My Life With Ruth
I have a new body part, a brand new knee, latest model. When my knee and I were not yet thoroughly acquainted, we often did a polite dance around one another. For example, my knee might have said, “Are you ready to move?”
“Sure, but why?”
“We need to stand up.”
“Oh. Okay. But just a minute, please.”
Let me tell you the story. Forty years ago I was in a car wreck which shattered my knee. It was never fixed right, and over the years the pain increased exponentially. Something had to be done. I investigated. I am self employed and uninsured. Because of the extent of the damage the costs for my knee replacement would have been astronomical, much more than the average surgery. Friends suggested I look into getting the operation done abroad. I researched surgeons and hospitals in several countries. India sounded best. I talked with a woman in Havre who had been there. She added to my information and calmed my fears. I made my decision.
So late last summer I flew to Bangalore , India , for a three week vacation in a hospital suite. After a difficult surgery, loving care by my doctor and the entire hospital staff, and filled with delicious Indian food, I returned home with a state-of-the-art titanium knee. Because of the work I do, I consider myself the queen of saws. Technically I figure I could have done it in my own shop except that I vomit whenever I think about the procedure. They saw your bone off above the knee. Then they saw your bone off below the knee. They hammer posts into your leg bones. Then they glue the movable parts to the posts. It’s sort of like carpentry. My stomach still lurches whenever I think about it. It is not pretty. But after forty years of pain I did not want pretty. I wanted freedom from pain, whatever that took. So that is how Ruth entered my life.
We were acquainted, attached one might say, a few days before we actually introduced ourselves. “So what is your name?” I asked my new knee.
“Really, it is quite obvious, I’m Ruth,” she replied. “Remember the story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law? ‘. . . whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge . . . I will leave the land of my nativity and follow you home’.”
“But my name is not Naomi.”
“No matter.” she said cryptically. “I wouldn’t follow you across the seas and over the mountains and plains unless I knew you would always love me and take care of me.”
“Whoa. That is a tall order,” I replied.
“It’s a mutual agreement,” Ruth responded. So we set out to get to know one another. Love at first sight it was not. It was hard. It involved physical therapy and pain and strength training and more pain. I had to get used to how Ruth felt inside me. We are culturally different. Our physical properties are different. For a long time I did not trust her. I did not trust me. Despite the glue that holds us together, it was not an easy bonding. For a long time I wondered if I would ever walk again. Really walk. There were times I didn’t like Ruth. One day I told her, “You are ruthless.”
“Sure, and where would you be if you were Ruth-less?” she replied. “Listen, I’ve grown to like Montana and I want you to be able to show me more. Let’s get on with it. Lift those weights. Walk your foot down the wall. Twenty minutes on the stationary bike. And we’ll finish with half an hour on the treadmill.”
We now have been intimate nearly a year. It took months of hard work before we got comfortable with one another. She and I went through the usual relationship-building processes. You know, trust, communication, learning one another’s habits, making room for our differences. That sort of thing. Recently we had this conversation. “Are you glad you adopted me?” Ruth asked.
“Certainly. I’ve been free from pain for weeks. I can do things I have not done in years. My strength is returning. I feel great. You are the best thing to come into my life in a long time. But how about you? Are you happy with me?”
“Are you kidding? How else would I get to travel all around the world. Who else would take me looking for agates and dinosaurs and elk and on train rides to Minot . We have fun together. Although there is something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”
“Oh. I know. It’s all the walking I’ve added into our schedule, isn’t it? Am I pushing too hard?”
“No, that’s okay. I let you know when it is too much and time to rest. You listen a lot better than you used to. Here’s the thing, I want to know when we will get to go to the ocean again, walk the beaches with waves lapping over our feet, watch the sun drop behind the horizon. And Fort Peck. You haven’t taken me to Fort Peck yet and you promised. And when are you going to take me on a float trip down the Missouri , huh?”