The Other I

January 15, 2022

Surgery for independence

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 5:04 pm

All my life, if I’ve had the choice between doing something for myself and getting somebody to help or even do it for me, I have inevitably chosen independence. One of the challenges of getting old-old, at least for me, is that I need help in everyday things so much more often.

Now I have just learned that my date for hip surgery has been moved up to next Thursday. Great. The plan is that the surgery should reduce, or even eliminate the pain and weakness in my leg which has increasingly interfered with my walking, even with a walking stick, and sometimes even around the house, with lifting packages like a bag of groceries, and sleeping through the night without being constantly kept awake with pain. So the idea is that the surgery should give me back a significant amount of independence.

But even if surgery is successful, my first challenge is going to be that for at least somewhere between 2 and 7 months of recovery time, I am going to need help, the level of which I don’t think I’ve needed since early childhood. Getting dressed, washed, getting food, getting to the clinic where my exercising and progress will be directed and monitored. Even picking things up off the floor. I will have the help of a walker, and various other instruments for hip surgery recovery I got on Amazon, but my biggest support will be from my nephew’s wife with whom I am living, and whose generosity in giving up her time to give me the support I need could not be greater.

My task is to accept this support with equal generosity and grace while at the same time putting in as much effort as I can into regaining my ability to move around independently. I know to say thank you and not to grumble that she’s trying to run my life or keeps telling me what to do. My challenge is to truly feel grateful, not just say it.

Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting. —Elizabeth Bibesco

I’ve been contemplating the beatitude “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” but I’m not so sure about that. Giving is so often the privilege of the gifted and succcessful – giving out baskets of food, clothing, even money to the poor, taking care of the sick, donating to charities makes me feel like a really good person.

But being at the end of that giving, being the person whose empty basket is being filled, who is being given help, can feel demeaning, at least less rewarding than giving. It’s not that giving is not an intrinsically rewarding experience and of great value to both the giver and receiver. But I’ve not had a lot of practice in my life being a gracious receiver. I am grateful for a lot of things in my life, but I have tenaciously reisted being what I experienced as “bossed around,” whether by the church, by the medical profession, by teachers, and especially by men who feel superior to women. So being a receivere rather than giver makes me feel inferior much more frequently than grateful.

My goal is to truly increase my sense and expression of gratitude for the support I know I will be given in especially in the coming months.

I hope my loss of independence doesn’t interfere for long with my continuing to write these posts at least once a week – I find writing them helps me — oh goodness, it even supports me, now that I think of it. For that, thank you for reading this.


  1. I absolutely hate to receive help when I feel weak. It makes me feel weaker still, so I understand your struggle. I’m firmly at the end of middle age. Your words usher me into the next phase to young-old with grace, humor and humility. I believe that thinking through your struggles will educate me in advance of mine. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Jae — January 15, 2022 @ 6:56 pm | Reply

    • And as I said in my post, thank you too. I’m not exaggerating that comments like yours are really supportive.


      Comment by theotheri — January 15, 2022 @ 7:01 pm | Reply

  2. The very best of luck for your surgery. Please do post as soon as you can, and let us know that all is well.
    Your words remind me immediately of my mother, who is 79 this year. When she was younger, she took it upon herself to care for both her in-laws, one after the other – my grandfather after his stroke, my grandmother through her final years of poor health. After they passed, and she was still only in her late fifties, her husband (my father) lost his eyesight to diabetes, and became completely physically and emotionally reliant on her. She was only 63 when my father passed away, and has been fiercely independent for the last 15 years. It appears to my sister and me that her biggest fear is that of becoming a recipient of exactly the kind of largesse that she selflessly made available to others for so long.
    I would strongly urge you not to “feel inferior” in any way, for being “old-old” as you call it, and in need of help. I am by no means religious, but it certainly helps me, from time to time, to live my life AS IF some religious models were true. In my Hindu case, for instance, it helps me occasionally to pretend that there is a giant roster in which one’s deeds are tally-marked and accounted for, and on this roster, if one chalks up a sufficient number of positive notches over time, at some point one may receive an unpaid-for windfall or two, which then one accepts, if not with gratitude, nor a sense of entitlement, then at least with a kind of peace.
    I do know that these things are easier to write about in the context of others, than it is to convince oneself. I wish you the very best.


