On a Friday I was fine. It was the last day of school, I celebrated with our moving-on Pre-K students. Our goodbyes were bittersweet. I’d come to love every one of those children since the last August when they’d skipped into my life on the first day of school.

But I’m not going to lie. I was ready for the summer vacation, the likes of which I hadn’t known in all my adult working life. A lot of doing what I wanted, plenty of doing the things I envisioned I’d finally have time to do.

Monday, Memorial Day, I had a sort of painful catch in my left knee, but it wasn’t a life-stopper. Just joked with an old college friend, I’d need his help walking across the street to the service. He played along, said he’d be honored – and wouldn’t hold it against me that I’d refused to date him back in the day. I don’t think he ever asked. But whatever.

By Tuesday night I absolutely could not walk. The pain in the left knee was agonizing, I leaned on my bed frame and other furniture to get across the apartment. I couldn’t imagine what the problem might be.

It only got worse. Wednesday afternoon, at friends’ and neighbors’ insistence, I went to the hospital emergency room. The X-Ray showed bone-on-bone. The ER doctor referred me to an orthopedic doctor, prescribed some pain pills and gave me the “RICE” advice – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

But on Thursday, I had an appointment at the dentist to have a “dead” tooth under a 30-year-old crown extracted, and I was ready for that sucker to go. I limped on a borrowed walker into the dentist’s office. My mouth was deadened and ready, when the dentist said he couldn’t pull the tooth. There was evidence of infection and a distinct possibility the tooth would crumble into the gum and he would not be able to remove the root’s splinters. I needed oral surgery, he declared.

My knee pain, coincidentally, was beyond excruciating by then. I suppose it’s too late to make a long story short, but I’ve only given these details to stand as a public service announcement.

My doctor connected dots and prescribed a strong antibiotic, theorizing the infection around my tooth had spread to my bloodstream and settled in my knee. An MRI has shown, in fact, there is a complex tear in my meniscus. Since there wasn’t sign of injury or trauma, and because I had shown remarkable improvement after just a few doses of the antibiotic, my doctor said the idea of the infection spreading has basis. An infection likely caused at least some of the damage to the meniscus.

I will see the orthopedic doctor on Tuesday.

Friends, neighbors and family members have been wonderfully – amazingly – helpful through my ordeal. I could not have made it without their help and am able to walk with a walker.

My point – and I do have one – is this. With the probability of knee surgery looming, I shared my fears when my middle son called. What would this do to the mid-July trip we have planned to Orlando? We were going there for Tyler to visit his paternal grandfather, who’s 92 and made a sort of bucket list of things – like visiting the grandchildren – before there’s not time. And at 6, Tyler’s daughter, Kylah, is a good age for going to Disney World.

I had other worries. I’d loved my job as a Pre-K assistant more than I could say. But one needs good knees on that job. What if I couldn’t go back?

“Mom,” Tyler said, “a wise woman used to tell me, ‘Take life one day at a time. If a day’s too much, take it five minutes at a time.’”

“I always told you that,” I said, thinking some wise woman was getting my credit.

“You did,” Tyler said. “And you also told me, ‘If you’re not happy where you are, you won’t be happy where you’re going.’ I apply those two philosophies in my life for whatever the situation. I tell the people at work they have to do that. It works.”

 

He was right. And I was proud. Am proud. My saga will continue, but I believe, because my daddy used to always tell me, it will be OK. “No one knows what ‘OK’ means,” he said, “but you’ll find, if you keep the faith and don’t give up, “it” will be OK.

 

Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at ccfulton2002@yahoo.com.