Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Kneed I Suffer or Laugh: Guest Post by Mike Befeler

MIKE BEFELER: Kneed I Suffer or Laugh

By way of background, I had my third surgery on my knee due to an infection. While in the hospital and first week at home, I was depressed about the whole situation since I needed to be on IV antibiotics and use a walker. Then I reread Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I highly recommend this book. Frankl was in a concentration camp in Europe during WWII. He discovered that although the Nazi’s controlled his existence, when he ate, when he slept, whether he lived or died, the one thing they couldn’t control was his attitude. Even in that horrible situation Frankl learned that he was master of his own attitude.

This helps me to put my situation in perspective, and I realize gratitude for a family assisting me, good medical treatment. I can choose to suffer or laugh about the small absurdities of my life.

Here are some observations:

I drop things, and one night I dreamt that I was playing volleyball and went to hit the ball . . . and actually knocked things off my nightstand.

My memory also drops things from time to time. I was thinking of the play Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat but couldn’t remember the name Joseph. In the middle of the night, I woke up with the name Joseph.

I continue to have my ups and down but have learned to pace myself by doing an activity, then rest, then another activity and another rest.

One thing that improves my attitude is talking to friends on the phone. This gives me an opportunity to think about someone else and experience a few laughs together. I also look forward to a weekly phone call with a good friend who understands human nature and is very wise.

Our six-year-old grandson comes to our house two to three times week after school. His smile and hugs give me joy. After having a snack and doing homework with my wife, my grandson and I play games (he loves Monopoly).

I take naps, some planned and some not. We get the Los Angeles Times as a newspaper, and I enjoy lying in bed and reading it. I did doze off one time half way through the comics.

In spite of all the problems, there are little gifts that appear. Our neighbor is a head nurse for the section of the hospital I was assigned to. I had a single room with a good view and excellent assistance from the nursing staff.

When I bend my knee, it squeaks like a door needing WD40.

As I have become more mobile, my wife and I have been going to the food store. Since I’m more interested in food now, this is an enjoyable experience as I pick out things to eat that I have been craving.

New forms of entertainment: I spend some time trying to find things. One recent example: I couldn’t find the eye drop bottle I keep on my nightstand. I figured I had knocked it off when waving my arm. I looked all around the nightstand, in the drawers, under the bed. Nope, it had vanished. A little later, I had a thought. I have a beach bag on the side of my walker to keep stuff in. I looked in the outer pocket. Nothing. Then I looked into the main part of the bag, and, lo and behold, there was the little bugger. Apparently, I did knock it off the nightstand and somehow it hit the small opening in the bag. My own March madness. I’ve seen my attitude shift when I forget something or drop something. I used to get mad because it took extra effort to correct. Now, I’m more accepting of these incidents. After one recent event, I chuckled and said to myself, “Here I go again.”

After returning home from the hospital, I would wake up and think, “Oh groan. Another day to deal with my stupid knee.” Lately, I’ve awakened and considered what I would be doing during the day and what I have to look forward to.

Rather than complaining about my limitations as I did earlier, I am more often now recognizing my limitations and accepting them.

Small Victories: I finally am able to go to sleep without taking my pain medication. I also have developed routines that keep me off my feet as much as possible so I don’t overdo. I now have more energy to do things such as fix dinner, which takes stress off my wife who suffers from arthritis. Given that my left knee is the bad one, I can now drive again.

The Bottom Line: I will have to go through a fourth surgery in July. Although this thought depresses me, I’m thankful that I’ve been able to control my attitude in a more positive way. I have a daily schedule that includes the early activity of breakfast, cleaning up, doing my physical therapy stretches, brushing my teeth, shaving, taking my IV medication and checking email. Then I rest and read. In the middle of the day, I eat lunch, clean up and take the IV medication. Then I rest, read and nap. At the end of the day, I fix and eat dinner, clean up and take my IV medication. Then I relax, sometimes watching TV before retiring for an early bedtime. My attitude is shifting from “oh, no, not another day with this stupid knee” to “what am I going to learn and achieve today?” I’ve always been an active person, but now realize I don’t have to be busy every moment. Now I’m more mellow, balancing the activity with rest. Finally, what has also helped me is writing about my situation, I keep a notebook with me and jot down observations during the day and sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night.


Mike Befeler is author of 16 novels, a biography of a WWII veteran, and a novella about a young boy's life transforming experience at the beginning of the pandemic. Most of his novels feature older characters and are affectionately referred to as "Geezer-lit mysteries."

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