The Lily Pad


Portland, Oregon, USA
June 07
She Who Must Be Obeyed
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Mom, editor, writer, wife, traveler, dog owner, laundry wrangler, and superintendent of homework.


Froggy's Links
JANUARY 31, 2012 11:39AM

My knee, my mother, my life

Rate: 18 Flag

About noon on Thursday, pain stabbed through my kneecap.

Oh crap! What's that?

I tried to shake it out. Walk it out. It wouldn't shake.


My mother has terrible knees. She's 76 now, with two artificial knees. My mother has not ever been the picture of vigorous or active. She loves sewing, painting, good conversation, and a good book. She also loves to cook, and eat, and has the body to show it.

Just like mine.

I broke my leg six years ago, and twisted the hell out of my knee. (It's a long story.) During endless hours in physical therapy,  the therapists tsked at me, and said my knees made far more noise than they should at my age. They raised their eyebrows at me, in their thin thighs and tracksuits. With oppressive cheerfulness, they said the best thing I could do for my knees is stop carrying extra weight. Especially given my mother's bad joints.

They told me this would happen. 

I spent the rest of the day going down the stairs one-footed. Testing it out. It hurt. It could go up, not down. Sitting down hurt. Getting up hurt. Getting in and out of cars hurt. It all hurt.

I know enough biology to know all the dreadful things that happen to a person when she eats too much--cancers and cholesterol and heart disease and things--all on the inside, quietly percolating away where I can't see them. Out of sight, out of mind. I'll lose weight later. Pass the fries.

But this, this, dammit, this hurts.

Friday morning, I went to the gym. The gym that I picked, because it's right near our house, because it has a pool. I love to swim.

The gym where I haven't been in a month.

Up and back. Up and back. Flutter kick, freestyle, breaststroke. It's quiet in the water. The bubbles whoosh past my ears, the water is cool. Up and back. My knee doesn't hurt in the water.

What if swimming is all I can do?

What if I go to the doctor, and he says what I've been dreading? This is the beginning of the end? Something worn away, bone on bone, nothing to do but replace it. I watched my mother's rehab--six solid months of therapy, and it's never been the same again. She had to use a walker for a while. A walker! This can't be happening.

In another life, in a younger, thinner body, I spent a summer teaching backpacking in the Cascades. I walked across the Lake District in England with a backpack. I climbed mountains, I rode my bicycle to the coast, I hiked through Thailand. I hiked through the Tetons with my husband, watching birds, bears, and endless stars. When I'm not looking in the mirror, I'm still that person. My soul is in the woods. I'm happiest on cross-country skis when all I can hear is the sound of the snow and the birds. I love squirrels, birds, and frogs, I love ferns, trees, and quiet forgotten places. I remember the freedom I felt, being on my own, knowing my body brought me there, that I could go anywhere.

What if I've loved cookies more than I love the woods?

My youngest, my baby, is in sixth grade now. She plays the violin and wants to wear lip gloss. These pounds of mine, they don't count as baby weight any more. I own them.

I know how they all got here. Two babies. Bread, pasta, cheese, wine, and did I mention cookies? Piecrust. Oh, piecrust. I learned to make fruit turnovers last year, and a cheese and onion quiche, and I love to bake bread. All kinds of bread. Quick breads, yeast breads, wheat bread, soda bread, plain white bread. And years of a job where I don't get paid unless I'm sitting down. Baking is therapy, stress relief, losing my hands in dough, flour on my nose, listening to the radio in the kitchen while I roll and knead and shape, far from the pixels on screens that are my work.

What if the price isn't just my waistline, but my mobility?

Up and back. Flutter kick, frog kick, breast stroke. Flutter kick again, until I'm out of breath. One more length. Then another. And another.

To the grocery store after, new recipe book in hand, looking for odd ingredients I've avoided in the past. Whole wheat things, low fat things, things in odd corners of the supermarket.

Back to the pool Saturday. And Sunday. New food. Weird food. No butter, not much bread, lots and lots of vegetables. Trusting this damn recipe book to help me not feel like a rabbit.

I've been down this road so many times before. Pounds off, pounds back on. Here we go again.

My knee started feeling better Monday morning. A little. Still more by Monday afternoon. And I haven't had a cookie, a muffin, or a slice of really good white buttered toast since Thursday. And I've been to the pool every day.

The recipes aren't that bad, if I stop resisting them.

If looks can't do it, health articles can't do it, cheerful physical therapists can't do it, maybe fear finally can.

I'm afraid I'll end up like my mother.

Because she hasn't gone further than a paved sidewalk in a park, now she can't go anywhere else. She limited herself to the living room and a good book, and now she's stuck there.

I still have time.

I'm almost a little sad. My knee feels better today.

I hope I can remember the fear.


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Good writing and good work. And good luck. I hope you find yourself back in the woods in no time.
Excellent post. I'm in the same position and your words helped me so much. I hope I can remember the fear too. It is time to be done with sugar, bread and butter. Fruits and vegetables are so wonderful. Time to grow up. But your mom sounds like a fun soul and if you do have to decline at least have a good book and stay sitting down do you don't fall.
jslathre--thanks. Back to the gym today.

