Driving Miss Ruthe

When my parents married in January 1946 after the briefest of courtships, there would have been an ample supply of newlywed adjustments for both. This union was the joining of two individuals from vastly different backgrounds.

My dad’s forebears were mostly no-nonsense, hard-working midwestern people of German descent. Upon arriving in the US, Dad’s grandfather had settled in St. Louis. He and his family led lives of predictability – work, family, church, work some more – with few  distractions or embellishments. They were ordinary folks leading quiet lives.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

In contrast, my mom’s east-coast (Philadelphia) upbringing turned her into an independent, free spirit, a woman eager to embrace the waiting world. From age six (when Mom entered boarding school), familial attachments had mostly evaporated; only her mother remained and mother-daughter visits were infrequent. Living at school was doubtless a happy and wholesome environment, but sans family. Continue reading “Driving Miss Ruthe”

A True Tale of Ricky-Robby

Great news about the recent recovery in Georgia of more than three dozen missing and at-risk children, thanks to the US Marshals Service and Operation Not Forgotten! Parents everywhere can rejoice knowing these children have been released from awful circumstances and returned home. Bravo to law enforcement for their diligence!

As a little girl, I knew children who had suffered neglect and abandonment. Maybe it’s just my impression (due to hazy memories) but in those days, it seemed to me the community took a more hands-on approach to difficult relational problems. Continue reading “A True Tale of Ricky-Robby”

Who She Was

As a tribute to my dear mother, I’ve been compiling certain documents in my possession that add depth to and understanding of her life. A separate section of this blog is titled Blood Type / West and under that heading, I’ve attached a couple related documents. (More documents will follow in time.)

In 2006, we celebrated Mom’s birthday with much more fanfare than usual. We threw a party, Hats Off For Ruthe, and as part of the celebration, I created a book about her life. Given she lived another 14 years, the book is somewhat dated as regards her children and grandchildren. Still, it’s a good record.

Another tab in the Blood Type / West sub-section offers some background information about the boarding school my Mom attended. It was an amazing place for a young girl who came from a modest background and was suddenly bereft (having lost her father) while her mother was thrust into the workforce.

A couple times, I had the privilege (with my Mom) to visit the location of this school (in Newtown Square, PA) which shuttered its doors to students in 1977. The buildings are still there, repurposed. We were able to enter the imposing administration building as well as the inviting stone cottages where students lived under the oversight of a dorm “mother.”

A previously coddled child myself, it was difficult for me to imagine my mother as a six-year-old being brought to this cottage and entrusted (by her own mother) into the care of strangers. It was (no doubt) a crucible for the development of strong character. She could have felt the bitter sting of abandonment; instead, she learned gratefulness for God’s unique provision. She also learned the value of self-reliance.

In large part, the person my mother became reflects the transformation of tragedy (the death of her father) into beauty, as she received an excellent education within a safe environment where multiple benefits (usually reserved for wealthy families) were available to her. Thanks to the generosity of an unknown philanthropist (who’d been dead 20 years when my mom was born), young fatherless girls received a wonderful start in life. Though I wasn’t one of those girls, I’m certainly a beneficiary of aforementioned philanthropy … and how thankful I am.

Art for Art’s Sake

Throughout childhood, my older brother was a role model and I eagerly followed him, learning from his example. He’s two years older and surely, I must have been an annoying shadow at times. When he decided to learn the violin in grade school, I followed suit. If he climbed a tree, I’d be directly behind him. An incident from junior high comes to mind.

image courtesy of Pixabay.com

My brother and his friends (all boys) were hunting rabbits in the barren cornfield near our house. Naturally, they didn’t want a girl tagging along but I begged and bargained:  I agreed to carry any rabbits they managed to snag. (It probably wasn’t the best bargain I’ve ever negotiated!)

I thought it unlikely they’d catch even one rabbit … imagine my chagrin when they bagged two! But I kept my side of the bargain, grasping a pair of rabbit ears with each hand for the trek homeward.

Needless to say, this experience ended my “hunting” inclination. I began emerging from my brother’s shadow to do my own thing. But even today, he acknowledges gratefulness to his younger sister (shadow) for introducing him to one of my classmates – now his wife with whom he recently celebrated 53 years of married life together. Continue reading “Art for Art’s Sake”

Leading The Way

With her 92nd birthday approaching (the end of August), my mother Ruthe must contemplate the final days (or years, we hope) of her incredible life on this planet. I’ve shared her stories more than a dozen times in this space, among them Everybody’s FineThe Tale of Bobbie Pringle (in 2 parts), and Safe In His Arms. I’ve also posted poems where she was my subject:  Mother of Mine, Touchstone. Along life’s journey, she has embraced numerous adventures, taken surprising risks and absorbed monumental losses. What a blessing she has been to me (and her other offspring)!

