As soon as Mary Ellen made plans for our last vacation, I made an appointment with the orthopedist. My left knee was killing me and I didn’t want to be a drag on our daily activities. My knee problem goes back to an old football injury in college. I was drunk and fell out of the stands during Homecoming.

When I arrived at my appointment, I asked why my former doctor had unexpectedly retired. The receptionist said he wanted to devote more time to running triathlons and skiing, which is really nice for him but for the patients who were scheduled for knee surgery, this is kind of rubbing it in.

My new doctor said he needed to take a few pictures of my knee.  I told him that wouldn’t be necessary and showed him some great shots of myself in Bermuda shorts on my iPhone from our recent New Orleans trip. But X-rays were still required.  They clearly showed the reason for my discomfort and surgery would be my only option for relief.

“Dick,” said Dr. Estes, “I understand you and your wife are going on vacation. Not too strenuous, I hope, considering your knee.”

“She wants to go to Canada and go hiking.”

“Sounds a bit rocky to me.”

“Yes, we’re visiting Banff National Park.”

“No, I mean your marriage. What kind of wife makes a husband endure that much pain?”

Dr. Estes confirmed I needed a new knee, but in the meantime he recommended a cortisone shot right in the problem area. Several years ago when I had a similar pain, I got the identical injection. The same nurse was still working in the practice.  She walked in with the kind of big grin that only someone who was going to stick a needle directly in your throbbing kneecap could have.

“Oh, hi, Mr. Wolfsie. Well, I guess you remember the drill.” It was not my place to offer marketing advice, but I told Julie that “the drill” is not the best word choice to put a patient at ease.
The cortisone helped, but most of the trails near Banff were far too rugged for me to negotiate, so I waited in the car while my wife and son walked along the Hoodoos. I waited for them while they hiked in Johnston Canyon and I waited for them while they explored the Marsh Loop. Wait, wait, wait is pretty much what I did all week. Brett told me he took some great photos, and I even had to wait to get back to the hotel to see how much fun I missed.

I attempted to hike one trail that had a sign saying “handicapped and stroller friendly,” since it was flat and paved. I question the friendliness part because while I was hobbling along as fast as I could go, a guy in a wheelchair was griping at me to speed it up, and a toddler in a stroller was shaking his fist and crabbing at me to get over to the right so he could pass.  I turned around and went back to wait for my family.

When I got home, I called the doctor’s office to be scheduled for knee replacement surgery. “Okay,” said Leslie, Dr. Estes’ assistant, “but the earliest he can fit you in is September. Will you be okay waiting?”

“Of course,” I said, “I’ve gotten really, really good at that.”

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Mary Ellen went to a conference last week in Chicago and left me at home. Alone. When she abandoned me last year, I realized I did not know how to run the dishwasher or operate the convection oven. I felt guilty about all the dirty dishes she came home to, but I am really good with the clothes washer, so to make up for the mess in the kitchen, I went through Mary Ellen’s laundry basket and washed everything.  I don’t know what she ate in Chicago, but when she got home two days later and took everything out of the dryer, nothing fit.

Before Mary Ellen left, she spent an entire evening showing me how to use all the television devices and explaining to me the difference between HDMI1 and HDMI2. It is still not clear to me what those initials actually stand for, although HD should be HELP DICK. I do know this: having the choice of HDMI1 and HDMI2 costs me 200 bucks a month.

Mary Ellen and I watch so many different programs that I can’t keep any of the story lines or characters straight. I really can’t miss an episode or I am lost. The one exception to this was the old TV series Lost, where even after I watched every episode, I was still lost.

When we watch shows together, I am continually asking Mary Ellen to hit the pause button so I can ask questions, like: Is that a good guy or a bad guy? Wasn’t she killed in the last episode? Is that his wife or sister?

The first night she was in Chicago, I checked out the DVR to see what I needed to get caught up on. There were shows like: Underground, Billions, Homeland, Feud, 24, Designated Survivor. There were also dozens of British dramas and mysteries in the queue, which Mary Ellen loves but I don’t watch because they are not always captioned. Why can’t these British people speak English like the rest of us?

I put on Billions, a great show about the world of high-stakes finance, starring Damian Lewis as cutthroat investor Bobby Axelrod.  Five minutes into it, I called Mary Ellen in her hotel room to help me understand what was going on…

“There’s only one reason you could be calling at this hour. You’re watching a TV show and you have questions.”

“Yes, I am very confused. This Bobby Axelrod character: wasn’t he killed a few episodes back?”

“No, Dick, you are thinking of Damian Lewis when he played Nicholas Brody in Homeland.”

“Is that the show where he beheaded two of his wives?”

“No, that was when he played Henry the VIII in Wolf Hall.”

“So that’s how he earned his reputation as a cutthroat?”

After a few more calls, Mary Ellen was getting impatient with me. “Dick, promise me you’ll quit watching TV so I can get some sleep.”

I searched under the couch and between the pillows. I looked under the coffee table and behind the lamp. I really did want to turn off the TV. But it wasn’t remotely possible.

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