Memories of Ruth

9 Mar

Ruth and Kathy

Ruth and Kathy on Ruth’s B-Day–June 29, 2004

Ruth died on Monday, March 3, 2014 around 7 pm.

We first met at a Christian church somewhere south of Cleveland, where my brother and soon to be sister-in-law were due to be married. Ruth was directing traffic from a pew in the back of the church during the rehearsal. She wanted everything to be just right for her daughter. Robyn was trying to calm her down and simultaneously keep the photographer from taking a picture of Rhonda from a side angle. I wasn’t sure what to think of this ball of energy that was Ruth. Doubtless, she wasn’t too sure what to think of me either. I had told my brother that I didn’t like the color blue, didn’t want to wear white stockings, and during the actual service while I was standing up front with the bridal party almost fainted and had to be escorted to the front pew by the minister. Later at what I think was a last minute before we go on the road breakfast, she stood up and told the family members that were assembled that she was so happy that Rhonda had ended up with such a good-looking and nice husband and I started to warm up toward her.

What can you say about someone whose favorite colors were green and purple? I had never met someone quite like Ruth. Rhonda, like my mother, was coolly confident, organizing her day into slots where she talked to friends, cooked, studied, and was a companion to my brother. It’s said that men usually marry women like their mothers. Ruth was a bird of a different feather. When she walked she jangled, because of all the jewelry she wore. In her pierced ears she wore dangly earrings, had bangles on her wrist, and often had on a pendant that hung from a long chain. Not necessarily what you’d expect from a minister’s daughter. She was that sometimes overused word from my generation–funky. When talking at dinner, she would hop around from discussing Robyn, to complaining about her computer, to discussing the derivation of a word. I had a hard time getting a word in edgewise and would look at her sideways while eating, so I could jump in when she took a breath.

In the five years since I’ve been back in Ithaca, I have come to know Ruth much better. We were often at Ruth’s for dessert. In Ruth’s mind, dessert was a meal in itself. Why have one dessert when you could serve four? Trifle, chocolate log cake, red velvet cake, chocolate-covered pretzels, sometimes all together. Most recently Mom and I were at her house for a Valentine’s Day party. She served pink cake, but that was pretty much it. I should have known she was slipping. But I know she enjoyed being a hostess that day. Last Friday, the family was supposed to have dinner together. By the time she went to bed Thursday she had finished making most of the peppermint pie she was planning on serving Friday night. She knew she was in trouble but waited eight hours before calling for help. Naturally the doctor’s office called an ambulance. Before she went out to meet the ambulance, Ruth finished the peppermint pie. She had been worried about putting the peppermint candy on top of the pie too early, because if she did it might fall through. Only when she was done and had her cell phone and I Pad did she leave the apartment. A woman after my own heart, Ruth considered dessert to be a big deal, and if she couldn’t come to dinner, she was definitely going to participate with her pie.

She was my best Words with Friends companion in that, like me, she was often more interested in the words than she was in winning. Ruth had been a French teacher and she had taken Latin in school, so she was often critical of the words that the online game accepted. After we had finished a game, I would often have to consult an online dictionary to appease her about one word or another. Usually the word was archaic, which explained why it was okay but she didn’t know it. It still bugged her that the game seemed to accept more German words than it did French. Sometimes she would correct Barth if she thought he had used a word wrong. Ruth was relaxed about some things, but word choice was not one of them.

However, there were people and situations where she was very relaxed. One of her favorite pictures was a picture of my niece Meghan in her Gamma’s fur coat. In the picture Meghan looks the picture of sophistication and supreme happiness. She is surrounded by her grandmother’s love. Ruth loved pointing to the picture and the blissful look on Meghan’s face. When she was with her friend Anne she often looked especially content. We would run into each other on different occasions and when Ruth sat next to Anne she didn’t move as much. One of her favorite indulgences was getting manicures and pedicures. She would spread her hands and feet out so everyone could see them. There was a place called Pro Nail in one of the malls on Triphammer and she took pleasure in showing off the designs they drew on her nails. She thought there was nothing better than stretching back in a warm bath.

Ruth provided her own aromatherapy and in her bath she kept aromatherapy sticks. She was all about the details and scent was one of them. Naturally she wore perfume and Ruth wore a fair amount, so I was often aware of it. Several summers ago when Mom and I were crossing the Canadian-U.S. Border, we stopped in at the Duty-Free Shop just as we usually did when heading back into New York. The items tend to be fairly expensive, so we don’t always buy there but I walked by the perfume counter and one of Ruth’s perfumes, “Pleasures,” was on display. Even the word was a good fit with her. That was the earliest Christmas gift I’ve ever bought for anyone.

At one point we discussed not exchanging gifts because Ruth had so many people to buy for, but we were together every Christmas and we had become family. Ruth shopped far and wide for Christmas and birthdays, haunting the sales near Linwood on Lake Erie and in Ithaca. Like a soldier girding herself for combat, she always had to prepare ahead of time. She stored her boxes and bows, just like she stored her gifts. Yesterday at the funeral my niece Rebecca told me there was a gift with my name on it in Ruth’s apartment. I suspect there are gifts for other people as well. Finding that out made me cry, because I realized she had been thinking about me when I didn’t know it, just as I’ll think about her when I open the gift in the future.

3 Responses to “Memories of Ruth”

  1. DH March 10, 2014 at 4:41 am #

    One can never, ever have enough cake. And pedicures. She sounds like a lovely person.

  2. Reblogged this on ithacalansing.

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