The Old Man and the C (asino)

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Ever since my 76th birthday in February, my body has been falling apart orthopedically — hip, knee, and shoulder. Most of my body’s systems are fine, but my skeleton, not so much.

The MRI on my right hip showed a number of issues, including arthritis. My orthopedist has convinced me that I need a new hip. “It’s a surgery that most people recover from in a few days,” he told me. “Nothing to worry about.”

While I’m getting a second opinion, I suspect I’ll eventually end up with a hip replacement. Before I scheduled the surgery, Bonnie and I had a long-planned Seven Stars trip to Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina, followed by a flight to Greece for two consecutive weeks on a cruise ship out of Athens. When we’re in Cherokee, we can fly to Europe out of Atlanta — which makes for a much shorter trip than flying to Europe out of Las Vegas.

Walking with a walker is acceptable, so I figured I’d deal with the walker while away from home and get the hip fixed once I’m back. It didn’t work out that way.

Harrah’s Cherokee is a rather large casino, and our hotel room was almost a half-mile from high limit slots, which is where I play their $5 Deuces Wild game. There is a newer hotel tower closer to the casino, and we certainly could have gotten a room there, but the fitness center is in the old tower and (before I knew my bones were going to be hurting) I figured I’d spend three or four days a week working out. Plus, the best place for breakfast (Selu Garden Café) is in one of the older towers.

The first couple days, I was walking with my walker at a reasonable pace, but the pain kept increasing. By the third day, I was hurting too much to be walking. We considered renting a scooter at $60 a day (that goes against the grain for someone trying to gamble with an advantage), but they also had a few complimentary regular wheelchairs.

Bonnie volunteered to push me in the conventional wheelchair. We tried that, but she’s 80 years old, weighs 100 pounds, and there are some uphill carpeted pathways between the hotel and casino. After one such session, I recognized that this wasn’t a good solution. While she would have kept going until she dropped, I made the executive decision that we could afford $60 a day for a short period of time. When she mentioned my hip pain to our host, he said he’d comp the scooter. Now it became a no-brainer.

People are graciously holding doors open for me, and getting out of my way as I drive through the casino. Whether it’s being polite or trying to protect themselves from this crazy old man and his scooter, I’m not sure.

In addition to video poker, I also check out slots — of which there are a lot in Cherokee. Having a scooter is a plus.

Bonnie has some foot issues as well. While nowhere near as severe as mine, long walks cause her a bit of a problem sometimes. So, we share the scooter. We sit side by side, both with half a butt-cheek off the edge, and she drapes her arm around my neck in order to hang on. She’s usually smiling, but regularly pleads with me, “Not too fast on corners!”

As we go along, many people smile at the sight and comment with a, “Now that’s the way to do it!” or something similar. When they do, we both smile and I honk the horn of the scooter. Bonnie and I would make side bets on how many people would speak to us on our trip from our room to our machine.

I should be able to make it through the rest of our Cherokee trip using the scooter. But we’ll leave the scooter behind as we fly to Europe. How well the walker works then is to be determined.

It could easily turn out that we decide to stay on the ship and not explore the port cities. Which is understandable, but saddening. Exploring several Greek Isles, along with Jerusalem and Haifa, were on our bucket list. Missing them due to being unable to walk well will be a major disappointment. If the surgery goes well, maybe we can reschedule next year.


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