I talked to the lady in HR today, and I've decided I'm going to be a part-time associate after February 1. I found out I'll still get two weeks vacation this year, and I'll still have the same amount of FMLA coming: both of these are based on how many hours I worked last year. This resolved any misgivings I might have had about switching to part time.
I'll be required to work at least sixteen hours a week, and when there's a reasonable amount of work, I'll be able to do as many as forty hours. So it's very flexible. I'll have to let my supervisor know each week what days I'm going to work the following week; no problem there.
There may be some weeks when part-time employees don't get to work at all, but this has only happened once in the last year; so that's not a common occurance.
I figure I can surely hobble into work two days a week (I'll do three when I can) for a year and a half, at which time I'll be sixty-two. I'll be adding to my puny little 401K, too.
I'm concentrating very hard on taking short steps, and walking lightly. I've always been a hard stepper and a fast walker, and I recently realized this is not good for bad knees. When I walk carefully, I have much less pain at the end of the day.
I'm thankful I have this option.