Where I live, you can find yourself in heart-to-heart talks with perfect strangers pretty easily. Today it was at the supermarket. The woman behind the counter was talking to the woman in front of me about how quickly time passes and how did they get old? I arrived at my turn and said, “Don’t even talk about it.”

“Right?” she said. “I feel thirty.”

“I know,” I said. “My mom used to say that all the time. I shoulda’ listened.” I paused, and gave my mom a thought, “Never mind. Maybe not.”

“I don’t FEEL different,” she said. “That’s the thing.”

“I have two titanium hips,” I said. “I know how old I am.”

“Does the surgery work? Do you really feel better?”

“I can’t even describe how much better it is.” I felt tears starting, but I’m trying to be less weepy on this subject. “It’s amazing.”

“Both my hips hurt,” she said. “It’s arthritis, right?”

“Probably,” I said. “I got it early. I used to be a runner.” I don’t think I’ve used the term “used to be” in that context before, but now I’m OK with it.

“I have runner’s knee,” said the bag boy, a kid about 17 with a tiny gold stud in one nostril. Very cute, very innocent. “I have water under my knee cap.”

“Take care of your knee,” I said.

“I’m trying to.”

I paid my $$$ and left.

Yesterday I was thinking about the book review I wrote and the times that my former professor mentioned William Butler Yeats in the book. Yeats wrote about old age in a way that I understood in my twenties but see even better now. I don’t agree that I’m a “tattered coat upon a stick” and that schoolchildren laugh at me. At worst, I don’t exist in the eyes of younger people, but even that, I’ve learned, is kind of up to me.

And I don’t care that much.

It’s disability that’s my fear and nemesis.

As I walked out of City Market I thought of “Sailing to Byzantium,” the poem Dr. Richardson referenced in his book. I thought of my titanium hips and the future they have afforded me. I thought of the golden bird upon the bough… here

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


And I thought it uncanny that I am partly metal now, not hammered gold, but something less expensive and more durable, safer for its purpose, stainless steel, titanium, chromium, cobalt or some combination of these.

I’m so grateful.

  • Fun Titanium Facts
  • The word titanium originated from the Greek Mythological Titans, the first sons of Earth.
  • Titanium alloys are used in situations where lightweight strength and ability to withstand temperature extremes are required.
  • The metal is frequently used for components which must be exposed to seawater.
  • The complex process of converting titanium ore into metal has only been commercially viable for a little more than 50 years.

14 thoughts on “Titans

  1. Go, Titans, go! I thought a little football humor would be appropriate, here, Martha. That’s the standard cheer for my home team. The Boy, who will be 8 in February, was talking to my Mom about her titanium knee joint last weekend. He’s really impressed with it and exclaimed, “Mamaw, if you ever got flooded by lava, your titanium knee would survive!” Mom loved it, of course!

  2. I love your response to the grocery store boy. You’re right, people really need to take care of their joints. I’ve had an ACL replacement and my cartilage tacked back onto the bone, and I should probably have some sort of arthroscopic surgery on my other knee, but I’m holding off. Years of soccer finally did me in, and I’m just happy to have days where my knees don’t hurt, or my cartilage doesn’t get stuck in the joint.

    As far as your hips go, I’m so happy you’re in less pain. Do you still hike with your dogs, or are you planning to? I know you’re probably still recovering after your most-recent surgery. Another most-enjoyable post, Martha, as always.

    • I still hike with my dogs — I never stopped, though the hikes changed. My valley is completely flat, and I’ve become a lover of wetlands during this interval. But next month my friends and I are going to go together on what will be my first mountain hike since I moved back to Colorado 4 years ago. I’m looking forward to it!!!

      I have two arthritic knees as well from running and injuries, but so far so good. They don’t (often hurt) and they mostly work, though a sharp down hill or stairs can be tricky.

      I hope yours hold out a long time. Maybe by the time you need new ones they’ll have something really great.

      • Ha! I’m counting on that! Enjoy your mountain hike. Though, I know what you mean when you talk about enjoying different landscapes during different periods. My newest love is walking in prairies. It seems so boring and devoid of , well, anything. But, I love the changing wild flowers throughout the growing season, and seeing the beautiful sunsets over the open plains in the evening. Most of all, I love new experiences and seeing things for the first time. 🙂

        • Me too. I love hiking in prairies. It’s SO not nothing. And LIGHT! Here is mostly open land, not prairie, but grassland, wetlands and Chamisa, rabbit-brush, that right now is covered with tiny bright yellow flowers. And the SKY! ❤

          • Love flowers! I bet the sky there is amazing. CO is also on my places to visit. 🙂

  3. I’m really 16, and sometimes 12. When I was complaining recently about something that I wouldn’t be doing when I got old, my true love asked me whether I had looked in the mirror lately! Fair point.

    I think I missed your book review. I will look now.

    • I think who we are inside is who we are. This poor long-suffering carapace that has labored under the effort of carrying our soul, our dreams, our whims deserves our thanks and care, but it is not who we are. ❤

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