As of this moment in time we are officially in the throes of the 2013 holiday season. Thanksgiving is behind us and the Holiday-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named is in front of us. It is the time of year when we set our clocks back, watch it get dark by 3 p.m., hunker down into our respective hovels and store up additional body fat in hopes of surviving the long, dark, cold winter. Heavy as this time of year may be, it does allow us to reflect on the year that’s about to close.

For our family, 2013 started off with the arrival of our first grandson, Ernest Kyaw Win Stannard. In the past 10 months this tiny creature has grown into quite the distinguished young gentleman. OK, it is hard to remain distinguished when you’re drooling all over the place, because all your teeth are coming in simultaneously, but still; the little guy did wear his first tie when we went out to dinner recently, as well as at Thanksgiving. He, mercifully, kept the drooling down to a minimum at each event.

Proving that negative events can sometimes have a positive outcome, Alison and I were able to retire this year. We’ve learned that life becomes a different experience when the man comes and leashes the wolves that have been at your door for over 40 years. We now spend much more time with our two grandkids than we ever dreamed would be possible. It’s been a big change, which is good, because it does seem as though so few other things have changed around us; the U.S. House of Representatives comes to mind.

The year of my first major surgery was 2013. I give partial credit for this event to my old friend, Kevin Ellis, formerly of Kimbell, Sherman & Ellis. A little over a year ago my right hip popped while I was working out. A few hundred pops later I thought that maybe I should do something about this (I am a Vermonter after all. Vermonters don’t rush into dealing with physical pain. If you doubt this for one minute it’s because you don’t know Louis Porter. Louis has the highest level of pain tolerance of anyone, including robots).

I mentioned to Kevin that I had my hip X-rayed and it appeared as though arthritis had set in. He gave me the best advice ever, which was, "Don’t wait." It’s obvious why Kevin was such a good lobbyist.

It was hard to determine what hurt more; my hip or picking up the phone to call Dr. Ivan Tomek of the Dartmouth Medical Center to set up an appointment to talk about a hip replacement. Believe me the latter was not easy. I don’t like hospitals. Don’t get sick and expect me to come see you in a hospital. They are no place for healthy people; or people trying desperately to remain healthy. Spend 10 minutes in a hospital and you have to think you have something hideous wrong with you. An overnight stay is out of the question.

On Nov. 5, Dr. Tomek expertly removed the top of my femur, ground out the pelvic bone socket and sewed me up better than just about any seamstress I’ve ever known. To my amazement, I had no sooner awakened from the anesthesia when a charming nurse stopped by to ask if I was ready to go for a walk.

"Are you kidding me? He just put this sucker in about an hour ago. I can’t possibly walk on it for at least a month."

So, the nurse and I walked 200 feet together. As you’re reading this I bet you’re not thinking much about walking, but believe me when the pain is so unbearable you can’t walk, that first pain-free step you take is nothing short of a miracle.

As I am writing this today it is the one-month anniversary of my surgery. I can now walk. I can walk up and down stairs. I no longer need devices like walkers, crutches, the cane I needed within a few days after the operation. I did hang on to that cane for two reasons: One for support, but also to remind me time’s a wasting and I’m getting old. There is no other contraption in the world that makes one feel older than a cane. Don’t believe me? Go get one and walk around with it for a day or so.

I do still have a little numbness and I understand that it will be a year or more before I’m 100 percent, but I can walk; not run, mind you, but walk. If you saw me walking today you would have no idea that a short four weeks ago I had major surgery. A few years ago one would have been laid up for months. Today it’s weeks.

Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for, but of all of the aforementioned items there is one that I’ve missed. This year marked our 40th wedding anniversary. Alison continues to stick around with me. She’s a saint. I’ll go out on a limb and guess you’d agree.

Bob Stannard is a Banner columnist.