THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
One of the first couples Gwen the Beautiful and I got to know here in Paradise was Ronnie and Bonnie Foucault. Only they don’t pronounce it in a Frenchified way. They’re from Texarkana, Texas, where the name is “Fewkel” and that’s that.
Ronnie and Bonnie live a couple of miles down the road. Bonnie drives a school bus. Ronnie gets up at dawn to do the farming chores and comes home at dusk to have at ‘em again. Between those times he works for the power company, watching over its computer network.
At least that’s how it was.
All Ronnie wanted from life was his own 250 acres. Room for 500 head of beef cattle. A self-sustaining farm. One day about two years ago, as he and Bonnie were on their way to the bank to sign off on fifty acres they were buying in the holler behind their place, a semi driver took a shortcut onto our road—and hit Ronnie’s pickup head on.
Bonnie slid under the seat. Got out of the accident with just a few scratches.
Ronnie broke every bone in his left arm. And took a big dent in the skull.
He’s been convalescing and rehabbing and in the middle of countless lawsuits ever since. His arm’s fine now. But his brain—
“Doctor told me to stop driving,” he said to me the other day. “I still fire up the tractor, but Bonnie’s the Fewkel chauffeur now.”
We were in the Fewkel drivway, and Ronnie was getting into the truck so I could drive him over to Wal-Mart.
“I appreciate this,” he said. “Can’t exactly have the little lady be taking me to buy her own birthday present now, can I?”
“You don’t have to appreciate anything. Just be sure to invite Gwen and me to the party,” I said.
“Absolutely,” Ronnie said. “If I remember.”
Twenty-five minutes later we were at the turn for the new Wal-Mart. As I pulled into the left lane Ronnie got all concerned.
“Where you going?” he said. “Wal-Mart’s at the other end of town!”
“That was the old Wal-Mart,” I said. “The new one’s right here.”
We pulled into the parking lot. Ronnie looked out at the big building. “Super Center, huh? When did that go up?”
“About a year and a half ago. The other one’s a farm supply store now. You must’ve been there.”
“Probably,” Ronnie said. “Not that I’d remember. My memory’s why I can’t drive.”
Then he told me the rest. How a little chunk of his brain is missing. The chunk that keeps short term memories in place. Ronnie’s as sharp as ever—but the longest he remembers anything new is about forty minutes.
“Then it’s like it never happened,” he said. “Know how I know this? Because it’s written down.”
He showed me a little card Bonnie makes sure is leaning on the alarm clock every morning for him to read when he gets up—still—at dawn.
“You’ll get through this,” I said. “You’ll see.”
“Probably not,” he said. “But I’m okay. The way I figure it, I’m a lucky man. I get to see everything as new. Whatever I do, it’s the first time. Makes me love everything the world throws at me, whatever it is. Even makes me feel kind of grateful.”
“But your body—“
“Does its best. I’m okay with it. Now let’s go on in and get that whatever-it-was.”
In we went. Ronnie navigated through the maze of aisles for the first time and grinned with surprise at the new food section and its organic veggies and the Levi’s now being sold in a store that as far as he could remember never had sold them before.
I watched him closely, turning away every now and then so he wouldn’t see the look in my eyes.
Keeping an important memory of my own to myself:
This wasn’t the first time Ronnie and I had made this trip to the store. Or had our conversation.
Later, after I’d rescued him from where he was lost in the small appliances section, between the toasters and the microwaves, I thought about how I’d react if I were in Ronnie’s place.
Would I have the courage to say, “I love you” and, “thank you” to a new world everyday? To the body that forced me to experience it that way?
To my spirit cut so adrift from moments just past?