My Saving Grace|
by Kathe Campbell
My world had come apart, and nothing or no one could ever repair it. At 63, I was finally homeward-bound after eight precarious weeks in a hospital, far from our ranch. An over-zealous 800 pound jackass stallion had pinned me to the ground on a beautiful spring morning, all but gnawing my arm in half. Just why, we'll never know I suppose, for this animal had just been inducted into the National Hall of Fame. He had been raised with total loving care and training, had earned dozens of show and performance awards and was everyone's favorite clown.
My blessed family was always there through every grueling surgery, and with each awakening I was ecstatic to be alive, despite the eventual loss of my right arm. But my bliss was fleeting, for ghastly visions invaded my days and nights, seesawing back and forth forcing reality to creep back in. Self-pity was eating me up.
My heart raced as the grandchildren rushed to greet me under the big curved log gate with my hand-burned sign swinging lazily beneath. I tried desperately to avoid a grim moment reminding me that my days of ranch signs and oil paintings would now fade into nostalgia. Homesickness had reduced me to tears often during those weeks, and I still find myself a cranky old fussbudget if away from this glorious place more than two days.
Suddenly a small blackish cloud passed beneath the evening sun, loosing a short July drencher. My precious grands helped their bedraggled Granny up onto the deck where our Molly and her Mike were shish kebabing.
"The kids need you, Granny," pleaded Mol. "They need to touch their Gran," as she planted a warm kiss on my cheek and whispered she was pregnant again.
I could barely wait to feel our mountain and all that rested upon her as my babes lent steady hands, lest my new lopsided frame should topple. We giggled and lifted our legs high while wading barefoot through glistening wet grasslands. A sea of wild blossoms seemed to raise their heads to drink, and a big old croaking toad went leaping by on his way to Blacktail Creek. How delightful their precious laughter, I mused, then lifted my face to breathe in luscious mountain air.
"Are you okay, Gran? Do you need a glass of juice?" queried my sweet Mikal. "No, my darlin', not now," I whispered.
While we picked dandelions and wild flowers for the dinner table, I found myself so acutely aware of my surroundings, more than ever before I think. Suddenly, Jamie stopped and stared down at her flowers. Big tears slid off her chin into her bouquet as her tiny voice mumbled, "You're not going to die, are you, Granny?"
Ghostly phantom pain kept me awake most of the night. Shortly after dawn I arose and slipped out into a new day. The morning sun on the deck felt heavenly. While sunbathing in my boxers and T-shirt, I watched and listened to God's miracles embracing me. Just yards away the mallards were completely engrossed in caring for their eggs nested warmly under carefully fashioned bits of grass and straw. The hens took turns scurrying into Duck Soup Waterfowl Refuge to flap their wings and drown their feathers before returning to tedious incubating. "Only a few more days ladies," I reminded them out loud. "Then all your worries begin."
Across the fence our beautiful donkey family had finally shed their scruffy winter wear. They looked so fine all decked out in sleek coats with their crosses emblazed down their backs and across their shoulders. "And what did Mary ride to Bethlehem?" I called out. Sweet Pea sensed my frailties and whimpered ever so softly instead of her usual full-blown heehaw. She raised her head and snuffled the air as I walked toward her, but all five suddenly jumped and fled. I knew I looked and smelled different, but that was okay. I had all the time in the world to heal and resume precious days together.
I longed to walk the morning earth, to devour the scent of lodge pole pine, and feel sweet breezes that made the pond ripple. Most of all, I yearned to hear the piercing sounds of Rocky Mountain birds warbling melodies heard only by those who bother. A cottontail doe sat at attention, ogling and angrily thumping her hind foot while her wee ones scampered out of the grass before me. Above, our big forested mountain was still there waiting, strong and green, a sentinel protecting all it surveyed. I thanked God out loud for allowing me to return to this place where I would feed my soul forever.
I meandered slowly over the uneven pasture toward the woods in hopes the Shooting Stars or Indian Paintbrush had bloomed. I thought I heard a cry. Our dog, Keesha, stopped to listen and sniff. It was probably just a bird. But with only a few more steps, there before us hung a spotted fawn caught up and struggling violently on the farm fence. I quietly ordered Keesha to stay while I drew closer, trying not to notice the anxious doe peering at me from the shadows.
Anyone coming upon the scene would have surely thought I had lost my mind, for does with fawns can strike an enemy viciously. I was no match for the frantic mother and yet I'd seen fawns lose a foot or spinal cord from thrashing on fences. Was I strong enough to lift the baby to freedom as I inched closer to survey the wire? Would I dare risk another horrible bite, or worse yet, frenzied and angry stomping from the doe's sharp hooves? Thoughts of rushing back to the house to call the game warden or my husband never even entered my mind, the task was so urgent.
The fawn cried like a baby as I threw my heavily bandaged stump under her chest, lifting slightly and untangling her foot with my good hand. We both collapsed in a heap in the tall grass just as the mama sprang over the tall fence, squealing wildly. "Okay, okay lady, we're leaving," I yelled. And with that, she and her child ran off into the aspens without a bye or leave.
It was a dumb thing to do in my weakened condition. But there I was, the enemy, lying in a field, flat on my back in pj's, happily laughing myself silly. My Keesha was so tickled over the moment, she ran circles and slurped my face in utter joy. I held her close and boasted, "Holy smokes girl, I've been home less than a day, I've disobeyed doctor’s orders, and already I'm a hero.”
My road to mending began in a valley of defeat. I was, and still am slightly insecure. Every time I get to feeling that life dealt me a bum blow, I look around at others in such terrible trouble and thank the Lord for allowing me to live and love all who enter my life. We know not from where God sends his creations to heal bodies and souls when all seems lost, for both our lives were saved that fateful day. The fawn has, and always will be my saving grace, for she unlocked my pitiful door and became the key to my healing. "Thank you, little fawn."
This story is an adaptation of an original (The Fawn), now in Chicken Soup For The Body and Soul.
The story was also selected as their 2006 story of the year at www.alongstoryshort.net
Photo of me with my third great granddaughter, Teyla Kenzie Williams, 13 mos.