Zanelle--sometimes fear is a good thing. My mom is a great soul, but she is so limited in what she can do. I don't want to end up there.
We ARE on the same page, girl - and keep swimming those laps, I want to keep reading your work for decades and decades. Also helps with the stress of the 6th grade baby (mine's in 5th.)
Swimming is the BEST exercise you can if it is ALL you can do you will be laps ahead of most.

I found that just cutting wine out (had to stop the glass each night with dinner) made some pounds melt off. I didn't alter my eating, which has been healthy for awhile. Good luck, I know that knee pain...mine is don't want this either.
Hard not to cheer. This is so well-written, but I am sorry about the pain and the fear. Best of luck to you.
At my age, if my well-being depended on increased exercise and no muffins or cookies, well I would be in deep pass the cookies!
I hear ya'. Boy do I ever. (And I hear your knee too!)

You do still have time. Fear is a good motivator - just don't let it take over.
It isn't easy aging and breaking down, but you have time to make a difference. If you cut back and swim you can slowly lose. And even 10% makes a difference. I too remember the thin days when I took it for granted, and I work every day to keep things in some control. But I will never reach the way I was, and that's that. Just want, like you, to be healthy.
Hi Froggy,
I have a knee issue, I am a fifty-one year old grandma, I ended up slipping down a couple of steps during the summer months with my grandson in my arms. I shimmied down on my right side, I was bruised, and my knee has not been the same, I pray I don't have to say never been the same. Yeah, there is fear to think of not being able to get up and go, you still have young children that are looking for mom to take them places, I hope the swimming is good therapy. Yes I hear what you are saying regarding food as well, hey we are all human, everything in moderation (including twinkies) and no I do not like them, I am just saying.
Oh crap. Keep at it, my friend. I quit eating meat because that gave me more calories for bread and cheese. It DID help! Of course I cut back on those as well. But I'm just saying it's a balancing act and we're all doing it. You should never feel compelled to eat food that doesn't taste good just because it's healthy. Healthy food can taste awesome. It's just a matter of figuring out which combinations taste good and fit into your lifestyle with regard to prep time and interest in cooking.
Nancy--thanks so much for reading! And yes, we are definitely on the same page. Off to the pool.

Buffy--I love wine. But yes, it has to go, other than once in a while.

Maurene--knees are the worst. I'm hoping the fear will keep me honest.

dianaani--it's getting better, slowly. Still don't know what I did. But it's got me moving in the right direction, so I guess that's good.

David--you can (unfortunately for me) have my share of the cookies.

Jeanette--I need whatever motivator I can get.

Lea--this aging thing is for the birds! But I know it can be better, if I can be better.

Momsacomic--Wow... that sounds like a painful fall. Hope you're better. And yes, I have a lot of kid-chasing left to do.

Bell--I need some serious cooking changes. Hmm, changing bread and cheese for meat? Sounds awesome. This book I have calls for all kinds of artificial crap--fat-free this and that, sugar free things, full of all kinds of artificial ingredients. Tastes terrible. There's got to be a better way.
Tiffany--thanks for reading. I'm determined now, that I can still enjoy baking, I just need some seriously different recipes. Off to the library...
My knees are kaput as well. I wonder if cutting out sugar and yeast products will help your joints...
wow, I felt like you were writing this for me! /r
Joint pain is awful. My joints creak like a door jam and I'm in my thirties. Wear and tear, you know. And genetics. Hope you're feeling much better now. Flare-ups usually go away in a few days.
Ah! A fellow Oregonian! One of these days I'd like to get all the OP writers in our neck of the woods together for a meet 'n greet.

Let me just say that you and I are in the same place. I HAVE to work out daily in order to keep healthy, I HATE having to do it. My natural tendency is to eat and "veg out!"

My exercise is just walking but it's bearable with an iPod and headphones, so I can listen to music or a podcast of some kind. I just zone out for an hour every day.

Two years ago the doc told me it was either diet and exercise and/or statin drugs to get my cholesterol down to manageable levels (It was running 255) I also have a left knee that slowly developing arthritis but it's not so bad - yet - that I can't walk.

Two weeks ago I had my annual checkup and my cholesterol is 160 and I'm a picture of health - he says. No bum knee, dropped 14 pounds (of 30 needed!) and I can fish all day in the rivers.

It isn't rocket science. Just a little altering of eating habits and staying calm about it. It's not like I'm starving myself.

For me, it's keeping an online journal (at for 9 bucks a month. Nothing else. No special foods, no 40 dollar gym subscriptions. Healthy eating + daily exercise seems to do it.
for me. You have to let go of those pie crusts, yes - but you don't have to give them up. Allow yourself a reward, now and then.

Keep swimming, Froggy! Whatever form you like, "just do it," as Mr. Knight likes to say. Like you, I love hiking. I'm headed up to the Jawbone Flat / Opal Creek Wilderness (off the Little North Santiam) today, as my activity. The say there's a good steelhead run up there.

You go, girl!
Pauline, Michelle, Maureen, and flylooper--thanks so much for the kind comments. This week, I'm off to physical therapy for my on-again off-again knee, and back in the pool.