On Friday, July 2, 2004, Judith lost control of her bike and flipped into a ditch. Her back was broken. Last Sunday, Neils Knudsen, her husband, shared the emotional and physical impact the accident had on both of them. Today he shares part 2.
Written by, Neils Knudsen
Our search for a new home for ourselves ended when we found a development with new construction. A site was chosen and the contractor was eager to make the changes we needed for Judith. In January of 2005 she removed her clamshell brace for the last time and we moved in to a home with a view.
Judith was excited for the new beginning. Although the doctor visits, medications and surgeries continued for some time, life for her became more peaceful and satisfying. She was free of her constraints and could now test her new wings . . . and wheels. That cruise to the inside passage of Alaska was realized and she began to see a larger, more magnificent world.
The home scene, though more comfortable soon clashed with my work schedule. My normal work hours grew longer along with mandatory overtime on weekends. I couldn’t meet the demands of home and work.
We discussed our options and in April of 2006 I took an early retirement and Judith decided she would return to her old job part-time. I quite enjoyed the change and got a lot of insights into her career.
Construction of other homes was still underway in our development. Hammers, Skill saws, heavy equipment and tons of dust covered the streets and vehicles. It was difficult for Judith to be heard at a distance during the day.
I lifted a handful of clothes out of the washing machine and paused, listening.
I tossed the wet laundry into the drier and ran upstairs in a panic.
“What?” I clutched my knees and panted breathlessly. “What’s wrong?”
She sat at the kitchen table and took a sip of her coffee, the morning paper opened to the daily crossword puzzle. “Hey you,” she smiled, “what’s a 6 letter word for ‘Spring’?”
“Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-ils.” The unmistakable sound of a power saw knifed through my mind. It turns out, if you stretch my first name out as if you’re calling for me it sounds much like a power saw cutting wood. Add a touch of nasal cavity to it and it truly becomes a power tool.
“I didn’t call you,” she guffawed and pointed out the door. “They did.”
We began to travel, mostly by car. Judith had always been an easy traveling companion and that didn’t change. We no longer rushed to go places, often stopping to explore as we went. She sometimes grew wistful as she watched others strolling together at a scenic overlook. That prickly, stubborn and ‘always in a hurry’ woman had changed. She came to appreciate that what she had gained was equal to what she had lost and accepted a more measured and contemplative attitude. Soon, that new life would include painting the scenes which she now saw with new eyes.
The visits to doctors and hospitals subsided to an occasional check-up. She learned to touch and be touched. Gentleness and acceptance of life grew to replace her ambition. She retired from her job and began to focus more on her art.
Judith is also an avid reader and has a degree in English. She has distinct tastes in what she selects as a reading subject. Unfortunately we don’t share those tastes to any notable degree. So when I started writing as a hobby I chose Science Fiction and Fantasy as my genre. She once tried to read “The Hobbit,” but got bored with it. The same with “Lord of the Rings,” though she loved the movies.
Four years later I finished my first book, The Singing Stones of Rendor. Credit for that project, including all its awards, would likely not have happened if not for Judith. Her gentle prodding, encouragement and constructive criticism was the gas in my tank. I repeatedly tried to kill off one character, but she argued against it—often to the point of bloodshed. I’m glad I listened to her. The arc of the story would not have developed and garnered so many trophies, if any, without her insights and skills at knowing what makes a good story.
My wife is, for the most part, independent and needs little in the way of any physical help to do things. I still help her with some of her transfers on occasion, but not often. The day will come when she’ll need more help. I expect I’ll need some help by then myself. She is the light in the tunnel, the gentle whisper in my ear, my tease, my best friend and motorized mentor who runs over my toes when I get curmudgeonly.
Judith has never given up. She always listens to people’s stories and encourages them to fight on. The impact she has had on the people around her is best illustrated by a young man she mentored while she worked on Wall Street. He went on to establish his own hedge fund and became a wealthy man. When he heard of her accident he flew here to visit her in the hospital. Later he would establish a scholarship fund in her name at Utah State University which is awarded annually. It is a fitting tribute to this woman who has given, and still gives, so much of herself to help those around her.
My part as a caregiver is insignificant compared to what Judith offers. So, I ask again, who is the real caregiver?
What I can say for sure is that I have been dancing with class.
Thank you Neils for sharing your heartfelt journey. I appreciate getting to know you and Judith better. I agree, you have been dancing with class.