Productive Time

I had ACL reconstruction surgery on my left knee about four weeks ago because tequila motivated me to jump off a fence some 18 years ago. I had plans. I was going to do things with my time.

When my dad left after taking care of me for three weeks, I wept. Before I locked the door behind him, my eyes were watering. I wasn’t able to drive him to the airport on account of my bum leg and the meds I was taking. We said goodbye the night before his flight. It was a first for me. I hadn’t cried in seven years.

Before he got here, I wrapped up at work. I cleaned up, put things away, and packed my bag with a few things that I thought I might get to. I didn’t think too much of it. I was feeling anxious about my upcoming surgery, having never undergone any serious medical procedure before.

In the last 18 years, I had only owned one pair of sneakers before a month ago. I didn’t need them. When I injured my knee, my life adjusted. I was never an active type so the transition wasn’t terribly difficult. My awareness of my bum knee was always there, at the back of my mind, nagging me a little. It’d act up every now and again, just as a palpable reminder. It became difficult to watch videos of people falling and breaking bones. I felt some sort of sympathy pain in my leg.

A few years ago, I was making fun of my students in gym class and forgot about my knee. I leapt no higher than six inches but the landing didn’t stick. When I saw the doctor about getting a requisition for an MRI, he told me that I probably just needed to walk it off and to see him again in a few months if it was still bothering me. He wrote me a prescription for Zyban to help me quit smoking.

My dad had called a couple of weeks before the surgery to ask if he should come to help me out after my surgery. I told him that I’d be all right, that my fiancé was going to take care of me. A few days later, he asked again. I told him that he was more than welcome to come but he really didn’t need to. After speaking with the doctor, I was confident that the recovery was going to be fairly quick. He called again the next day to ask again. I gave him the same answer. He told me that he had already booked his tickets, a place to stay, and just needed the keys to my car. I asked why he asked.

Nearly four weeks later, my knee is doing all right. My mobility is still quite limited. Only last week was I able to get out of the house for a short walk to the corner store. The skin around my knee feels really tight, like Saran Wrap stretched free of all of its wrinkles. When I bend my leg too much, I think it’s just going to peel apart. It hasn’t yet.

Sleeping is more comfortable than it has been but not as comfortable as it used to be. When I get out of bed, I have to push myself up to standing and then lean on the edges of the bed to get going. After a few steps, I’m better. More balanced. Getting started is a bit tricky. Sitting for too long has the same effect.

More than ever before in my life, I have to keep moving to feel comfortable. Being in one place for too long isn’t good. It’s painful.

On the Saturday after my surgery, I submitted a piece to the CBC Nonfiction Prize. I was nearly proud of myself. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for years but never got around to. I planned to submit before my surgery but I was busy getting my head ready for the surgery. I thought that the next few weeks were going to be just as productive, if not more.

My list of projects only seems to grow. I have more ideas than I can manage. I decided to roll a few of them together into a larger project, Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting a series by Bernard Walter, which I’m now having trouble managing. When I wake up in the morning, I usually have a new idea about something. Before going to bed, I usually jot down an idea or two. The list is too long. But, I had the time to work on some of them, at least some of them. I thought.

My recovery has been slower than anticipated. My dad took great care of me and would come over while I napped, waiting until my fiancé got home from work. They’d change the ice in the leg-icing-machine, warm up a meal for me, and switch shifts. I didn’t put on pants for four days. Not even short ones.

As time passed, I got increasingly irritable. Being entirely dependent on others and not having had a proper shower in a while, my patience was running low. In bed, I could only lay on my back, waking up occasionally to tuck a pillow under my leg or remove it. On the couch, I’d sit with my leg resting on the recliner, flipping through channels, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube.

Only at the end of the second week was I able to get from the bed to the coffee machine and then to the couch, with a cup of coffee, by myself.

Each day that passed was a day that I didn’t spend working on something that I wanted to. I tried. I’d rest on my crutches in a standing position next to my desk and turn the scroll wheel on the mouse with an outstretched finger. As my confidence increased, I pulled the desk chair out further – unresting on my crutches for longer – so I could get closer to the desk.

Eventually, I was able to sit. Tuck myself in. Open the lid on my laptop. Type uncomfortably, but type nonetheless.

Each day was getting better. I played with my camera, made a stupid stop-motion animation, and started making plans for what I was going to do when my time freed up after my dad went back home. I’d write it all down excitedly in my Morning Pages.

The last time I saw the doctor, he removed the stitches and told me that things were looking good. He looked noticeably happy with his work. I asked if I could get a note to extend my leave, on account of the fact that my mobility is still quite limited. He supported me and had his fellow write up a note.

When I got home, I sat down at my desk, opened the lid of my computer, and signed into my work email for the first time in a few weeks. I emailed my bosses to let them know that I’d need a little bit more time to get back in good shape. They supported me.

I continued planning. I wrote my ideas out on sticky notes so that I’d have a visual to remind me of what all I want to do.

When I woke up from a nap on Thursday afternoon last week, COVID-19 had closed all schools for the two weeks following March Break. Within hours, all of my plans for the time that I was taking away from the world, adopting for my own, and going to capitalise on while I was mostly stuck in our one-bedroom apartment, fell away. The joie de vivre vanished.

I limped over to the front closet to count the number of rolls of toilet paper we had. When I went to Costco, they had run out.


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