Mom had a bad fall last year. She broke her shoulder and her wrist. When she came home from the hospital, she was patched up in splints, wrappings, and a sling. Each morning I stepped into her room to help Momma start her day, I was welcomed by the sight of her having ripped everything off.
Here was our dance: I would painstakingly put it all back on her, gently scolding her even as I used the softest touch to keep from aggravating her injuries. Then, overnight she’d unwrap herself with the deft efficiency of a child tearing into a gift on Christmas morning.
The orthopedic doctor and I agreed to a plan b. We decided a cast would be the only way to contain her curiosity and divert her determination in removing the menace.
The cast was good. Ruth was better.
Momma was determined to now figure out how to liberate herself from the block of plaster. The aid and I would find her quietly sitting, like some mad concentrating scientist, diligently picking and poking at the cast, scanning for vulnerabilities, searching for the smallest opening or tear that would allow her entry.
I would ask her, “Momma, what are you doing there?” Never one to be dishonest, she would reply, “Trying to get this thing off. Can you help me? Do you have any scissors?” She asked the visiting physical therapist, “Can I use your scissors?”
She was relentless in her mission to extract herself. She once quietly asked the assistance of a young man from the neighborhood as he walked by our house. “Hey, come here a minute,” she called to him from the porch. “Do you have a knife or a saw or something? I want you to help me get this off.” He politely told her, “Ms. Ruth, your daughter will kill me if I take that off of you.” Ruth the Defiant hissed back, “I don’t give a damn what she does! Just help me.”
Wisely, the young man moved on.
Momma never did believe in things being out of order. The house always had to be tidy. Her children – we were expected to be clean, studious, respectful, and quiet. Nothing was to fall out of place.
Today, my mother is just a decade away from being a century old. She still believes in the order of things, and this physical inconvenience turned her world upside down. When the cast was finally cut off (by the doctor, not by Ruth), all of us – Momma, her aid, and I – chanted, “Free at last!”