I spend most Saturday mornings in my happy place: the lap pool. That’s where, in an attempt to channel my inner Katie Ledecky (or maybe her mom…or a very cool aunt), I stuff my voluminous curls into a latex cap, adjust my prescription goggles, and get my freestyle on.
Boom! I swear, I feel like I’m 25 again as I slice through the water: vibrant, young, and free, but this time minus the relationship angst or the adult onset acne.
An hour later, I climb out of the pool, feeling refreshed and vibrant, and head to the locker room to swap surgery stories and arthritis advice with the nice ladies getting ready for Senior Splash Aerobics.
Could someone grab my housecoat and make me a mug of chamomile tea? Because just like that, I’m 85.
In reality, of course, I’m neither. Just stuck somewhere near the awkward intersection of Not-So-Young but Not-Really-Old, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. That’s right folks, my name is Mona, I’m 44, and I’m too old to be hip, and too young to have just had a total hip replacement.
At times it’s dizzying enough to make my head ache, but the good news is that my hip really doesn’t anymore. At least nowhere near the way it did before. Which I’ve learned in online support groups now makes me a “hippie,” just not the kind who was at Woodstock.
But to quote the modern sage Shakira, these hips don’t lie. And to paraphrase my orthopedic surgeon, neither did those x-rays, which he referred to as a “hot mess,” because he’s evidently way cooler than I am. And he’s also pretty easy on the eyes according to the Senior Splashers who have dubbed him Dr. Cutie Pie. I inquired if he was their McDreamy or McSteamy but they drew a blank on that reference. Ouch.
Speaking of ouches, I didn’t injure my hip all at once. It was a slow decline into hot messiness, thanks to an alignment issue I was probably born with but didn’t know anything about until I had put several thousand miles on the joint. Somewhere between an 8-mile road race around Mackinac Island and hiking my 8473rd load of laundry up the stairs, my hip reached its tipping point, and much like my first car, things went south very quickly. That’s how I found myself rushing back from a 4th grade field trip to attend the required Joint Replacement Boot Camp, where I pre-registered for my surgery. Spoiler alert: it turned out to be nothing like the boot camp classes I used to attend. Or teach.
As I removed my name tag from the planetarium and swapped it for the hospital-issued variety, the nurse in charge asked if I would be taking notes for my mother or father? That day alone, I think at least 5 people posed the $64 million dollar question: “Why are you getting a hip replacement? You’re too young!”
In fact, if I had a dime for every person who has asked me that, I could probably pay cash for my total hip replacement. And the arthroscopic surgery that came before that. And the MRIs, arthrograms, 2.5 years of physical therapy, multiple cortisone injections, and failed stem cell treatment. But I digress.
I used to be known for the spring in my step, but for the past two years I’ve been gimping around with a decidedly unhip limp. Snap, Crackle, and Pop were not just for breakfast- they resonated from my lower region as I inched my way up and down the stairs, one painful step at a time. 44 may seem too young for a total hip replacement, but it’s also too young to be an invalid. Or in chronic pain. Or a sideline parent to your young, active children.
So when I finally found the surgeon who was ready to upgrade me to a sleek, shiny new model, I wanted to do a happy dance. An age appropriate, hip-friendly one, of course. Is there something between a twerk and a jig? I wanted to shout for joy. Is there something between “hip hip hooray” and “Fo’shizzle?”
As I was wheeled back for surgery, I high-fived the doctor. It may have had something to do with the delicious cocktail of drugs I had just downed, but I’d like to think it was pure happiness. Don’t get me wrong- I’m very thankful for all my old hip did for me. It carried me across marathon finish lines, scaled Ayers Rock, and took in more majestic sights and ocean views than any one joint deserves. Together we rocked an entire decade of step aerobics, and it was even kind enough to make room for 3 babies. I have nothing but love for that old ball-and-socket, and I promise to celebrate it every year on May 30, my surgeryversary. Maybe I’ll bake it a cake. Or is there something…hipper? Maybe bone broth?
But for now, it’s on to a new chapter, working title: Titanium is the New Black.
One day, I’m going to show this new hip the world, but right now, we’re still getting to know each other. We like to Netflix and chill…as in a movie and an icepack. We enjoy long, slow walks through the neighborhood where we’re still learning each others gait. Leisurely breakfasts where we linger over egg white veggie omelets with a large side of gratitude. Steaming hot cups of coffee on the deck where we simultaneously feel alive and ponder our mortality.
It’s really not such a bad place to be.
Especially Saturday mornings when my new hip and I head to the pool, and somewhere between the blue water and the blue-haired ladies, we dive right into the sweet spot.