There But For The Grace of God

Over at Riverside Green, young Bark M. posts about a permanent sports injury:

There I was, charging toward the goal from my Center Attacking Midfielder position. The winger, sensing that I was going to make a run, played a perfect cross into the box just behind the centre back. The keeper was stuck in no man’s land—come off your line to try to intercept the cross or stay on your line and wait for the shot. Ultimately, the keeper made the decision to come out just a hair too late, and I was able to slide just underneath the outstretched, gloved fingers and strike the ball perfectly into the back of the net at the same moment I felt the meniscus tear in half in my right knee.

That 10-year-old girl never had a chance.

Yes, it’s true. I injured myself at great cost in a parents versus kids soccer game at the end of my daughter’s fall U11 soccer season.

* * * *

So if you’re doing the math at home—yes, I’m 43 years old now. But I never really felt it until Dr. Van Steyn started that sentence with, “Well, Mark, this is the first step to an artificial knee.”

Over the next seven months, I began to feel every day of it.

The real bitch about a torn meniscus is that it doesn’t get better, and you can’t really fix it. So I’ve had to adapt my entire life to adjust. I was a size 38 slim fit when I had my surgery. I’m lucky to get into a size 40 standard fit now, because I can no longer do any sort of plyometrics or running. As the Doc also said, “Running? That’s out of the question now.”

As you might know, gentle reader, I do foolishly athletic things in my middle age: Martial arts classes, triathlons, running and riding bikes on the farm roads near Nogglestead, playing catch with an overinflated football with my boys. So I am at some risk of self-inflicted irreversible injury often enough.

The worst I’ve ever experienced, aside from a bruised ribs a couple of times which mean a two-month break from martial arts classes, has been a torn groin muscle that took several months to heal and left me unable to tie my own shoes for a while. I can feel the scar tissue from time to time, but most of the time it does not impede me.

Each time I get a little hurt, I wonder if it’s going to be the one that limits me forever. Sometimes, this gives me some trepidation. Sometimes it makes me leery of closing in when sparring (Weet! Run away!)

But I watch the kids who take the martial arts classes or play elsewhere, and they don’t even think about getting hurt. They play and exercise with abandon. And when I’m dealing with a bit of nagging pain and something that’s aching in a not-muscle-soreness way, or when I just recover from something, I have to tell myself to continue to do the thing with abandon.

Because someday too soon, I won’t be able to do it at all, and although I jokingly complain about all of it, I will miss it when I am relegated to the recliner with books as my only activity.

So I feel for Bark. And I’m doing all the superstitious things I can to hope reading that piece has not jinxed me.

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