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My mom had a major joint replacement surgery this week.
Before the surgery she was telling me about how long it can take to adjust to a new joint — a year or more. She knows this because she’s been through this a few times already. A new joint makes fundamental changes to the rest of your body. Your heel sits higher, your shoe size is smaller, your leg feels longer or bends in a new way. Everything has to adjust when the new thing comes — and that hurts. Brand new aches and pains come as your whole body adjusts to something that was once so very different.
While we were talking about this, there was a woman in the surgical bay next to us, prepped and ready for a knee replacement. She was separated from me only by a sheet of fabric, so I could hear her clearly as she complained about vaccines, masks, and how silly it all was since the hospital was full with “normal-sick people” who didn’t actually have COVID.
I’m trying to figure out how to live right now, as a Christian. As a person. I’m trying to figure out how to make peace, or at least co-exist, when the differences between us feel so vast. With a Christianity that’s become equated with individual freedom, and freedom-fighters who seem blind or belligerent about the harm they cause. I’m trying to figure out how to stay me — remain committed, as I’ve been in the past, to respect and hospitality, empathy and community. I just feel so mad. So betrayed. So tired.
I’m trying to limp around the soreness that this new thing has introduced to our lives. I’m beginning to realize that it will require that I, too, change. I’m not sure yet what that means. And maybe that’s OK. For now at least.
My mom’s surgery went well, and later in the afternoon I brought her home. We did the simplest things for the rest of the day: adjusted pillows and filled water bottles. Refreshed the icepack. Celebrated small victories, like navigating a narrow bathroom on a bulky knee scooter. We went to bed early. She learned something important from adjusting to new joints in the past: if you push too hard, things go wrong. Healing can’t be forced. Go slow.
In a few months she’ll figure out how her gait has changed. What feels strong and what’s become weak. But not today. Today she takes phone calls from concerned friends, dozes off when she’s tired. Makes sure to say “thanks.” Today, she goes slow.
She’s teaching me a lot.