The photo above was taken a couple weeks ago. She needed groceries and I was in town, so we drove to the nearby SuperCenter. Because she lacks the stamina she once had, I suggested she try the motorized shopping cart. I’ve never used one of these devices … nor had she until that day! (Keep in mind, she’s almost totally blind, with only a sliver of cloudy light squeezing into the uppermost corner of her left eye.) Still, I figured the electric cart was worth trying, since I worried her knees might give way during our trek through the massive store.

As things turned out, we managed to collect her groceries without inflicting excess damage to the cart or any merchandise lining the aisles … and thankfully, no customers were permanently injured during this endeavor! When she first grasped the forward/reverse lever, the cart unexpectedly shot forward, leaving me far behind. I caught up quickly and decided to set my hand to the “wheel” to control the cart’s speed and direction. It was my chance to walk beside her, guiding her to the k-cups, the oatmeal and her other important purchases. Making our way (slowly) around the store, she depended on my guidance, but strange as it might seem, she was leading the way … as she always has! Continue reading “Leading The Way”

Papers, Please?

Since the passing of my mother-in-law on March 1st, my Beloved and I have sifted and sorted through the tangible mementos she left behind. There are photographs and slides aplenty, so I set myself to digitizing as many as possible to add to our (informal) family archive.

My mother-in-law with her mother-in-law, about 1948

Scanning the vast collection of photos/slides, etc. required lots of time … and I’m not finished yet! What’s more, the stack of photos seemed to multiply every time we opened another box! My initial enthusiasm diminished as the number of digital images grew and my eagerness took an unexpected turn to frustration.

I had a nagging sense something was missing. But what?

In my mind, the possibility of a personalwritten memoir (or several, if fortune smiled) would help flesh out an understanding of my mother-in-law that forty-seven plus years of being her daughter-in-law had not achieved. By digging deeper, I thought to solve the mysteries of Inscrutable Daisy. Continue reading “Papers, Please?”

Inscrutable Daisy

My mother-in-law died last week. She turned 94 last October, so her passing wasn’t unexpected. In addition to dementia (which prevented verbal communication), she suffered congestive heart failure. Bed-bound over the last six months, she slipped away quietly in her sleep. That was a blessing.

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Previously in this space, I’ve shared tidbits about the complex relationship betwixt my mother-in-law and myself. Certainly, I have always admired my in-laws for crafting a long-term marriage. I’m sure they had their share of struggles … but they celebrated 65 years together before my father-in-law’s death. Continue reading “Inscrutable Daisy”

Between Friends

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. You’ve probably heard a version of this message from the Ad Council, a gentle caution for drivers and passengers alike.Friends-Dont-Let-406606-web

I’ve decided a similar message should apply with respect to social media. Maybe something like this:  Friends don’t let friends contrive junk. I know, I know! It’s clunky and doesn’t roll off the tongue as nicely as the Ad Council declaration. But the meaning should resonate.

The sterile contrivance that is social media purports to keep us “connected” to friends and family. In truth, it’s a time-consuming distraction that draws us away from numerous activities and human interactions which once occupied our time and attention.

Social media in its varied applications also tends to work as an echo chamber … a mishmash of individual posts to which others respond by clicking share or like. But for me, the dreaded copy, paste and post if you agree is most exasperating. What if I agree with a post but choose not to copy, paste and post? Is my non-compliance misconstrued? (Oh, dear! What will people think if I don’t comply?) Continue reading “Between Friends”

Ten, Two and Four

For people who are into fine dining, there’s big news in our locale. The news revolves around the Texas chain of hamburger joints, Whataburger, now introducing their brand to northwest Arkansas. (Yes, the fine dining reference is written with tongue-in-cheek.) I think I’ve eaten at a Whataburger maybe twice in my life.whataburger

All the buzz about this new chain coming to town reminded me of other local burger places I’ve enjoyed. Though fast food is mostly off my list nowadays, I’ve relented from time to time when I’m entertaining my grandson (actually, when he’s entertaining me). He likes kids’ meals … cheeseburger (no pickles), fries and a toy. Recently, his parents have stressed healthier choices, so Sonic and McDonalds are slightly verboten. Continue reading “Ten, Two and Four”

Purging History

When our older son purchased his first vehicle, he was about sixteen years old. He wanted a pickup truck and found a 1984 Dodge that appeared to be a dependable vehicle. After he purchased it, he began making modifications. I recall he put lifts on it and he painted it a dull camouflage green. (There were other things as well that I’ve likely forgotten.) He loved that vehicle. The picture below isn’t his truck, but a similar version.We were glad he enjoyed spending time fixing up his truck and making it an expression of his personality. However, we put our foot down when it came to one specific attachment he’d planned – he wanted to hang a Confederate battle flag in the rear window. We told him we thought that was an especially bad idea. Continue reading “Purging History”