All summer, I’ve been counting.

Eight, nine, ten minutes of letting this damn weight press down on the new knee. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty leg lifts. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty seconds holding this quad stretch.

Here’s another view of how the knees look now.


Odd, how the knee replacements resemble one of the balls that my feet (with the cooperation of my old knees) used to kick in rugby games over the decades. The doctor did a great job with the stitching, no?

Kathleen tells me that now I am walking pretty normally, which is great, although when I crank my aching joints down the sidewalk—grunting monosyllabic epithets at the fates—I feel like Peter Boyle as Young Frankenstein or sometimes like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, desperate for an oil can.  

Through this rehab process, I have experienced a kind of ebb and flow of motivation and general attitude. Mostly, I’ve been pretty aggressive about it—often going beyond what the beloved task master physical therapists order me to do. But certain days, the discouragement and frustration have bogged me down.

Like a nontraditional college student, I keep waiting for a moment when I see how gloriously improved everything feels. Crazy, how seven years since my last foray into the classroom, and they continue to factor into how I think.

And I’ve seen similar phenomena with individuals engaged in all manner of challenges, including folks who formerly were incarcerated or who are doing the hard work of personal recovery from substance use disorder or various kinds of trauma. Such living ain’t easy, and even when it evens out a bit, it can wrinkle up on you in a nanosecond.

Curves and losses come at you. About a week ago, we had to say goodbye to our dear old dog, Jack.

Jack summer 2019

Nothing is the same around the house, of course. Animal family members impact the schedules and practices of their homo sapiens cohabitants more than the humans realize—until those loved ones are gone. Such loss adds to life’s accustomed difficulty and stress. Multiply that when it involves human family members. And imagine tackling these losses and challenges when you’re trying to keep sober or to be safe from harmful people in your life.

I am clear about how impossible my knee replacement recovery would be were it not for Kathleen, about how I don’t like being dependent and vulnerable, about how grateful I am for everything she’s done to help me get through this season of grunting, griping, and gaining.

I also find myself thinking about how we all can be part of the help team for those around us who face additional struggles. Small things add up: a helping hand, the right tool. (Just a few weeks ago, every time I tried to put on socks and shoes, I might have sold my soul to have the reach of an orangutan).

Next week, I’ll write about other turning points. But now I’ll focus on counting leg lifts.


Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the “Turning Points” weekly blog on City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction. Bachus’s article, “Learning From Turning Points in Our Teaching Lives,” was featured in the May issue of NEA Higher Education Advocate, which reaches over 150,000 college faculty in the U.S.







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