It has taken me some time to absorb all that occurred over the month of April.
Time went on in it's usual way, with Miss Ruby and I settled in over the winter. I'd taken a trip in February, one much needed, to see my dear Laura and her children in the UK. I called daily to talk to Miss Ruby, to see how she was... and always, her Southern voice would as, "When are you coming home??" I brought her chocolate and treats and hugs and from there, we went back to our little routine.. one that slowly changed as her strength failed.
She savored the bi-weekly visits of Zee and HRH. She oohed! and ahhed! over the daily photos sent to my phone of his progress. She read and drank her coffee and listened to CNN, while her body continued to fail.
By the mid-March, she'd lost all strength in her legs, and we moved on to using the wheelchair full time to transport her about. No more showers--it became a daily bath while she sat on the toilet, dignified even then. We'd laugh and talk and I'd bathe her, put lotion on her, brush her hair. By the end of March, I had to tell her no more pants of any kind... I simply couldn't pull them up while holding her with one arm. She took it graciously, and I bought her pretty housecoats (as my Mamaw called them)... little lady numbers that buttoned up the front, in a variety of pastels--the bulk of them in pink.
I had to bring in the aide full time... it was too difficult for just me to move her anymore; she'd gone to complete dead weight. We had an aide that was a horror... good to Miss Ruby, deliberate in her attacks on me. She left.... keying my car as a final good-bye.
April came, I bought her pansies, potted them and brought them inside. I could see her lack of interest in life, her desire to sleep more and more, the reduced output from her bladder. Kidney failure loomed.
April 13th, she declined to get out of her bed.....I changed her and bathed her and dressed her and cranked the bed up so she could read and have her coffee. She didn't turn on the TV, refused food, slept. By Thursday, I knew she'd not ever rise again. Hospice came out, assessed her, told me what to do. She was in renal failure, and it was simply a matter of time. Very little time.
Saturday, we went through our new routine.... waking up, bathing, changing, dressing.... she asked for my Mother and two of her friends to come visit the next day. I'd already called them, told them it was the end.. plans had been made for company. She asked me, "When is our baby coming to visit?" I replied, "Wednesday." She thought... "Hmmm, I think maybe they had better come up tomorrow."
Her wit remained sharp. On that Saturday, I announced after rubbing my legs, "You can tell how active a woman's sex life is by the length of her leg hair." She laughed and tutted me. The next day, when I came down after my shower, she asked where had I been. "Showering, remember?" "Well, yes, but, you took so long!" I proceeded to say I had shaved my legs--and before I could finish the sentence with "....because I finally bought a razor", she grinned at me, and said, "Ohhh!! Hoping to get lucky?"
Sunday was a day of homemade coconut cake, putting her pearls on so she could receive company, chairs in her room. I'd already dug out a number of her plants from the garden, repotting them and placing them so she could see them no matter where she looked. Her nephew by marriage, who made sure she was well cared for and protected, called me. "She's waiting for someone so she can go.", he said. I agreed, but, between us, we couldn't sort who it could be..who was she waiting for?
HRH walked in with Zee around 1PM. Miss Ruby's face lit up. Her arms reached, slowly, shaking... "How is our little man?? Did he come to see his ladies??" Zee settled in next to her on the bed, where she tickled him, cooed to him, laughed when he'd break into his delight of a laugh.
He was who she was waiting to see.
Her breathing started to stutter that night. Hospice had me start giving her valium and morphine to settle her down. I was up most of the night, giving her the dose, sitting in the chair next to her bed. Finally, I slept from 4-6 AM. I went into her room, to give her the next dose of medicine. Her eyes were shut, and I slipped the dropper into her mouth. When the morphine hit her tongue, those baby blues flew open, startled. She frowned... I said, "Pretty nasty, eh?" She nodded, then, did what she'd do when I would tease her--bring her hand up as if she was going to strike me, then patting my cheek.
I laughed with her, and then bent over to pull her into my arms. I put my face in her neck, in that place between neck and shoulder that holds a person's scent. "I love you so much." She kissed my cheek.... "Oh, you will never know how much I love you."
She didn't want to be raised up that morning, no coffee, nothing. She didn't talk much after that either, telling me she preferred to sleep, "....I'm with Art then." I told her, holding her hand, whispering.... "Go with him. He loves you." She'd smile and go back under. She spoke one other time, when she opened her eyes, looked around her room and said to Mother, "This looks just like a room I use to have!".
By Tuesday morning, it was a death watch. She was in an coma-- her brain stopped around 3PM, her body struggled on. She had seizures, when her eyes would open, blank and dark and empty. I'd hold her and soothe her, even though I knew there was no comprehension left. I think I did it for me. I was told to up her meds, to keep her calm. She had no pain, I knew what to look for--face scrunching, moans.
Her blood family called, yelling at me, wanting to know if they could come to the house after she died, wanting to know if she'd changed her Will. I had to stop answering the phone... I was trying to help her die, and they were stopping me in my job.
She died at 11.06PM, in my arms. I felt her heart take it's last beat, I saw her sink into that void of death, sensed the huge "WOOSH" of her leaving with Mr. Art. We bathed her, dressed her in a beautiful pink suit, and put her favourite hot pink fuzzy socks on her feet. Brushed her hair, put on her make-up, and I waited for the funeral home people. Hospice had come out--our nurse, Ali, was a rock for me. She took care of all the calls to coroners, the funeral home, other people.
By 4AM, I was in bed, well medicated and falling asleep. By 6AM, I was awake again, fielding calls from the vultures, finally putting Caller ID on the phone so I could avoid their meanness.
I went to NYC five days later... I needed the break. I saw a couple of people, sadly didn't see others, rushed everywhere, remember very little.
I am in the house for six months... to help sort it out, prepare garages sales, etc. Her service is in July, when her garden will be in full bloom. We've had them set out a handful of ashes for me to put with her roses. The rest will go into the same grave as Mr. Art. Her headstone will read, 'Beloved', because she was just that. How many people can go through life knowing they were and felt that way towards another?
The estate remains in limbo... the family fighting over things that meant little to her. She left me Pumpkin, the 16 year old spoiled rotten cat--oddly, no one is asking for her. Makes me smile.
The photo below is her and Zee that Sunday... she does not look like a woman who died 48 hours later. Even with her loved ones about, she had a wall between us and herself... watching us. It was only with Zee that she fully engaged.
I miss her. I have a hole in my life, and work now to fill it up. I'll move in October, more than likely to NYC. I have a trip to Qatar planned later in the same month, where I'll see one of my 'sisters'. I feed the cats and they all sleep with me, and the garden continues to blossom and grow.
Thank you, Miss Ruby, for making me a better person, for giving me your trust and love and laughter. I will try to be like you... kind, generous, and wicked bad.