My dad always said his three priorities in his life were family, health, and faith. Looking back over the last year, those same priorities were certainly front and center in mine.

I had been planning to title this story “The Island of Mismatched Socks,” but after it was finished, I realized it actually had nothing to do with socks.

Sometimes, even after all planning and effort, the final results turn out nothing like what was actually started. This story took on a life of its own and went where it wanted to go. Kinda like life.

No matter how well planned or how much time and effort has been expended, Life has a way of going where she wants to go. That was certainly true around our house this past year. The Wife and I couldn’t have predicted all that happened — unless, of course, one of us had selected the number seven.

One: On the first of January, we planned out the entire year: buy a new car, take a vacation or two with our granddaughters, and perhaps a romantic return to Paris for The Wife and me. That was our plan, but Life had another.

Life’s plan started when I visited the doctor in February. Two weeks later, I had an operation to remove a stone. (Stones are fun to play with outside, but not so fun when it’s inside your kidney.) Unfortunately, in the recovery room The Wife received news that it didn’t work. We’d have to come back in a couple of months so they could try again.

However, that operation would have to be put on hold; there was something else that had to be taken care of first. We weren’t aware of it at the time, but Life was about to surprise us again.

Two: Tired of not sleeping, I finally went to an orthopedic surgeon in early March. He said I needed a new right shoulder. By April, I had a new shoulder and something else – six months of physical therapy to keep me busy. In May, I asked The Wife what else could possibly happen this year. She responded, “Don’t say that! It can always get worse.” She was right – soon it was about to.

Three: June brought with it warmer temperatures, the mid-way point through my six months of physical therapy, and something else … yet another operation. This was the follow-up to get rid of that pesky stone.

In the recovery room, the doctor once again informed The Wife that things didn’t go as planned. We would have to try again in a few weeks. Unfortunately, he also discovered a more pressing problem and recommended a new doctor for that.

Four: After viewing my MRI, the new doctor said, “Come here, look at this.” It’s never good when a doctor says, “Look at this.” Seems stones can also be in your gallbladder. Fun. Gallbladder removable operation was set up for August, recovery planned for about six weeks and then I should be just fine. But first, it was back to the previous doctor.

Five: We celebrated July 4th with fireworks. The next day, in the recovery room, The Wife and I celebrated again because the third operation to get rid of that pesky kidney stone was finally successful. The doctor said I would be okay in a couple of days. It was really good news at the time … especially because of what was to happen the following month.

Six: August brought with it the hottest temperatures of the year, no rain, and brown crunchy grass. It also brought the end of shoulder physical therapy and something else – not one but two more operations. This time, recovery would be six weeks and no lifting more than five pounds.

In the recovery room, I looked over at The Wife. She had really been through it this year. The toil on a caregiver is impossible to measure and so is their love. I said, “Well, guess it can’t get any worse.” A month later, I was proven wrong.

Seven: When The Wife saw the ladder falling to the ground, she ran over and said, “Oh no! You just tore your other shoulder, didn’t you?” Yes. Yes, I did. After six operations, I got a special present in December. Two days before Christmas, I went under a surgeon’s knife once again, this time for left shoulder repair. Recovery is another six months.

On Christmas day, our granddaughters rolled out of their beds and scampered to the front room in hopes that Santa had come. They were wide-eyed when they saw the many presents carefully stacked under our tree. Watching the joy on their faces as they played with their new toys, I remembered what my dad said his three priorities in his life were: family, health, and faith.

Looking back over the past year, I’m thankful for the loving family we have, the many skillful surgeons who have restored my health and, through all the difficult times, a faith that hasn’t wavered. I’m also thankful for one more thing … that there wasn’t another month in the year. I’m sure tired of extended recoveries and not being able to hug my granddaughters with both arms.

You’d think after seven operations in one year, I wouldn’t like that number anymore. Well, this year, I love the number seven. In May, Little One will celebrate her seventh birthday. And by then, Yours Truly will be recovered enough to give her all the hugs and piggyback rides she and her younger sister want. And just like an old car, with all my repairs and new parts, I’ll be good for another 100,000 miles.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]