Monday, September 27, 2021

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Joe's Neighborhood

A vision from a paper-towel dispenser


Would it help your pandemic doldrums if someone told you that you are special? Of course, that “someone” may be a complete lunatic. Fine. But why not pay your money and take a chance?

I’ve generally been good with the fallout from the coronavirus — picking up groceries from masked teenagers; Zoom conversations with family who keep “accidentally” muting my voice; face masks that remind me how much I enjoy breathing.

And I am deadly tired of the never-ending fear that family, or friends, or really anyone, will get sick. Unfortunately, I’m afraid there is no getting off the pandemic bus until the bus stops for a vaccine.

What to do in the meantime?

Hey, why not get my knees replaced?

Prep Iowa

We’re locked down. My knees have been bad for years. I’m not traveling anywhere. Let’s just do it.

And I did.

Both knees.

No big deal. Several people I know did it in years past and love their new knees. And I will, too. But things started to take a different twist after the surgery.

Let’s start with a first for me — my wife appeared on a metal paper-towel dispenser on the wall in the hospital room. Yup, you heard me correctly. There she was. Right there on the dispenser. Talking to me. Telling me I was special. A Lourdes moment but without the Virgin Mary.

Or just possibly a post-surgery hallucination.

No matter.

But then the plagues came. Spasms. Like full-body upheavals. Every 30 seconds. Oh my. I forgot that, because of a bike/van accident 16 years ago, I was spastic. All this means is that, if the doctor taps my knee with the little hammer, my leg shoots for the ceiling. Perhaps something I should have remembered before they tapped my knees with more than a little hammer.

“What a dope,” I thought, as the spasms turned me in half, and then in half again like an origami fold.

And two weeks passed.

I survived. The nerves finally got comfortable with my new knees, and they started to be on speaking terms and exchange addresses.

Ah, but this was not to last.

Don’t you love the Biblical story of Job? You know, the good guy whose life goes to hell. He loses his livelihood to start with, then his children, and if that wasn’t enough, the third plague was “loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” And, by the way, all to settle a casual bet between God and Satan.

Oddly enough, Job remained pretty darn steadfast.

I, on the other hand, am not Job. I believe in shaking my fist at the heavens. After two knee replacements and then out-of-control spasms, I was, of course, still missing the third plague.

Before the spasms had vanished, the third plague arrived triumphantly with great fanfare — a gastrointestinal infection.

And you are right, it wasn’t “loathsome sores,” but I did spend the next 10 days in diapers. And bent over in cramps. With legs that didn’t work. And the periodic spasm.

No kidding.

But then I had a revelation. Or my friend had a revelation after I told her the story of my woes. She said all the right things, and then slipped this tidbit into the conversation.

“Joe, you thought you were going to be special, didn’t you?”


“You thought this was going to be a walk in the park because it is you.”

And I’ll be darned, I did think I was going to be special. I did think it was going to be a walk in the park. Of course. It’s me.

Ah, but here’s the twist, I think I have a shot of being special even now. That’s what the paper towel dispenser said. Which is why we’re going to socially distance, wear masks and wash our hands. We are going to survive this pandemic wearing diapers, or whatever we need to wear.


Because you and me and the teenager putting groceries in the car are special. How do I know? Listen, I saw my wife on a paper-towel dispenser. I had a vision. I was told. We are all special.

Take that, Mr. Coronavirus. ♦

Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www.

One Comment

  1. Jim piazza says:

    Great job as usual Joe, get better soon to walk in the neighborhood!

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