BY BRUCE STEINBERG
I have read the likes of Shakespeare, Swift and Whitman closely, I do declare. Hey! — I was a Big Ten university English major, after all. Which explains law school. So much wisdom, insight and word-food for thought among the pages. Still, I am convinced that not one of these great writers and thinkers, or others of their esteemed ilk, comes close to the insight of one Sir Michael Philip Jagger, he of the Stones that roll.
To wit, this ultimate gem: “What a drag it is getting old.”
As the decades have passed, I’ve prided myself on having a painting in my attic that does the aging for me, or at least fooled myself into thinking so. Any time I’ve seen a bit too much of the aging process in the mirror, it’s just a matter of removing my tri-focal 20-400 glasses and PRESTO! – I’m crow’s-feet free, at least from my point of view. And why would anyone get Lasik eye surgery so they can see with 20-20 vision what they look like in the mirror first thing in the morning? But I digress.
Some of my anti-aging confidence comes from my annual physicals, during which the intake nurse always asks me what medications I’m on; and when I say “Nothing,” she invariably does a double-take, as though she is certain I’m lying. But it’s part of my lifetime silent-sporter’s pride, to need nothing pharmaceutical for my heart, blood pressure, cholesterol and the like, or any procedure to fix this or that worn-out body part … until – momentous gasp, until! – at one of these physicals, my doctor said: “Looks like you have a torn meniscus.”
Up until then, this English major and law-school grad couldn’t spell “meniscus” with confidence without spellcheck. But with the nagging running injury that wouldn’t go away despite months off. With rest, ice, compression and elevation proving as effective as bloodletting, I made the appointment with the surgeon, had the MRI and got the confirmed diagnosis. I realized, of course, that it was my fault. My version of the picture of Dorian Gray didn’t go below mid-thigh.
After my consultation with a well-known and respected surgeon (who has performed successful joint surgeries on World Series pitchers), going through the pre-op physical and scheduling the procedure last February, I still have not had it done. The first two reasons are these: The legions of people I know who, upon hearing of my situation, reveal that they’ve had the surgery; and of course, that harbinger of medical opinion, mixing science with folklore, the Internet.
It seems that opinions in both realms were everywhere, from the fact that the surgery is great, returned folks to running form in a hurry and prevented the spread of arthritis, to the fact that the surgery is awful, made them forever unsteady and sped up the spread of arthritis.
There’s nothing like consistency to inspire a decision.
The doctors themselves were great. The surgeon said, “Whenever you’re ready.” My general practitioner said, “If you’re okay with how you are right now, then don’t push it. You can always change your mind.”
Which brings me to the real reason why my knee remains surgically untouched: cross-country skiing.
I didn’t limp, the pain, when it was there at all, was rarely beyond mild, and I had no trouble with stairs, that is until after a run. Then my knee turned a century and a half old. However, soon after my meeting with the surgeon, I went cross-country skiing with a friend on a frozen lake we had to hike to, up and down hills and over uneven, meandering ground. Then we skied for two-and-a-half hours and hiked back to our cars. It was great and pain free. Skating, striding on skis, and then, after the snowmelt, on roller skis. Skating or striding, it didn’t matter. No pain, all gain.
Then there is kayaking and boxing that bag in the basement with the picture on it of … Well, never mind.
I realized that I had so many great silent sports options that I didn’t miss the running, at least not too much – although the trail running is kind of hard to let go of!
My Iyengar-Yoga-certified-macrobiotic-vegetarian sister says my meniscus can heal on its own. Half of the Internet and post-op folks I know agree with her. The other half flips that notion the bird, and my doctors’ faces look like I’ve sullied the air with compost rot when I mention WebMD.
The surgery will happen someday, no doubt. For now, here I am, admiring the wisdom of Sir Jagger’s “What a drag it is getting old.”
But I also think I hear my doctors humming Sir James Paul McCartney’s “Fool on the hill.”
Meanwhile, it’s time for this head-in-the-sand ostrich to go kayaking.