"I know, I know. I looked for a store like this, but couldn't find it until my PTpeople told me where to go." I got distracted by the big hats, the kind meant to be worn by people suffering from medical hair loss. "Oh look, want to try on bonnets?"
We sat on the chairs, discussed riding the scooters, and generally goofed off a bit. Finally we spoke to a salesperson, who started filling out insurance paperwork for my new crutches. We settled down and waited more quietly.
It was then that I noticed another pair of people doing much the same thing we had been doing. "Look honey," the woman said, pointing to something I couldn't see, "you can use this.... Well, maybe after your next double-bypass!" And she giggled.
They were a small elderly couple, both white-haired. He was balding, she walked with a cane. I'd guess they were around their late seventies? The mutual gleam in their eyes seemed to say they'd spent their lives being silly together; they were laughing and cheery. They also checked out the big hats, and she handed him a red and black plaid one. He put it on saying, "Yes, this looks nice and sporty, just my type."
It gradually became clear that they were looking for a better cane for her -- hers was too long. He teased her about her height, and she responded feistily, "Some people are just small. There's nothing wrong with that. Now shut up, or I'll beat you with my new cane."
She saw me watching, and she grinned mischievously. "You have to laugh about these things," she told me. "Otherwise you'll just start bawling." I smiled back at her, nodding in agreement.
At one point he was holding a nice new cane with purple and colored speckles on it, like tiny mosaic. It looked like it was made for her personality, but it was still too long and it wasn't adjustable. They decided what they needed was an adjustable cane, so it could fit her properly. The saleslady helping them offered, "I could just cut your current cane down, so it's the right size. It wouldn't even cost anything."
The woman paused at this, practicality starting to sway her. Her cane was a simple varnished wooden one in a "candy cane" shape with a rubber end. Then she decided, "No, I want a new one. Something that stands out. This one is too common."
Ultimately they settled on a very sleek-looking green cane with an ergonomic black handle. They adjusted it to the proper height, then she asked a little awkwardly if the saleslady could also cut her old cane down to the same size.
While this was being done, she used her new cane to walk over to where I was sitting with my leg propped up, and she asked what had happened to me. I told her about my knee surgery, and she responded very sympathetically. She said that she had also had knee surgery.
"I never expected a partial knee replacement," she told me with a shrug. "I didn't want to grow old, but what can you do? It's better than the alternative." We both laughed. We talked a bit more, and she told me again, "You have to laugh at life. If you don't, you'll cry."
After she left I sat there, staring at my leg propped in front of me, the little white pieces of tape scattered around the swollen area where the kneecap belonged. And I thought about growing old. And falling apart. And I thought about laughter....and I smiled.