I went to the doctor on November 30, 2009, for the noblest reason: Karen told me I had to go. Six weeks earlier, returning from a long SAT seminar road trip, I had dropped a full, heavy crate of COMPANIONS TO 50 CLASSICS on my right foot and ankle. After a Christian exclamation—I don’t remember exactly what I said—I cried in pain. But, even in this moment, I knew there was nothing I could do.

When I left my teaching job I obtained sorry health insurance with a $2 trillion deductible. So I could not afford a doctor’s visit so I did the next best thing—I whined and complained to Karen until she made me go to the doctor’s office.

I went. I went to an orthopedic surgeon in fact. The Harvard educated surgeon actually laughed as the x-ray of my foot and ankle, which, by the way, had visited a similar (but not the same) Harvard surgeon on September 11, 1975 (I kid you not, September 11) packed in dry ice next to my compound fractured right hip in a ambulance headed from Possom Fork, AR, to Pine Bluff, AR. I remember it looked like some fish bait or something—but I know that sounds gross.

For the next two months I languished in a tiny Pine Bluff, Arkansas, hospital between life and death. I kept the foot though and the new surgeon was laughing at it now.

“Mr. Stobaugh, really, there is nothing I can do. Maybe six weeks ago [sardonically] perhaps—but it is November 30!!!!!”

I was ok with that. I needed a handy sympathy getter for my wife who detests hyperbole and whimpiness. Seriously, do you know how many curb side garbage visits I had deterred through that old ankle? Since I passed 50 and learned occasionally to say, “Oh, it is ok, honey, a little pain builds character anyway” Karen had sighed and done some of my chores. Or maybe she made me do more chores—perhaps she thought I needed more character. I am still sorting it out.

To young people reading this blog: It is true: home school moms have this sixth sense—the gift of discernment?—to know when spouses and offspring are, shall we say, “exaggerating the truth to gain personal gain?’’ It amazes me how my 4 home school kids got away with NOTHING with that lady, but, here is a news flash: MOMS DON’T LOSE THIS GIFT WHEN THE KIDS FINISH HOME SCHOOLING. If anything, it is sharpened and focused on one object of dedicated attention—ME! My wife, the only love of my life, still keeps me on the straight and narrow with aplomb and vigorous realism as surely as she moved my children forward.

Anyway, my new doctor suggested, “why don’t we take a picture of your right hip—the one that was replaced 12 years ago?”

“It does not hurt at all,” I said. But what I was thinking was, “How much will it cost?”

“Let’s look at it anyway.”

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