Ruth pulled herself together and sat back on the grass with her back against the wall just thinking. What seemed like an hour passed, but it was probably more like twenty minutes. Charles came out and sat down in the grass next to her. She slid away from him. He started to speak and Ruth just sat there in stunned silence. He said, “Oh come on now, that happens in every marriage. It’s not a big deal. I’m sure it happened in your parents marriage, too. You just never saw it. What? Were they really gonna do that in front of you?” Ruth was sure that wasn’t true, but she didn’t protest. They sat there quietly for a few more minutes and then Charles got up and went back inside. That was it. No apology, no promise to never do it again.
What was she going to do? It hadn’t even been a week since she’d promised for better or worse till death do they part in front of God and witnesses. Ruth had been warned, she just didn’t listen. She believed everything he’d said about his ex-wife. Charles had used her affair to completely discredit her and make her out to be the villain. Ruth had put up such a vehement defense for Charles when Annie asked her about it. How could she possibly even tell Annie this? How could she tell anyone?!? This was so embarrassing and frightening and well….she just didn’t know. All manner of thoughts ran through her head as she sat there running her fingers through the blades of grass. Was this God’s punishment? She’d gone against Annie’s wishes to marry Charles, she’d given him her virginity before the wedding, and she’d married a divorced man. Surely that was it. God was disciplining her. She’d made her bed now she was going to have to lie in it.
No, this wasn’t happening. She was blowing this way out of proportion. Charles was just tired and was under a lot of stress. With the wedding, and the move and the merging together of their little family. Yes, that was what it was. Just stress. Surely this was just a one time thing and it would never happen again. Besides she should have known better and had more respect for Charles than to mouth off like that. What was she thinking? This wouldn’t happen again because she’d be a better wife from now on. Besides she loved him. Ruth got up, dusted herself off and went back inside and splashed cold water on her face. She and Charles picked that dresser up and moved into the bedroom. Then Ruth went and cooked dinner, acting as if nothing had even happened. She paddled her little boat hard against the current, right up the river of denial.
A little less than a month later Ruth got a call from Annie. She was in labor and delivery in the hospital in the next town. Malachi was born on July 16, 1990. Ruth went rushing over to see her new baby brother . Annie and Ray were glowing and in that moment everything seemed right with the world. All of Annie’s prayers seemed to be answered and she was so happy to be holding a baby again. Now they had Jackson who was eight, MaryBeth and Renee who were six and Malachi at home. That was Annie’s idea of the good life.
It didn’t take long for what seemed to be a dream come true to turn into a nightmare. Annie didn’t bounce back from the delivery like she had before. She was tired a lot. Then she was sick a lot. At the age of forty maybe that was to be expected. But when she didn’t seem to get any better she went to the doctor in town. She had a heart murmur that had never been detected before and walking pneumonia. Her doctor wanted to refer her to a heart specialist. Well alright, Annie thought. If that’s what you think is best. The doctor set her up with the specialist right away. After a battery of tests and more than a few sleepless nights the diagnosis was in. The stress of delivering Malachi had caused her heart to enlarge stretching the valve at the entrance to her heart. Not only was the valve stretched but also the opening into her heart. It could not be surgically repaired. The pneumonia was caused from blood leaking into her lungs. She would need a heart transplant. They put her on the list to wait for a donor.
She didn’t tell any of the kids that she was even going through all of this because she was sure it would turn out to be nothing. Now she had no choice but to tell them. She was placed on medication to help keep the fluid in her lungs to a minimum. While waiting for a donor, though, she was made acutely aware that her lungs could fill with fluid and she could die at any time from congestive heart failure. She wasn’t under any restrictions. Her instructions were to do what she wanted to do, felt like doing and not to do anything she didn’t feel like doing. Live every day like it might be her last, because quite literally, it could.
Ruth had been wrong, of course, about that being a one time thing with Charles. A few months later it happened again and then a few months after that, always with the same result. A few hours or even a few days of the silent treatment from Charles and then back to normal as if nothing had happened. She had no idea what triggered it. It could be as simple as a look. There was no way she could tell Annie now though.