I was alone in a two bed room at the Princess Alexandra (PA) hospital. One day I walked into the room to find I had a companion. Ruth. Back from her surgery with a shaved head and a scar. I can’t remember what we talked about the first day apart from exchanging information about our families. It was obvious we had a rapport.
I remember vividly walking into the room, on another occasion. Neville was there. Ruth said she had something to tell me. The doctor had been to see them. Sensing it was bad news I said to Ruth we could talk about it when Neville had gone and we had our girly chat.
Trying to put my head in the sand.
“No” said Ruth “I want to tell you now”
and she did. I think I simply sat beside her and held her hand.
One night Ruth asked me if I wouldn’t mind getting her a glass of water so she could clean her teeth in bed. Such a small thing to do but after that Ruth said she knew we were going to be very good friends.
Now for the lighter stuff –
There was one cranky nurse on night duty who took an instant dislike to me.
One night Ruth had to use the bathroom so this nurse paged the wardsmen. They took Ruth into the bathroom and the nurse stayed with her. The nurse had to find something to complain about. When Ruth was back in bed she told me with a concerned look on her face that the nurse had said to her,
“All that trouble and this is all you can do.”
I guess Ruth’s bladder was in trouble. When Ruth told me this I burst out laughing and then she saw the funny side and laughed with me. Ruth didn’t like getting into trouble.
That was our first encounter with this nurse, and I told Ruth we should make life a little difficult for this nurse. Ruth, being a lovely person, took some convincing. We thought of many plans.
We talked and laughed constantly which amazes me, considering what Ruth was dealing with.
One night this particular nurse came into the room. She had heard us laughing. Obviously we were having too much fun because she told me to leave Ruth alone and shut the curtain between us. As soon as she left the room I asked Ruth if she would like to be left alone.
She replied, “no”, so the curtain was opened again.
There was no way this nurse was going to tell us what to do!
All the other staff members were delightful.
When Ruth found out we were close in age, but younger by a few months, she would sign off her ‘txt’ messages with ‘Younger Twin’. I decided to become Older Wiser Twin.
Ruth asked me to come to her tri-monthly reviews at the PA with the doctors. I felt a little awkward about doing this and asked Ruth if she wanted me to ask questions. She replied she wanted me there to hold her hand if it was bad news.
I was on holidays at the Gold Coast when Neville rang me to tell me that Ruth’s symptoms were getting worse. I live on the north side of Brisbane. Ruth was always amused at my scenic drives to get to her home. Via Cleveland, Dutton Park to name a few.
I visited her on the Wednesday before she passed and reminded her of all the fun we had together. While she could no longer talk she smiled and nodded her head.
Ruth loved Neville and would say to me often,
“how could you look into those beautiful blue eyes and not fall in love”.
She adored her daughters and kept me up to date with their lives.
I have lost a dear friend who was kind, caring, compassionate, and simply a beautiful person.
Rhonda Collins, 24 May 2017
I hope that you find a ‘post-Ruth’ life and someone will provide that special friendship you had with Ruth. I have to explain the meaning of the prefix, ‘post’. It does mean a completely different era with nothing of the past being present. Kuhn was wrong in that part of his scientific revolution model. To be ‘post’ does not to mean being opposed or at a total disjunction with a life before. It means to go beyond what has happened, but something of the past carries through, even as (seemingly) everything changes.
People do get stuck in the past, especially in getting old, and it is not always a good thing. We do need to refresh our thinking and participation in life. And, of course, that was Ruth’s approach – Carpe deim, as you conveyed to her (the bracelet is right in front of me as I type, just below the monitor), and for that I will always be grateful.
Neville’s comment to Rhonda Collins, 27 May 2017