57: Where Are My Crutches?

57: Where Are My Crutches?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

Where Are My Crutches?

Good shot, bad luck, and hell are the five basic words to be used in a game of tennis, though these, of course, can be slightly amplified.

~Virginia Graham

I’m hobbling up a flight of stairs on crutches. Not indoor, carpeted stairs that help grip the crutch legs (and provide a soft landing if I slip), but outside metal steps that are slightly damp from an earlier drizzle.

It’s Friday evening. I had knee surgery on Monday.

I’m attending a work function with my husband, who isn’t amused by my new infirmity. Not surprisingly, he left for a three-day business trip the day after my surgery. So he hasn’t been home to witness my struggles in getting four children off to school while dealing with a heavily bandaged and throbbing knee joint.

This is the first time in my life that I’ve used crutches, and it’s exhausting. Walking with stiff poles poking into my armpits, even though they are padded, takes more muscle strength than I realized. But, by necessity, I’m learning to maneuver them and muddle through life’s activities a little better each day.

The reason for the surgery?

My son loved to play tennis, and who better to teach him the basics than Mom? For about two years, I had been his practice partner when none of his friends were available. I welcomed the opportunity for exercise and spending time doing something we both enjoyed.

But then there was the fateful backhand return. I stepped to the right and felt a stinging pop in my left leg. Immediately, I stumbled and then took a few crippled steps. Our game was over, but a little ice and rest would fix it, I thought.

Didn’t happen that way. The tennis pro said it was probably torn cartilage. After a couple of weeks, when I continued limping and couldn’t bend my leg while doing chores, I had it checked out by an orthopedic surgeon, who confirmed the diagnosis.

The arthroscopic procedure that was supposed to last an hour actually took three as the damage was more extensive than the doctor thought. Pieces of damaged cartilage were cut away, but I’m not allowed to put weight on the leg in order to let the torn ligament heal over time.

My family doesn’t comprehend that Mom is somewhat incapacitated. At breakfast time I carry cereal boxes from the pantry to the table, top flaps clutched in my mouth. To do the laundry I lean on the washing machine and dryer to load and unload clothes. For grocery shopping, it requires athletic moves to push the cart and maneuver on crutches at the same time.

At first, my children don’t seem to notice these things. In their eyes, Mom is indestructible. And I want to live up to their image of me as strong and capable. In doing so, I find reserves of energy and the will to do the tasks at hand.

Yes, the kids are helpful. The day after surgery, my oldest daughter comes home from school during a class break to refresh my ice packs. They distribute folded laundry to the proper rooms and mostly manage simple meals. They let me rest — after homework is done. They scurry out the door without prodding each morning to catch the school bus. And they cheer me up with stories of their accomplishments. On Thursday, my middle daughter is inducted into the National Junior Honor Society, and I’m in the audience applauding loudly — leg propped up and crutches nearby.

For two months, I carry on this way. Crutches lie on the floorboard of our van when I’m shuttling kids around town. At home I find that hopping is quicker and more efficient for getting from one spot to another than wielding the bulky wooden appendages. Eventually, physical therapy and a monstrous leg brace improve my mobility.

At a check-up, when the surgeon tells me I’ll have a “functionally” normal knee, I reply that I expect a “perfectly” normal knee. After all, “perfect” and “functional” are what Mom is supposed to be.

~Beverly Burmeier

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