2012 — a midlife review

I woke up this morning with troubling thoughts swirling around in my mind, and remembered that I started this blog with the intent to write about what was on my mind each morning.

I’ve strayed from that intent.

I think I may look back on this year as the epitome of “midlife.”

I started the year nursing my husband through bilateral knee surgery.

I continue to make every effort to support my mother as she cares for my father who suffers from Alzheimer’s. The needs always changing and shifting. A continuum of problem-solving.

I struggle with denial as I try to make every moment count with my father who slips further and further away.

I’m working to fill my life with meaningful purpose now that my days of child-rearing have come to a close.

I’m trying to nurture and even invigorate a relationship with the man I’ve loved for more than 30 years, well past the days of infatuation. For relationships do require attention to thrive and I want to do more than settle into comfortable routine.

Instead of handling our children’s problems, I discuss them over telephone calls, e-mails, and text messages: a suspended license that defies resolution, teeth implants that will be required, job dissatisfaction.

I look forward with sweet anticipation to the new grandbaby expected to arrive next month.

I make road trips to St. Louis, packing a suitcase, boarding out Arthur, driving, and then doing everything in reverse, to eke out every last second  of time that I can spend with our grandson.

All the while I  try to minimize the strain I put on my arthritic knees and visit the orthopedic doctor at regular intervals for injections.

On a daily basis I deal with ongoing physical issues that result from crashing hormone levels and simply aging, wondering if its time to get a stronger prescription for my bifocals yet again.

Thirty years ago today I first became a mother and was nearly swallowed up by the love and joy.

When I was younger life seemed clearer and perhaps less varied. I was bringing children into the world and caring for them. My concerns were primarily focused on little people whose ages spanned less than a 10-year gap. It seemed busy and complicated at the time.

Now I visit my 2-year-old grandson on a weekend, savoring the joy and laughter.

And I visit my nearly 80-years-old parents on a Monday, holding back and denying the sadness and tears, wondering what changes need to be made so that Mom can still manage taking care of Dad at home. Wondering if we can make those changes. Wondering if she’s going to hold up under the strain. Wondering how long this can last.

Here at midlife, I am smack in the middle of the huge spectrum of life, still trying to understand what it’s all about.

Double knee replacement surgery – Part 1: Planning ahead

My husband Mark has been suffering from knee pain for several years now. Osteoarthritis runs rampant in his family. His mother had double knee replacement surgery about 20 years ago. Three of his older sisters have all had one knee replacement surgery. It’s Mark’s turn.

The symptoms Mark has are severe pain in his knee joints whenever he stands up or walks. He is able to walk for brief periods of time, but Christmas shopping was a challenge. While we were at Barnes and Noble picking up a few gifts, Mark sat on the floor when he couldn’t find an empty seat and I walked back and forth bringing him the items I picked out to purchase. Mark’s knees also make very loud crunching noises when he bends them. And finally, his legs have become quite bowed. I remember his mom’s legs looking that that before her surgery and how afterwards they were straight again.

Mark visited an orthopedic doctor last year and had laparoscopic meniscus repair surgery on one knee. That didn’t provide any long-term relief for his pain. We decided in the fall that it was time to seek medical help. Our orthopedic doctor sent us to a knee replacement specialist and Mark’s surgery was scheduled for January 30th. He will have both knees done at the same time if all goes well.

Image from http://www.mayoclinic.com

“During knee replacement, a surgeon cuts away damaged bone and cartilage from your thighbone, shinbone and kneecap and replaces it with an artificial joint made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers.” (www.mayoclinic.com)

So far we have only visited the doctor and read information as a way of preparing for the surgery. Yesterday Mark visited our family practitioner for a pre-op clearance. We know that as he gets closer to the surgery he will have to stop taking the pain medicine he currently takes (nsaids). His doctor also wants him to start on a special nerve-affecting pain medicine some number of days before the surgery so that it has time to start taking effect.

I have visited a medical supply store to see what kind of mobility aids we might want to acquire. We have a pair of crutches in the basement that I need to retrieve. I think I will also get a chair with arms that fits over the toilet and raises the seat. I don’t know if we will need a walker. I think a shower chair might be good to have around, although Mark has been told he won’t be able to take a shower or get his incisions wet for 10 – 14 days. We go to a pre-op “What to expect” training session next week, so I should know more after that.

I want to switch sides of the bed we sleep in. Mark sleeps on the far side and has to walk around the bed to get in and out. It will save him a lot of steps if we switch.

When our sons were here at Christmas I asked them to move the recumbent cycle up from the basement and put it in our bedroom. I think cycling is good exercise for knees, and I don’t know how long it will take before Mark can walk a flight of stairs.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to think through all the tasks Mark typically does around the house that will be left up to me. Mark and I have very different ways of doing things. For example, right now the bird seed for the feeders is in three or four bags piled on the floor in the corner of our garage. This will not work for me. I don’t lift, move, or touch anything piled in the corner of a garage, basement, or any dark and dank location—spider phobia rule #1. We need to move the seed to my garden bench or his work bench on the other side of the garage if I am going to be able to feed the birds.

I haven’t made coffee in over 10 years, ever since I couldn’t drink it any more because of stomach trouble. Mark drinks it every morning. So I need to find out how he likes to make it.

Small things, I know, but there are a house full and life full of small things through which we will have to navigate for the first days and perhaps weeks with Mark not being able to walk or stand on his own.

I’m still trying to figure out what to do about the garbage. When our kids were little and conversations about gender roles came up, I told them, “There’s only one thing that girls can’t do.” This of course peaked their interest. “Girls can’t take out the trash,” I’d say. They’d energetically respond, “Yes they can!”

So, I suppose I can.

You can find links to the entire series on Bilateral knee replacement surgery here.

For more information about osteoarthritis and knee replacement surgery, visit www.mayclinic.com.