The doctor walked swiftly towards me with purpose and resolve. His olive colored surgical mask hung around his neck and a similar colored scrub hat covered the top of his head. Even though everything in his body language conveyed that he was a man in a hurry, he managed to flash a pleasant smile as he settled into a chair across from me.

“You’re wife had quite a go of it,” he began. “It was a little bit worse than we had thought.” He looked down and rubbed his palms together before he continued.

“There were quite a few bone spurs in the joint and a lot of arthritis to clean up.” He raised his head and looked me again in the eye. “Her knee was really beat up. I can see why she was in a lot of pain,”

For a second or two my gaze shifted beyond his face as I caught the movement of other doctors wandering into the busy waiting room. It was 9am and the first round of surgeries were finishing up. Other family members who, like me, had spent the last two hours sipping coffee, thumbing through magazines, and incessantly glancing at the clock on the wall were waiting to hear the outcome.

“She’s going to love her new knee,” the doctored continued, my focus once again shifting to his face. “After the recovery process has been completed, she’s going to feel like a new woman. He nodded at me and smiled slightly.

“When can I see her?” I asked.

The doctor rose to get up. Taking a deep sigh he said, “Right now she’s in recovery where she’ll be for the next hour-and-a-half to two hours. Then she’ll be assigned a room and someone will come get you and you can go there with her.”

I rose up and stood next to him.

“Do you have any other questions right now?” Asked the doctor.

My mind was still trying to process all that I had been told. I numbly shook my head as the doctor held out his hand.

“I’ll probably be in to see her tomorrow morning. If all goes well, she should be able to go home in two or three days.” He firmly shook my hand and gave me one last reassuring smile as he turned and walked away. Walking swiftly in the direction he came from, his body language once again conveyed that he was a man in a hurry. He disappeared around a corner, presumably heading off to see another patient, perform another surgery to replace another joint.

I slowly sat back down in my chair and thought about what lie ahead.

We knew this was coming. Diana’s left knee had been bothering her for more than a year now and the pain had gotten progressively worse. Something had to be done. Doctor visits followed by x-rays and MRI’s confirmed the diagnosis and a date was set.

Mentally I had been preparing myself for this for more than a month. Not only would everything suddenly fall on me to run the house; cooking, cleaning etc., but I would also be charged with the added responsibility of nursing, caring for and tending to the needs and requirements of a convalescing knee replacement surgery patient, who also happened to be my wife. Quite a lot to swallow for someone who, up to this point in his retirement journey, was pretty much content to sit and watch sports on TV. Was I up for the task? We would soon find out.

Two days later I was pulling the car up outside of our house and gingerly helping Diana steer a walker through our front door. The odyssey had begun.

The first and most important thing I had to come to grips with was figuring out how much pressure could be applied to Diana’s knee. Several times a day it was my job to tend to a wrap which was on her leg. As she lay on our bed with her leg resting on a pillow, my first few clumsy attempts at this task was met with howling cries of pain and a look from Diana that would stop anybody dead in their tracks. I got better at this as time wore on and the look of horror on her face anytime I got near the bed slowly faded away.

The next job I had to teach myself was doing the laundry. This was something I never did. The washing machine was like a stranger to me. Through the course of our marriage, laundry had been Diana’s domain. Without complaint or objection, she always was keeping up with an ever filling hamper of dirty clothes and damp bath towels. I guess you could say I had become spoiled. I just took it for granted whenever I reached in my closet for a clean shirt or a neatly folded pair of pants.

All that changed with Diana’s surgery.My first attempt at washing a load of laundry ended in a mini-disaster. As I was folding the clothes from a nice warm pile that I had just pulled out of the dryer, I noticed that my favorite yellow t-shirt was now sporting a new dark blot on the left sleeve. What happened? As I pulled more clothes out of the pile I came upon a black pair of Diana’s shorts. Somewhere in the back of my mind came the phrase, “separating lights from darks”. I had heard of it before somewhere in my life, but had never directly experienced it myself in any meaningful way. Until now!

Lesson learned.

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