Saturday, June 14, 2008

How did I get here?

One year ago I began this blog as my personal method of deciphering what "retirement" is all about. I had no grand design or preconceived notion about what I would show or say to anyone who might have the slightest passing interest. As this blog evolved I realized that there were people out there who would read the blog if it was thoughtful,
conscientious and combined with documentary photography. So, that being said, this posting takes an abrupt inward turn; it is about me, rather than what's around me. One week from now my life will never be the same. Actually, every day is like that but the subtle daily changes everyone's lives are barely noticed. Back to my point: On June 23rd I will have the first of two total knee joint replacement surgeries. Degeneratve arthritis in both knees has progresses to the point where the procedure is imperative. That a solution is available and is done regularly with a high success rate is incredible. I wince at the thought of the predicament people were in 10 or 20 years ago or longer. Did they just finally give up, sit in a wheelchair or suffer silently until they died of something else?
Modern medicine is my version of a miracle. I have been reflecting for a long
time about what occurred to bring me to this moment when I am willing and eager to let a surgeon essentially amputate my leg, remove the knee joint and insert a titanium replacement. I went back through some old photographs of me (there aren't all that many) because I know I have led a exuberant and energetic life. Perhaps I


should have acted on the advice of a physical therapist in my college days who said that I should not be a runner because I had such lousy knees and flat feet. My favorite quote rings in my head, "the years teach what the days can never know." Yet, I don't regret a minute of the places I've been and the great people who were there with me at the time. The photographs I've chosen represent periods in my physical life. (1) an instructor in the Colorado Outward Bound School, summer 1972; photographing the EA Ranch in North Park. Colorado, the homestead of my long-time friend Ed Howard, summer 1974; at the Kentucky Derby Balloon festival, May 1977; running around Lake Union in Seattle during a trip to cover the University of Kentucky men's basketball team in the Final Four, March 1984; the last day of the ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park when I was photographing Mark Wellman, the first paraplegic climber to make the summit; completing my second (and last) Markleeville Death Ride, a one-day, 15,000' of elevation gain over during a 130 mile cycling event, July 2005. What comforts me is that the last of the disciplines I've enjoyed (cycling, mountaineering, climbing, running, skiing, and a rigorous professional life) cycling is what saved me from the operating table for at least five years. I kept my quadriceps strong which supported the knee joints, allowing me to continue working and riding. I rode to live, to work, to eat, to rest and ride again. I did save the best for last. It was hard to give up running yet an obvious decision when knee pain overtakes the will to put on the shoes and head out to the road. Cycling was more than a substitute; it became a passion. Cycling was the only time I could actually be pain free, at least in the knees. Completing centuries was easier than walking a half-mile. I have one job now for the rest of 2008. Rehab. Everything else is behind me now. The home projects are done, Allison is here and working. Our plan which began almost four years ago is still real and happening, day by day. I am totally ready of for the next phase of "moving on."

4 comments:

Brent. said...

Jay,

Wishing you nothing but total success on the 24th!
We've a few more Central Oregon hide outs to explore and shoot, so get your hiking legs back!

Brent.

Anonymous said...

beautiful post. reflection and photos as historical documents are such a great tool. thanks for sharing and know we'll get out before the 24th! gotta find out about the sisters beer opening date :-)
-rob.

Chris said...

Love the words and photos. Can't wait to read the blog one year from now as you reflect over what you have done with two new knees!!

Anonymous said...

you have an attitude for life. keep on keeping on my brother