend approached and there was no time for an appointment.
Life is not lived in an easy chair. Sometimes when I was feeling sorry for myself I’d think of pioneers eking out their solitary lives on the western frontier, far from neighbors and farther still from medical practitioners, forced to get by no matter what. I also thought of my own life, how far I would be willing to go to get my knee repaired. The answer was variable, dependent upon the level of pain being experienced at the time. But even at its worst, money was an obstacle nearly impossible to circumvent.
Unless you’re independently wealthy, it always comes down to money. For most Americans, want and need are the currencies we use to balance our lives. We balk at the latter and rationalize the former and somehow muddle our way through, though depending on the level of personal income it’s often an unwieldy juggling act with equal parts faith and fear.
I had plans. Plans for the kitchen, plans to travel, and business ideas that might broaden my career in photography. Like all business plans, they required investment. Not nearly as much as arthroscopic surgery, true, but an investment nonetheless. To bring a fraction of them to fruition would require squeezing the worth of every penny.
In other words, I had money for some, but not all.
One afternoon, my right leg propped in a chair, I made the first step in that investment. It wasn’t a large amount of money, and some of it would be recaptured through two pending jobs, but it was a start. I would need more, and indeed I was already searching for the best equipment at the best price. When Lori saw the invoice she raised an eyebrow and gave me a look.
Sometimes words fail us. She saw the price, which under the circumstances was warranted. I saw potential. I wanted to say, “I believe in myself,” but it sounded trite and anyway I’d said it before and failed and would do so again. But in the end, all we have is trust in ourselves, no matter our track records. I told her what I intended to do, how I would set up each shot and how each piece of equipment would work in conjunction to create a ballet of light. The incomprehension in her eyes was evident.
“I’ll be your assistant,” she said.
My heart skidded to a stop, and remained that way for some time.
Saturday night. I tackle work alone and limp away with just enough time for a beer and a cookie before attending a concert in Waterville. For two hours I stand on the back row with my big lens but I’m getting killer shots and know it and the knowledge works its way inside to that warm spot where Lori resides when she’s away, and afterward I’m almost to the truck when I realize I’m walking normally, more or less, but mostly more.