    Comment by psriblog — January 15, 2022 @ 10:17 pm | Reply

    • Yes, writing about it in relation to other people has the risk of preaching. But just as you find the Hindu roster in which one’s good deeds are tally-marked can sometimes bring you peace, I find writing about the personal challenge I’m facing – rather than talking about it out loud even to a sympathetic listener – a kind of contemplation which I am hoping will bring changes to myself in a way that my preaching or teaching about it is not likely to do. Thank you for sharing your experience and insights. I find your comments encouraging rather than preachy or bossy.


      Comment by Terry Sissons — January 15, 2022 @ 10:45 pm | Reply

    • Well said – although there may be some sense of “superiority” felt by a giver or inferiority in the part off the receiver, I think this is the exception. We are in this life together and helping others and receiving help are two sides of the same coin


      Comment by rayvoith — January 16, 2022 @ 3:28 pm | Reply

      • I couldn’t agree more that we are all in this together. However, for myself as a big-time receiver, I’m not concerned about feeling inferior so much as the potential of resenting that I’m being bossed around. Interestingly, the comments following this post – including yours – are helping me a lot. Terry

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Terry Sissons — January 16, 2022 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

        • Just a suggestion – if you feel bossed around, have an open discussion with the caregiver about your feelings – maybe both can find a better way to share the experiences.


          Comment by rayvoith — January 16, 2022 @ 3:37 pm

        • Exactly. A discussion was immensely helpful.


          Comment by Terry Sissons — January 17, 2022 @ 1:53 am

  3. Everyone I know who’s had a hip replacement (maybe four or five people) was transformed afterward for the better, physically and mentally. You’re in for an ordeal, a shortish one: try to be cheerful.

    After jumping into it here and there, using your subject guide, I took a few minutes to download your blog from the beginning. I read it a few entries at a time, and am now still sometime in 2007. I think of it as a memoir, and enjoy it greatly. Thanks for writing.

    — Jim


    Comment by jmmckinley3349 — January 17, 2022 @ 10:16 pm | Reply

    • Oh Jim, thank *you* for your comments. That you are going back and reading the blog from day 1 certainly means a lot. I’ll be interested to hear if my writing about why I entered – and why I left Maryknoll – gives you any idea of why some of us entered the convent. 2 more days until my surgery. It certainly beats going into the hospital for Covid. Thank you for your encouragement.


      Comment by Terry Sissons — January 18, 2022 @ 1:26 am | Reply

  4. dear Terry, With you dear friend across the miles as you face the surgery. Good that you have nephew and his wife offering help and hospitality. Ah, growing old and needing help. My mother died at age 93 (Dad at 51). In her last 3 years, Mom was at a fine Assisted Living residence that I visited twice a week, as did my brother John. My mother was thrilled whenever I came and offered help of the kind that was companionship. I got to know the other residents. Sadly, they rarely had any visitors and used to say: My son (or daughter) live not far away, but they live such busy lives these days, so I don’t ask for help. Physical help came via the fine and caring staff, but emotional help was rare for most of these seniors. In my grandmother’s last years, mom took care of her at home and I joined in helping after leaving Maryknoll convent. Ah, younger people do not realize that often within our minds we may feel quite young and alert (if blest in that way), but they notice the physical limitations and sometimes imagine our needs and jump ahead with advice or physical assistance. Perhaps we are giving to them the joy of helping us. Like you, I turn to writing (poetry) for expression, connection and meaning. Also, I, like many whatever age, during this pandemic often long for a personal phone call or email. If it doesn’t happen for me, I try to reach out/ May your healing go well. Your family and friends care and send love, Carolyn aka Cookie


    Comment by Carolyn M. Grassi — January 18, 2022 @ 12:27 am | Reply

    • Thank you so much for your support, Cookie. I hope we can touch base not too long after my surgery. Maybe not yet up and running, but with time and energy left over after all my prescribed physio-therapy etc etc. Terry


      Comment by Terry Sissons — January 18, 2022 @ 1:25 am | Reply

    • Carolyn,

      I see that you, like Terry, were Maryknoll.

      I was a maryknoll seminarian and have a website with many entries from ex seminarians, ex priests, priests and a few from ex nuns. I have about 600 people on my address list.

      The site is here:

      There are only a few things about the maryknoll nuns – see here.

      Maybe you have something to submit for the site?

      I join you in discussions here with Terry, who always posts interesting things on her blog


      Comment by rayvoith — January 18, 2022 @ 3:02 am | Reply

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