Run Away Or Guard Her Heart?

Michelle Liggett CBS

We arrived in Beckley on the Fourth of July and found a story that was red, white and especially blue, reports CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman in his latest installment of "Everybody Has A Story."

"Because my mother needs back surgery," Michelle Liggett says on the phone. "She needs two discs removed from her lower spine."

Liggett, 43, is a 20-year Navy veteran about to answer a whole different call to duty. She says her mother really needs her now.

So Michelle's quitting her job at the local V.A. hospital, putting all her stuff in storage, renting out her house for a year - and telling everyone it's because of her poor mother's back.

While at church, one friend tells her, "At least you'll be there for her." To which Michelle answers, "Yeah, I will be. And that's important to me."

So Hartman went to meet her mother and found her laughing uproariously while tending her garden at her home in Delaware. Not only can Ragna get around, she can apparently handle some sizeable lawn implements.

"I'm getting the hedge trimmer," she says.

Still looking, Ragna says, "Since I can't find the hedge trimmer, I'll weed whack."

As for surgery, it's true she may have to have it — someday.

"But the fact of the matter is I can get along," Ragna says.

Confronted with this, Michelle explains, "OK! She doesn't need me; she's not that sick!"

Which means there's more to the story.

It all began exactly one year ago. On July 4, 2002, Michelle and her husband separated. Michelle was crushed, then one day she fell head over heels over "Mr. Heels Over Head." Tom Hamilton was her yoga instructor - and over the past few months their relationship has grown closer and closer and closer.

When asked if she's running away, laughing, Michelle says, "I don't want to say running away."

Now, you know why she likes to tell people it's the surgery.

Michelle says, "I need to know I can make it without a man in my life. I never want anybody to be able to come up to my wall and take bricks out of it."

Sounds like she wants to remove all her vulnerability.

"I do," Michelle says, "and I know that sounds absurd because… "

When Hartman interrupts to say he doesn't mean to analyze her, Michelle continues: "My mother tells me the same thing. I've put up so many bricks that I can barely see over the top of them now."

Life sure would be a lot easier if sometimes we could just start over - put all our baggage into storage and outrun our shadows. Unfortunately, wherever we go, there we are.

For his part, Tom says he's willing to wait this out. Michelle has promised not to make him wait too long.

Michelle says with a laugh, "when my mother really decides to have an operation, I hope I can be there."
  • Tatiana Morales