Full disclosure — I did not make this up.
My wife, Betty, has hobbled around for months now, in excruciating pain, her right knee ravaged by arthritis. The woman who used to love to take long walks, who couldn’t fight the urge to putter even during her favorite television shows, had surrendered to an electric cart in the grocery store.
Betty is far too young for a cane, but I’d almost gotten used to watching her plod through the hallways of Hampstead Middle School wearing a grimace that she tried to disguise as a smile. It’s hard to be a hands-on art teacher while seated in a chair, but that became the new normal for Betty.
Ashley, Betty’s student teacher this year, has been a tremendous help. She lifts 40-pound boxes of clay, runs errands and has become Betty’s second set of eyes and ears, in addition to taking on much of the teaching load.
At first, Betty and I thought she could postpone the inevitable — knee-replacement surgery. But last summer, a series of cortisone injections proved to be no match for the cobblestoned streets of Amsterdam. By the end of our trip, Betty negotiated the crowded rooms of a Paris museum in a wheelchair.
Knee-replacement surgery became the only option, and the sooner, the better.
Betty’s lack of mobility did not impact her fondness for the macabre. The day before she went under the knife, she clicked on YouTube and watched a real knee get replaced with something from the limbs of the Terminator. Lots of shiny metal. Lots of drilling. Lots of pounding of mallets. Lots of reasons, presented in living color, why I could never be an orthopedic surgeon.
So on Monday, Nov. 19, Betty had the surgery. The nurses and the physical and occupational therapists couldn’t have been nicer. Betty was out of bed on the second day and practicing stairs with crutches on the third. When she came home on Thanksgiving morning, she was tired but grateful to have the worst behind her.
I was tired, too. I don’t sleep well without my wife next to me. So when I got a call from Ashley shortly after Betty and I got home from the hospital, I wasn’t paying full attention. Something about leaving something for Betty. Yeah, OK, thanks. Whatever.
Thanksgiving was the last thing on my mind. Pain medication tends to suppress one’s appetite, so Betty wasn’t thinking about turkey with all the trimmings, either.
But that’s exactly what I found after I investigated a noise coming from the front porch. It took three trips to haul in all the goodies — turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, carrots, cranberry sauce and an apple pie.
This Thanksgiving tale didn’t come from the mind of a writer; it came from the heart of a special friend.
John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead.