If . . .


When confronted with a life-changing choice, deciding the correct path forward is arduous at best.

For example, if I don’t get the operation, things will continue to worsen. But if I do get the operation, things may get better, but at least they won’t get any worse. Then again, there’s no guarantee.

These, Dear Reader, were the choices presented to us six months ago. The only way to make a choice, when there are only bad choices available, is to pick the path that is less bad.

Choosing less bad … that’s not good.

For us, for me, less bad is still really bad. This is the last column I will write before things change forever. Now that may seem a little dramatic, but sadly, it’s true. Life-changing choices are dramatic, and we just had to make one.

By the time you read this, the operation will be over, and hopefully, recovery will have begun. How long before things get back to the way they were? Never. How long before things are back to being somewhat normal? That’s unclear. But being unclear is better than a definite never.

Or is it?

All the adventures and misadventures I had with my brothers, The Sister, and those kids from Flamingo Street I would do all over again. And I don’t regret spending twenty-eight years as a fire fighter battling fires, pulling people from crushed vehicles during all types of weather, and being involved in countless other physically demanding rescues. Years of being on sport teams, white water rafting, rock climbing, and doing just about everything outdoors have given me a lifetime of fun memories.

But living an active life while growing up — and as an adult — does come with a price. And now, a few days before my sixty-fifth birthday, that price must be paid.

The surgery has been delayed three times. The first delay? There were just too many home improvement projects to finish around our house. Finishing all of them has taken six months. The second delay was due to insurance. It would be better to wait until the start of the new year and capture the deductible rather than at the end of the year. And the third reason for the operation’s delay?

I’m scared.

After enduring a bicep repair, four shoulder surgeries, one shoulder replacement, and many other procedures over the years, nothing scares me more than this operation. The skilled surgeon says if everything goes correctly, there’s a good chance of a positive outcome. The scary word in that last sentence is if. If is what has kept me up at night. If is what I’m so worried about.

I don’t like ifs.

Just like with the operation, I have delayed writing about what kind of surgery I will undergo. Perhaps it’s because once I write about it, it becomes real. What’s the reality I’ve tried to avoid for the last six months? Losing the use of my right hand for a very long time. How can a writer write with only one hand? There’s a simple answer to that question. I could still write, but not in the same way.

While growing up back on Flamingo, my dad always said, “If you get knocked down, you always get back up.” This time I’ll really be knocked down, but I’m also determined that I’ll get back up. Just gonna take a while. The doctor says if all goes well, I should be able to write again in about a month.


If is the reason, Dear Reader, six week’s worth of this column has already been sent to the editor. Writing with one hand will still work, but it will be much slower. So to help me along the way during recovery, I have a new dictation program on my computer. Just talk and the computer types. And I love to talk. Just ask The Wife. Oddly when she asked me how I feel, I had a one-word answer.


I’m nervous about how difficult everyday living is going to be. I’m nervous about how I’m going to take care of our granddaughters. I’m nervous how I’m going to make it through the long recovery.

Then I stopped talking and started thinking. A lot of folks out there have had to adapt to far worse circumstances than my temporary inconvenience. Some may have only been able to utilize one hand since childhood. Still, they grow up to become successful carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, teachers, lawyers, and many other professions.

When I think of the amazing things that they’ve accomplished during their life with the use of just one hand, then surely, I can manage this three-month recovery.

If you get knocked down, you get back up.

Thanks, Dad, for that advice — advice from a long, long time ago on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]