Bad things come in threes


I thought I had escaped it a year ago. I should have known better. After all, they say, bad things come in threes.

Three summers ago, I broke an ankle when I stepped on a barbell I did not see. Two summers ago, I dislocated my shoulder during a wrestling match with a grandson. When last summer came and went, I thought I was home free. Then came last year’s basketball season.

One day, I officiated four youth basketball games. The next day, I could not walk.

I went home from officiating and — other than the usual aching and stiffness that comes with jogging up and down a basketball court for four hours when you’re approaching six decades old — I felt fine. The next morning I got out of bed and took a step. Something did not feel good. I took another step. Something felt worse. I sat back down on the bed.

In a sort of perplexed state of mind, I rubbed the knee that the pain was coming from, figuring I had just stepped awkwardly or something. I got up, and took another step. Something definitely was not right.

There was no pain at all as long as I did not put any weight on my left knee, but if I did, there was a surprisingly sharp pain. Seeing that I had absolutely no issues before I went to bed, I kept assuming it would go away. But as I hobbled and hopped around the house, it became obvious that it was going nowhere good any time soon. The next thing I knew, I was looking in a closet for the crutches I’d left there a couple years before from the broken ankle.

It was a relief to find the crutches, but then another thought entered my mind. In a couple hours I had to be at the grandson’s choral performance. He was kind of new at that sort of thing, and felt strongly that I should go support him, but I did not want to hear the inevitable “what-happened-to-you” questions. Especially when I had no cast, no brace, and absolutely no explantion to offer anyone who asked why I was on crutches.

As the concert time grew near, I felt slightly better and could kind of walk — if you want to call moving at a turtle’s pace walking. And there was no way I was going anywhere moving that slow. So I got a shower, threw on some clothes, grabbed the crutches and we headed to the concert.

As we were making our way from the parking lot to the concert area, the very first person we encountered asked my wife, “What happened to him? We just saw him running up and down a basketball court yesterday.”

“I don’t know,” I responded with a shrug, feeling like some kind of social outcast.

Like I knew I would, I had to repeat the same answer over and over before I finally made it out of the concert hall and back to our car.

By that evening I was feeling a little better, enough that I chucked the crutches in a corner. For the next two or three weeks I moved slower than usual, and while my basketball officiating was done for the year, the knee gradually got better and better. Then I did some hiking this summer. It went fine, but again I could tell something was not right.

So, finally, I did what I should have done nine months ago and made a doctor appointment. Turns out, I have a miniscus tear, and next week the good doctor is going to fix it. Then I’ll be on cruchtes again. And I’ll have to answer questions all over again. And I’ll probably chuck the crutches before the good doctor says I should.

The good thing is, the doctor tells me that if things go well, I could be back to full activity in six weeks — or maybe eight, he said, seeing that I’m not as young as I once was.

Maybe he has a point. Maybe I should quit wrestling and running around basketball courts like a kid. But what the heck. That would be no fun. And besides, I’m past that bad things come in threes cliche… Right?

Time to find my referee’s whistle.

Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist Gilliland Staff columnist

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