Not the bee’s knees.

Every time I try to write about my upcoming knee surgery, I feel myself morphing into a paunchy ex-jock, swigging my beer as I regale you with war stories of  my high school football glory days. Not very sexy, but nevertheless, here it goes. Errp. Scuse.

It was May of 1988 and the Academy of the Sacred Heart Gazelles (I know, so cute and yet so ridiculous) had travelled to a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio for the last lacrosse tournament of the season. A few of us seniors had come straight from prom – my light pink strapless dress swung virginally from the garment hook of Marian’s mom’s car. She drove us through the night because there was no way we were going to miss this tournament – even if it meant bidding our flummoxed dates adieu at two a.m.

320px-ball_players1By this point in the season – the end of the season, we were in the best shape of our lives – we had hearts like bulls. Lacrosse is a graceful running sport and it is played with no out-of-bounds. If you wanted to burn up time on the clock, you could just take off with the ball and sprint across the next field over, pretending you were a young Native American brave thumping across the prairie in a loin cloth, your heart pounding in your ears. Our coach, Ms. Dritsas, never let us forget it was a game invented by the Plains Indians and played on vast fields that were miles and miles long and wide. The games could go on for days, with hundreds of players on each team. We Gazelles proudly played with the traditional wooden lacrosse sticks made by a guy in Northern Michigan, while all the other teams used plastic sticks, easier sticks we used to say. A stocky woman with spiky gray hair, Ms. Dritsas ate orange peels and was suspected to be a lesbian due to her habitual ass slapping. Somehow, this seems a lot less newsworthy and titillating now than it did then, but we were sheltered Catholic school girls and we liked to make fun.

The beginning of the season was a cold rainy blur of Ms. Dritsas sending us on long runs. Don’t come back for an hour. Go. We would dutifully trudge off, our pony tails flicking behind us, our colored spandex tights gleaming from beneath our oversized shorts. As soon as we were out of sight, we would drop into a saunter and go to our friend Sherry’s house to eat Pop Tarts for fifty minutes before wetting the hair at our temples in the sink and jogging back to school. Sherry isn’t alive anymore. How could we have known as girls, giggling in her house, feeling like we were getting away with something, that she would die in a tragic accident in her early thirties? It is still beyond comprehension.

I’m not sure if I felt it as much as I heard it, but mid-stride in a dead run, there was a pop. A pop that ended my world as I knew it, a world where girls played fierce and hard and felt completely invincible. As I lay on the ground, a thick fence of gold knee high socks surrounded me, but I couldn’t see past anyone’s knees. I remember screaming, over and over, I don’t want permanent knee damage. Please don’t let it be permanent knee damage. Even then, at that moment, there were too many words coming out of my mouth. Meaningless, impotent words. 

Arthroscopic surgery determined that in the last game of the last year of my high school career, I had a completely torn my ACL, screwing up my knee forever. And for the next twenty years I would put off getting it repaired, learn to favor my other leg without even thinking about it, let all the sports I used to love fall by the wayside, and generally get on with my life. 

In five days I’m having surgery to repair my ligament and the cartilage that has been worn down due to instability. If I don’t perish during surgery or from a flagrant, angry infection, I will be on crutches for six weeks. War and Peace, the Nile River, Rapunzel’s hair. Six. Long. Weeks. This is bleak, people. Bleak. Doctor Dash has a couple weeks off during that time and my mother and mother-in-law are each coming for a week, but still – how is this going to work? Who’s going to do everything that I do? How am I going to tolerate sitting around all day, lying around all day. What am I going to do if Devil Baby throws a tantrum in a parking lot? How am I going to get used to asking for help? 

I was fitted for my crutches today and given a lesson on how to get up and down the stairs. This is going to be incredibly humbling. Every fiber of my being feels like I cannot possibly be taking myself out of commission for six weeks. That this is utter insanity. That I will end up crying on the floor as my house crumbles around me, my family falling away with the debris, their faces covered in white dust. I have to dig deep – dig back. I have to rely on the fierce, fearless, selfish girl in me to see me through this, to push me through this. Why? For the sake of the old lady I hope to become. So I can walk and dance and coyly cross my legs when I’m sixty, seventy, eighty.

What is six weeks against decades? Right? RIGHT? Please tell me I’m right.

postscript: if there is a girl athlete in your life, check out this article.

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