A new knee and playing nurse for dear old dad | Arts & Culture

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A new knee and playing nurse for dear old dad

It’s a strange and wonderful thing, helping a parent recover from surgery.

“Wonderful” because you’re returning the favor after all those years he or she raised you. Wiping your bottom. Cutting up your steak. Listening to doctors’ instructions, and remembering when you’re supposed to take medicine. Not even trying to duck when you threw up.

“Strange” because now it’s you asking things like: “So … uh … you don’t actually need help going to the bathroom, right?”

Because I’m sure as heck not wiping any bottoms! Pop got a ride home from the hospital and I’m calling it even.

Luckily, it was never an issue.

My dad had knee replacement surgery last week. Years of running, rollerblading, biking and regularly falling off his roof finally caught up with him. Knee braces and anti-inflammatories couldn’t make up for a rusty hinge.

So the doctor cut him open, popped in a bionic knee and told him the sooner he got back on his bike the better. He then tried to walk out of the recovery room. Nurses duct taped him to his bed.

He spent three nights in the hospital in Tampa — where he shared a room with people who are usually the gems of reality TV shows — and then sprung the joint, practically running for the car.

“You gotta’ get me out of here,” he said when we showed at the hospital. 

I was glad to do it. He battled and beat cancer years and years ago, and I remember feeling helpless in the hospital as he received his chemo treatments. There wasn’t much I could do when we came to visit … except ask whether his hair was falling out evenly.

Now older and a parent myself, I felt able to lend a hand in a way that actually mattered. I know a thing or two about taking care of people. And this was easy stuff. Pick-up percocet from the pharmacy. Get him one of the 7,200 asiago bagels he stockpiled in the fridge. (He must have thought the apocalypse was coming … and that he could stave it off with bread and cream cheese.)

Try desperately to keep his two dogs — one a rat terrier, and the other a demon spawn named “Shadow” — from jumping up on his outstretched leg. (Failed that one miserably.)

Ask him 20 million times, “you good?”, “you need anything?”, “you going to be OK when we go?” Ask him until he said, “Yes! I’ll be fine! I have a TV the size of a billboard and a bushel of pain meds. Don’t you people want to go shopping?”

It wasn’t rude. My dad doesn’t do rude. He says things like this with a smile, and he genuinely means, “Go enjoy yourself! Standing over an old man can’t be fun!”          

He dreads people laboring over him. Worrying about him. Having to take care of him. It’s less an independent streak, and more a concern for others. Not wanting anyone else to be inconvenienced or troubled. Afterall, it’s his bum knee, not ours.

So we took my younger sister, Lauren, to go bowling and he took a nap or watched baseball or, knowing him, hobbled around the house.

Funny this thing called family. A son wanting to help out — to make sure his father is OK and has everything he needs. To return the favor. And a dad not wanting to be a burden — so out of his element. Not knowing what to make of things when it’s not HIM running out for prescriptions or asking how to help. Stuck in his seat and — EGAD! — waited on!

Funny for us both. Strange and wonderful, having that shoe on the other (bionic) foot.

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