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  • Kristan Higgins

The Knee and Me

Updated: May 4, 2022


My knee and I have an on-again, off-again relationship. For 25 years, it’s occasionally bothered me, and I limp around tragically for a couple of hours until the pain magically disappears in the blink of an eye. Since hitting the big 5-0, though, it’s taken longer. A day. Then three days. Then a week.

Being my mother’s child, I ignore it. It’ll go away, I think (the pain, not the knee). It’s a strange kind of discomfort—it doesn’t hurt as much as it feels out of alignment. I have four very beautiful knee braces, and my favorite one has hinges and straps and looks a little S&M/steampunk.

Gotta get me one of these.

Gotta get me one of these.

The Knee (I think it deserves a capital letter at this point in the story) held up when we dropped Dearest Son off at college, but was making itself known as the Princess’s move-in approached. Nevertheless, I persisted in being Super-Mom—cleaning Dearest’s room with a shovel and bleach, taking Prinny to the mall, and baking her banana bread to bring with her to college.

The Knee fooled me on Friday, though, and decided not to work at all. I got my crutches—rather, the Princess’s crutches from sixth grade, because they have the names of all her friends written on the arm pads, so they’re more cheerful—and went to the urgent ortho clinic.

“Oh, how fun!” I said to myself, mentally fluffing my hair. “I’m the youngest person here!” One woman wore a t-shirt depicting a wolf in front of a full moon. Beautiful. Another woman in a wheelchair and had an oxygen tank. She loudly told her martyred grandson that if he took her to the dollar store she’d consider Wendy’s for lunch. His expression was tortured (just like my son’s when I ask for a foot rub). An older gentleman smiled at me and tipped his hat, and I felt adorable.

Finally, my turn arrived. “My knee’s out of whack again,” I said cheerfully because I love going to the doctors. The PA moved it around, proclaimed it a little swollen, and said I had arthritis.


Tabitha Teratoma, because real teratomas were too much even for me.

“It’s not arthritis,” said I. “I mean, yes, I have a little, but it’s not that. I think it’s structural.” I like to diagnose myself (and others). “Possibly a neurological weakness.” Tumor, I thought. Or, even more thrilling, one of those collections of hair and teeth that I saw at the Mutter Museum of Medical Weirdness.

“Ice, Motrin, elevation,” the PA chanted. Like I didn’t know that already! “Go easy on that knee.”

“Okay,” I lied. After all, I was moving my baby girl into her first apartment the next day. I would be folding and fluffing and nesting with her.

Alas, the Knee decided to declare war after all these years of our uneasy truce. I couldn’t sleep, groaned a lot, woke McIrish and whined, then drove down to Pennsylvania with my girl the next day, swallowing my pain quite nobly, I thought. Folded, fluffed, nested, all with crutches and the S&M brace.


Ice, ice baby.

Today, the Knee is punishing me. It’s swollen and lumpy and seems to mock me when I check it. Told you I was trouble, it seemed to say. I give it the same look Tyrion Lannister gives his brother Jaime—I love/hate you, how could you do this to me, want to have a flagon of wine later on?

And so I sit here, watching the news, waiting for Game of Thrones, McIrish and the dogs waiting on me as if I were their wounded queen—all in all, rather happy in my empty nest.


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