While cleaning the inside of our garage this past Saturday afternoon, I was happy to be seeing such progress when my wife walked out the house door and announced, “Well, you have a torn meniscus.”
I stood there with my mouth open. And more open. Such open.
Of course, it made sense. It had to be a chunk of meniscus that was protruding on the inside of the knee during times of lateral stress. What else could it be? She’s been texting with the orthopedic doc who is a triathlon friend of mine, and asked him to look at the results of my MRI from last week. He took one look and said, “Oh yeah. Torn meniscus.”
It was that clear.
I finally gulped a little, then said to my wife: “I think I know when it happened.”
“Really?” she replied.
“Sno Fun Run. The time I hurdled that orange cone like an idiot. Remember how much that hurt?”
It was a stupid move. Snowy day. Slushy, icy streets. During the race, I hurdled an orange traffic cone and the entire knee hyperextended. A runner with no ACL left in the left knee should never do such things. But I got excited that day. Was having fun. Acting young.
The knee hurt for weeks afterward. It was swollen and sore. After it healed up some I did strength work. It felt fine to run.
So run I did. Then the problems started about six months after that. The knee was susceptible to torque. When that happened, a bonelike protrusion would show on the inside of the knee. It hurt a little. But not alot.
You might ask: “How could you not know it was a torn meniscus?”
I might answer: “Because I’ve never had one before.”
I thought it was a funky medial collateral ligament. Something like that.
Plus it would come and go. Mostly it got worse during cycling season, but it didn’t hurt while I was on the bike. It would hurt later on the run. I got a bike fit to fix my knee alignment. But the overall stress of 80-90 mile rides was causing some sort of fatigue that led to the meniscus shifting.
So now I know. My mouth is finally closed after the amusing shock of learning what it really was. That’s the way I react to such things. With an open mouth and then a cold dose of realization.
Over year years, there were some things I knew were coming and it was just the confirmation of truth that made it seem ultimately profound. Other things I never saw coming and it was astounding to think such a thing could ever happen to me.
The train track of life
I guess if you stand on the train track of life long enough you’re going to get hit from one direction or another. The shock can be an injury or illness. It can be financial, or getting slammed from behind in your favorite car. It can be relational, such as when a longtime friend confesses to an affair or that they’ve been loyal to a spouse that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them. Somehow you never saw the signs. But when told the truth, you suddenly do.
It happens in politics and religion too. I’m sure there are millions of Catholics wondering how the hell they got such an open-minded Pope. This is the man who says that “All scripture that does not lead to the love of Christ is obsolete.” Talk about cleaning the slate. I’m sure there are people who hate Pope Francis for saying that. It goes against millennia of Catholic tradition in law and practice. But if you study the real ministry of Christ, you know it’s true. People never saw that coming either.
It comes down to this: Some people simply don’t deal well with change. They like things “the way they were.” Anyone who threatens that comfort zone is the enemy. That’s what got Jesus killed. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Kennedys. John Lennon. Someone even tried to kill President Ronald Reagan. Even after that, conservatives balk at changing gun laws to protect the innocent.
Granted, change isn’t always “good” in the sense that it guarantees a happy outcome for those affected by it. When the financial markets crash, trillions of dollars can be lost in an instant. Real assets vanish. It seems economists fall into two camps at such times. There’s the “I told you so” crowd and the “who saw that coming?” crowd. The rest of us fall somewhere between.
It was an even less forgiving story when Bernie Madoff made off millions of dollars and left the people victimized by his scams horribly deceived. Or did they deceive themselves into believing in someone who appeared to have all the answers? It was all too good to be true.
Such is the small-mindedness of human existence that we all too often trick ourselves into a falsely happy state. Comfortably numb, as as Pink Floyd put it. We live that way until the moment when we hear the news or get the call that, “The results are in.” It’s in those moments of life that we sometimes drop our jaws and wonder why we didn’t see that one coming.
Such are the musings of a man in a clean garage on a Saturday afternoon in November. Somehow I didn’t see that torn meniscus coming. But now that I do, it’s time to make year-end decisions before the new year of health insurance deductibles kicks in. Time for a talk with the doc. A meeting with the surgeon. And maybe a shard of meniscus to keep in a jar as a reminder that change often comes along in chunks, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But deal with it.