Growing old is a young man’s game.

Tomorrow, I go under the knife.


Yep, after I-don’t-know-how-many years, it’s time to have my knee cleaned out again, hopefully without the surgeon finding anything else wrong that might necessitate additional procedures down the road.

This will be the sixth time I’ve had this particular body part sliced open and invaded.  The actual process of having this surgery (check in, lie down, fall asleep, wake up, go home) is becoming a bit old hat for me, but I’ve begun to suspect that the actual execution of this is intended for the young.

Allow me to explain.

I’m not old.  I’m only 43.  But I was only in my early 20s when I first had my knee “fixed.”  Fixed, by the way, is a relative term when it is applied to the human knee.  But it was a simple arthroscopic procedure to clean out some cartilage.  No muss, no fuss, no complications.

A day after the surgery, I was walking without crutches, and pushed myself through rehab in just a few weeks.  Back to basketball, softball, and all the other activities of youth.

A year later, I blew my ACL playing softball.

Surgery number 2.

Same drill: surgery, rehab, push-push-push, and back to real life, even using that knee to drive a stick-shift twelve days after surgery.

A year later, some pops and cracks and pain led to, you guessed it:

Surgery number 3.

Another ‘scope, but oh the relief.

After a few years of living life without worrying about that knee, I entered my 30s.  A little more pain, more popping, more locking, and another trip to the orthopedic surgeon.

Diagnosis: failure of the previous ACL graft.

Surgery number 4.

By this time, of course, I’ve started to amass some other physical issues, including a surgery on my shoulder.  Word to the wise: never mess up your shoulder; it sucks.

Anyway, got through this ACL reconstruction.  Took a little longer to dig out of the hole afterwards, but eventually got back to some semblance of myself.  Had to curtail a lot of the physical activities afterwards, though.

That was when it started to dawn on me: my days of immortality were behind me.  As the years have passed me by since, I hit surgery number 5 on that knee, surgery number 2 on the shoulder, and even 3 surgeries on an ankle for various issues.

I spent the last five years of my Air Force career and the nearly four years since retirement dealing with all of the aches and pains that life has made sure to leave behind as reminders of all the good (and bad) times.  That last chunk of my Air Force career I spent hiding it all in order to avoid the dreaded Medical Review Board so that I could actually make it to retirement.

It was so much simpler when I was young.  Injuries healed—or didn’t happen at all—because my body was so resilient.  Then a crack appeared, and slowly, the waters of time that had been held in check by that youthful vigor slowly seep through, eroding that immortality, and leaving in its wake a broken shell of its former self.

Too hyperbolic, you say?  For those of you that have been lucky enough to reach my age (or beyond) without a serious injury, count yourself lucky.  For those of you who are young and think that I’m just a typical old man complaining about being old, well, you’re right; I am.  But it is also true that you are currently inhabiting that wonderful confluence where youth and health combine into a heady brew of invulnerability and attitude.

Wonderful attributes, to be sure, but just know that somewhere, somehow, at some point, you’ll feel it: that first little crack in the damn.  Then you’ll realize.

You’re getting old.

And it sucks.

You will long for the days, as I do, when you could do no wrong and the universe revolved around you.  Too late, you will realize that the universe no longer revolves around you, but you around it.

Straight down the drain, where we all end up eventually.

And then, finally, you’ll come to believe that sentiment expressed so beautifully by George Bernard Shaw: “Youth is wasted on the young.”

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