I met Ralph several years ago at the Homestead. Mayor Marc Carroll had told me about an amazing group that met nearly every day for coffee. So, I simply showed up uninvited! I wore my best dress, pulled up a chair, and sat by them. "How the hell are ya?" I asked.
The men—most of them in their 70s and 80s—looked at each other and broke out laughing.
I became fast friends with all of them, but especially Ralph. We traded stories and writings. I helped him publish his book, "Skarr." And then when I got cancer in 2020, he started coming over to our house quite a bit just to make sure my whole family was okay—especially Mike, Trey, and Indiana. Since his family is from Ohio, and we don't have family in the area, this felt like a Godsend. Between Ralph, Colleen and Scott Hancock, Harry and Patsy Sherman, and many other friends, I feel like we DO have family in the area now.
Anyway, in 2020, Ralph said, "When you get better, I'll let you drive my Mustang."
"Whaaa? Yaaass!” Incentive.
But almost two years later though, despite my positive attitude and desire to live for my young children, I have not gotten better. And last week when Ralph came over, I told him that I'm getting worse. "I go back Tuesday to talk about getting this tumor in my back removed. And...they're starting radiation again." Radiation. I dislike that word so much. Radiation IS the worst thing ever. It’s hell on earth.
"I'll be back Thursday," he said.
When Ralph arrived on Thursday, I had no idea what adventure that rascal had planned. He immediately informed me that I needed to put my shoes on because he'd finally let me drive—the Mustang. I've never driven a 6-speed stick, and I could hardly wait!
We drove around and talked about music, life, and fishing. But it wasn't until Ralph let me go 80 on the freeway that I felt like death will never catch me!
After we got back to my house, Ralph said how excited he is to bring my family fly-fishing later this month. "It'll be great," he said.
"Hey, Ralph, why did you let me drive the Mustang today?" I asked. "I'm not getting better...yet."
"Well..." We both knew he didn't want to say that things are looking bleak. Since the tumor in my back is growing, now I can't feel several more sections of my right leg. The doctors said that if it keeps progressing, at some point I might not be able to walk at all. "Your...your book came out this week," he said, donning a smile. "We had to do something!" Then he paused. "When...do you go back for radiation?"
"In a week and a half." He seemed worried. It'll all be okay though." I said and gave him a huge hug. "My family just loves you, Ralph. I hope you know how grateful we are to have you in our lives."
He looked away fast (as if something got in his eye), sat down in his car, and drove away.
"I'm scared," I told Mike that night. "Even though so much good is going on...my book got published and there are so many miracles in my life...like our amazing family and friends. But I still get scared sometimes. My leg and back are just hurting so much. They found that lump in my breast and little growths in my lungs."
"I'm scared, too," Mike said. We remained quiet. "Tell you what, close your eyes, and try to imagine something really awesome, something so great it will get your mind off things."
"Okay,” I said.
And after a few minutes, I heard Mike's voice again. "Do you feel any better?" he asked.
I grinned. "Actually, yes! Apparently, all I needed was to remember speeding down the interstate with Ralph!”
Mike laughed and hugged me. “He’s a character.”
“Yeah, he is. I still can't believe I got to drive an actual Mustang.”
Mike and I both talked about Ralph, that kind legend of Blackfoot, and all of the goodness he’s brought into our lives.
Life… Well, despite cancer and hardships, there are so many good things like family, friends, and going 80 on the freeway. Life is such a miracle.