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Front Porch: She needs an extra dose of patience – and make it quick

A comic strip I saw some years ago showed a little boy (it might have been Dennis the Menace) kneeling by the side of his bed, saying his nighttime prayers. With hands together in prayer position he said, “Please, God, grant me patience … now!”

That has become me. Not the kneeling part, which my current status recovering from total knee replacement won’t permit, but the sentiment, yes. I need patience, and I’d like a good dose of it served up right now, thank you very much.

I’ve made my peace with being the 16th person in the queue on telephone hold and not fussy about long lines a the grocery store (I still object to self-checkout) or waiting for the grow-old-and-die traffic light to finally change – you know, things I can’t really do anything about.

What I am is impatient with me.

I know it takes longer to accomplish tasks as I get older – putting on shoes and socks and even hand-writing letters due to arthritis in my fingers. I’m not thrilled about any of that, but I’ve made my accommodation. I’ve worked to be able to complete these things at the speed and dexterity that I am capable of. They are end goals, slowly achieved.

My brain knows that recovery from major illnesses and surgeries takes a whole lot longer these days. I even wrote about that recently, but, frankly, that’s where I’m as impatient as all get out. What I know intellectually is not what I feel emotionally. I am not kind to myself about wanting and needing to get on with it, and frustrated when it’s not happening according to my self-set target dates.

I had a foreshadowing of what was to come when I gave birth to my first son. Lamaze classes were a new thing way back then and only offered in the evenings, which is when I was at work, so I went into the experience pretty uninformed. Labor was only seven hours, but some cutting was required.

I expected to hop off the table, take my baby home and, as I used to joke in those days, go and play tennis. Didn’t quite work out that way. I wondered what was wrong with me that I was unable to leap tall buildings at a single bound right after childbirth, no less walk without a shuffle for what felt like way too long. I expected better of (naive) me.

This past year I’ve had some surgeries, two of which were knee replacements, one last May and one this past February. Plus a few others, each having their own post-op protocols. With the first knee, there was a concern that I wouldn’t be able to get a good enough bend, a process which requires some not-such-fun work with a physical therapist. I worked hard at it and did OK in the end, but with much toil and self-criticism and irritation that this wasn’t happening fast enough – and behind schedule.

Things are progressing faster with the second knee, but my leg strength and balance are slow in returning. What can I do to speed this up, I ask. Just keep working the exercises. No, I mean goal achievement faster. Same answer. These things take time, especially for those of us who are, as is politely said, up in years.

It’s not that I want to run Bloomsday or hike a mountain trail. I’d be happy walking unassisted (no cane) across the parking lot to the door of Rosauers without limping or getting out of a booth at a restaurant without practically laying across the table and pushing myself up.

A very nice nurse at my orthopedic surgeon’s office a few weeks ago asked me how I was doing overall. Pretty well, I said, but I listed some of the things I was frustrated about, recovery goals I thought I was falling short on.

She checked the computer screen, saw my surgery date, and smiled kindly (not unlike how you do with a child who has just said a silly thing). “You know, it’s only been six weeks. You’re doing fine. Be kind to yourself.”

Only six weeks? Surely it’s been forever and a half.

Please, God, I need patience … now.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at

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