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Today is three weeks since my surgery. That’s half-way through the “cast time” of the recovery — the time that I’ll have to wear a cast. Last week, they removed the old cast, took out the staples, told me that the wound looked like it was healing well, and put on a new full-leg cast.

It’s been a long time. It was a month between the time I fell and the surgery, and it has now been three weeks since the surgery. I will have a cast for another three weeks (although, hopefully, I can trade this full-length cast in for a shorter one next week). After I get the shorter cast, the doctor said that I can start physical therapy. He said to expect the physical therapy to last for up to six months.

St. Anthony ShrineI really didn’t realize how serious this injury was. Before surgery was a option, people with this injury just had a “bum leg” for the rest of their lives. With no control over the knee, the leg could collapse at any time unless it was locked in the extended position with splints or braces. With modern surgery, recovery can take over six months to regain much of the use of the knee. Everyone also says the physical therapy can be quite painful. Ouch!

I am living in one our retirement communities at Arch Street in Boston. The photo to the left is the view of our shrine on Arch Street from my bedroom. The community here has about 15 friars: three caretakers, 11 elderly friars and me. The elderly friars suffer from everything from cancer to beginning Alzheimer’s to simple old age. Most of them are friars that I have not encountered before — because I was working in Bolivia and Peru, and because I was living in active communities of friars. I am finding them to be a delightful group. Older friars can be characters, but then so can many of the younger ones.

Our culture, by and large, does not deal well with the elderly. We think of ourselves as a “youth culture,” but I think that the reality is that we are scared to confront our own mortality. We know intellectually that our time here is limited, but it is not something that we want to dwell on. Keeping old people hidden away is one way to avoid having to continually confront this reality.

In the old days (but not that many years ago) the elderly lived at home and people tended to die and be waked at home. Death was something that was part of life. We were born, we lived and we died.

My parents live with my brother’s family, and it is the only tri-generational house I know. From what I’ve seen, the experience has been a good one for everyone in the household. The grandparents get the energy of the grandchildren, and the children see that getting old is simply a part of life.

So, this cross-generational experience, is now mine too. Coming from a formation house, where most members of the community were younger than me, it is a little shocking to find myself the youngest member of the community — especially at the ripe old age of 57! I am find the experience to be a good one, however, and am enjoying living with the friars here. It would be nice to get out from time to time, but hopefully that time will be coming soon.

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