Daddy had a knee that troubled him from the time he’d left the Navy. It swelled and pained him in bad weather, likely osteoarthritis. He felt human bodies were like automobiles, if something wasn’t running just right, you fixed it. Unfortunately, as a few of us have noticed, wear and tear is normal with some things best left alone. Daddy visited numerous doctors, thinking knee surgery would fix him as good as new. He was disappointed when every one suggested conservative treatment, not surgery. Finally, he found a doctor at the Veterans Hospital who agreed to fix the knee, though he assured Daddy it wasn’t likely to make him better.
He lay in the hospital more than two months, casted from ankle to thigh. Getting up on crutches and ambulating was a nightmare. He was not a stoic man. This surgery business was not turning out to be a simple tune up like he’d envisioned. Upon discharge, he was still casted and hobbling on crutches from bed to chair, not a good outcome. He was still in a lot of pain, disappointed, depressed, and miserable. When Daddy was in pain, everybody was in pain. He spent his days stretched out in a recliner in the middle of the living room, watching TV, loud! From that point, he could supervise all goings on. He critiqued every move the family made. We were all most imperfect. He listened in on all phone conversations, insisting on knowing who it was. What did they want? It was not a good time to be a Swain.
Eventually, he got his cast off. The staff attempted to help him bend his leg. It was excruciating, of course. He was instructed to exercise every day and increase the movement daily, the extent of his therapy. He didn’t deal with the pain well, so he was left with a stiff leg.
All their vehicles had standard transmissions. Daddy couldn’t work the clutch, so he couldn’t drive. He was so critical, no one would drive him if they could get out of it. It was common for farm kids to drive early then, long before they got a license. Connie and Marilyn were eager to drive, so eventually, they were driving him about the countryside. If they went to town, Mother was stuck driving him, much to her disgust. Mother was barely five feet and Daddy six foot three inches. He slid the seat as far back as possible and stretched out on the front seat. When Mother tried to slide the seat forward, it jammed. When she put some muscle behind it and gave another try, the stuck seat broke loose and flew forward, bending his knee and simultaneously banging it into the dash. He screamed, shoved the seat back, and jumped nimbly from the car. When he finished his dance of agony, he found his stiff knee healed, though I don’t believe he ever thanked Mother