“Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding….She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.” Proverbs 3:13, 15
Ruby is a friend of mine. No, we don’t go way back. The darling lady is eighty-nine years old. She resides in a nursing care facility in Newton, North Carolina. She is hard of hearing. In fact, quite hard of hearing. When she stares with a forced glint in her eye I’ve learned she hasn’t heard me. I lean in close and repeat myself speaking as s-l-o-w-l-y as my patience will allow.
Ruby sports a sugar sweet smile with straight, bridged white teeth. She’s proud of them. “I want to get some bleach gel to whiten the bottom teeth to match.”
Yes, of course. Priorities.
Once during our visit over the supper hour in the dining hall I refused to share her Sloppy Joe. “No, thanks, really. You have it.” Instead I accepted a cup of coffee from the food service volunteer to assure Ruby I’d be staying longer while hushing internal voices that pressed otherwise. It helped to keep my cell phone from view.
Ruby asked if I worked. I smiled, let her read my lips. “I’m a writer.”
“Are you writing a book?”
Feeling chills I straightened in my chair, scooted closer. Could she have known this? I propped one arm on the white linen table cloth, rested my chin in the palm of one hand. “Yes, I am.”
“Is it fiction?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Is it about lovers?”
My breath hung in my throat. The woman was absolutely, unapologetically serious. I grinned, cheeks flushed warm. “Uh huh. It’s a Christian romance so it’s clean.” I thought she’d like to know that.
Ruby paused her eating, dangled her fork from her manicured, pearly pink n
Her table companions pecked at their dinner, unflinching. Maybe they didn’t hear the question.
The power of romance must have turned Ruby’s thoughts to her late husband Marvin. With a touch of melancholy she shared that he died of a stroke eighteen years ago. While in the hospital together Ruby stayed overnight with him. She slept cramped in a corner chair with only a sheet to drape over her. Such sacrifice to be with her man.
On one occasion when Ruby went to bathe him Marvin asked that she be careful of his hands. He told her they hurt but he found the strength to grasp the neck of her clothing, look her in the eye and proclaim, “Ruby, don’t you ever forget how much I love you.”
Ruby repeated the same. And that evening with Marvin was her last.
I returned to my car. The sun had lowered across the Appalachian horizon since my arrival, time ticking away. I slipped behind the steering wheel wondering who needs to hear, ‘Don’t you ever forget how much I love you’ before the close of day?
Dear, sweet Ruby. I went to cheer her up. In the process she awarded me a precious jewel. Wisdom.