For those of us who have been in the printing business for way longer than we care to admit, "30" is the proofreaders' mark for the end of a story or the end of a file. The number, when circled at the bottom of a typewritten page, indicated to the typesetter that there was no more to follow.

This column is my temporary "30." It is a pause, not an end, to my nearly three decades here at the Catholic Standard. I will be away from the paper for the next couple of months recovering, recuperating and generally getting used to having a new hip. My hip replacement surgery is set for Aug. 19.

How can this be, you may ask, for someone as young as me? Okay, maybe I am not that young, but still the diagnosis startled me and came out of the blue.

I have been suffering pretty bad knee pain for a quite a while that has caused a rather pronounced limp when I walk. I went to an orthopedic surgeon (two, actually!) and discovered that I have arthritis in my spine, knee and ankle, and I have a torn meniscus. Not a surprise there, but what did throw me for a loop is this: the majority of my problems with the knee stems from my compensating for the degeneration of my hip due to severe arthritis.

So, the doctor told me I have to have a hip replacement before he can address the problems with the knee. I was gob-smacked, not by the fact that I need the surgery, but by the fact that I am becoming an old man.

Family, friends and co-workers have been supportive - I think. I was complaining to my friend Jenn about feeling like an old man and her response was, "suck it up, Buttercup."

Family and friends have teased that I will be bionic or partly synthetic or will now be "hip." They have posted old man and hip replacement cartoons on my Facebook page. One friend suggested that I place an "X" on my right side to make sure they replace the correct hip. Others have made way too many to count jokes about me being a hippie or listening to hip-hop music.

I kind of got into the act myself. Since I have to use a cane until and a little after my surgery, I decided to go stylish. I got an ash wood cane with a brass hound's head for a handle, since I couldn't find a cane with a flask or switchblade hidden in the handle. I've dubbed myself "Citizen Cane."

Several friends have jokingly suggested that I also get liposuction or a facelift or other plastic surgery while I am under. I am still not sure if I should be insulted by that or not.

But the bottom line is, I know their humor does not indicate a lack of caring or concern for me. They are helping me not to fret and fear and stew over this. They have lightened my burden by distracting me from my worries. I am forever grateful to them for that.

I've also learned much as I prepare for surgery.

It humbles me to think of the concern shown me by friends and family. I've had several priests offer to anoint me. One friend sent me a Mass card for my recovery. Perhaps all of this will teach me to do a better job of truly appreciating those close to me.

I have learned not to take for granted what it means to be pain-free. Constant and persistent pain is draining. It wears you down. It affects almost everything you do. I used to take being pain-free as a given. I do not anymore.

I have learned to trust - my doctors, my family and my friends. My surgeon has eased my fears and explained to me in great detail what the upcoming procedure entails and what I can expect during my recovery. My family and friends have promised to assist me in my recovery with everything from walking my dogs to making a meal to getting me to my follow-up appointments.

I have also learned a new respect for redemptive suffering. I have offered my pain to God as a prayer - sometimes for a specific intention and other times for the general welfare of the world. Pope - now Saint - John Paul II wrote in his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering) that "to suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ." I believe that with my mind, with my heart and with my hip.

And so, I go to have my hip replaced knowing that God is where He ought to be, my family and friends are where they want to be, and I am where I should be. I offer my temporary "30" with a request that you say a prayer for me if you think about it. I will be back soon, better than before, and - dare I say it? - more hip than ever.