Nearly Ninety with a New Knee

My dad’s nearly-ninety-year-old knee took him places. As a boy, he trudged two miles to school on a country road that wound through the hills of Western Maryland. On long summer evenings, he ran barefoot across the yard playing tag with his cousins. And hand to the plow, he plodded in furrows behind Bob and Fern, the draft horses, to ready the ground for winter wheat.

And it took him across the world: Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Liechtenstein, France, Italy, Luxemburg, Belgium, Great Britain, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Mexico, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, and Canada.

In these last years, his knee has bent to help my mother when she fell, to wash her blood from the floor, and to spade her garden, because growing plants nourish her spirit.

But this last year, his knee has constrained him, keeping him in the house instead of on summer walks, on the couch while others rake his leaves and shovel his snow, and in a recliner at night, trying to find a position that will take away pain.

So to distract himself from the reality of a nearly-ninety-year- old body, my dad turned more fully to the life of the mind. When I dropped by to check on him, I’d find him at his computer, researching, for example, road conditions in the 1850s and how the indentured-servant system worked. Though his face was often fatigued with pain, his eyes would be alert and intrigued.

My dad’s knee did manage to take him one more place—to the hospital, where its worn-down parts were replaced with metal and plastic. And as we soldiered through the first post-op day, he seemed to manage his pain by turning to ideas. We talked about the difference between a meadow and a pasture, how President Buchannan might have staved off the Civil War, the function of applause at a sacred concert, and what it means to be one of eight billion people on the earth.

It’s been fascinating to watch my dad resolutely turn attention from his knee to ideas. But I’m looking forward to joining him for a long springtime walk with his new knee.

2 Replies to “Nearly Ninety with a New Knee”

  1. I never thought about how many countries Dad visited! And thank you, Phyllis, for stopping by and checking on our parents, virtually every day, over the last few years.

    In a class this week, I shared with my students about the world population hitting 8 billion this way: I showed them a recent video of Mom at the home in Springs, Pa., where she grew up, talking about how her father rebuilt the house where Amish distant relatives now live when she was 3 years old.

    Then I put these numbers on the board: Jesus birth in

    * 0 AD, the birth of Jesus [250 million]

    *1800 [1 billion]

    *1928 when my mother was born [2 billion]

    *1964 when I, her sixth child, was born [3 billion]

    *1976 when your (Phyllis’s) first child, David, and Grandma’s first grandson was born [4 billion]

    *1990 [5 billion]

    *2002 when most of my students were born [6 billion]

    *2012 just after your (Phyllis’s) last, and eighth, grandchild was born [7 billion],

    *2022, about a month after my mother turned 94 year old [8 billion].

    So I told my students that when my mother was born there were 2 billion on earth and today 8 billion–all in my mother’s life time. –Kevin


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