“Worse things have happened.”
If this quote sounds familiar to you, then you’ve probably been around me in the past couple of months. If not, then let me give you some back-story. Two months ago, I suffered a knee injury, tearing ligaments in my right knee. It’s been an uncomfortable two months, wherein I was desperate to get out of the house and interact with other people, but also been extremely uncomfortable whenever I did so. Car rides were miserable. Especially because I’m a better driver than everyone else and haven’t been able to drive for two months.
Yet whenever people asked me how I was doing, I’d answer with “Worse things have happened.” I knew that my injury was going to be a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things. I knew that people have suffered far worse injuries than I have, or suffered far greater loses than loss of mobility in one leg. I also knew that people didn’t want to hear me say “I’m f***ing miserable. I’m tired of sleeping on the couch. I hate not being able to carry my own dishes to and from the kitchen. I hate that going to the bathroom is an exhausting ordeal.” Yet, those were all real thoughts that went through my head.
I also hated the fact that my friend Thomas, who felt responsible for the injury, felt so torn up about the event that caused the ligament tears. (A bit of advice for all of you: Don’t wrestle people who know Judo if you do not know Judo.) He tried to pay for my emergency room visit. We refused, and not just because I’m lucky enough to have a wife who is a nurse which offers us excellent insurance benefits. He insisted on other ways to “make it up” to me. However, he did nothing wrong, and I refused. He did state that he was going to buy me a “s**t load of beer” at a recent beard and moustache competition we were both in attendance at. I relented, because I knew he was going to keep offering things, and I happen to really, really like beer.
Throughout this whole ordeal though, I’ve been humbled by the generosity of my friends, as well as strangers. I’ve been offered the most comfortable chairs in the house. Doors have magically opened for me everywhere I’ve gone. People who may have normally avoided gentlemen with giant beards have offered their empathy and shared stories of similar injuries. My friends Ian and Kate purchased two fanny packs for me to cart around my various snacks, drinks, and a bottle of Tylenol 3. It is the most hilarious, yet practical, gifts I’ve ever received. And my wife, Kate (different from my friend Kate mentioned above, but also my friend…my best friend in fact) has done the best she can hiding her disgust with my insistence on doing things for myself that I had no business doing for myself while on crutches.
But now, I’m off crutches, and have graduated to a cane. And not just any cane, but one built by Jack L. Smith, Jr., SSG (Staff Sergeant) – U.S. Army, a man I’ve never met. On April 26, 1989, Jack was killed during a training exercise for the Persian Gulf War. While I never had the chance to meet Jack, he has had a profound impact on my life, more so than most.
You see, Jack is my wife’s dad. He helped raise her, helped shaped her world view, and is largely responsible for who she has become today. And who she is today is someone who is not only beautiful, but fiercely intelligent, hilarious, kindhearted, generous, incredibly stubborn, and my best friend. She is my favorite.
Using Jack’s cane offers me a connection to him. And as he is, in a large part, responsible for who I am today, it makes me smile to know that even though I’ll never get a chance to meet him, that he is helping hold me up today. And I never would have been able to connect to Jack in this way if I hadn’t injured my knee.
You see, it’s all about perspective. When life gives you a lemon, make Cran-Apple Juice.