WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - March 1, 2011 — Growing up in a newspaper was interesting. You found out things before other people. You got to see the pictures that didn’t make it into the newspaper and those that were filed in the “secret drawer.”
You also realized what “made the paper,” as in what people looked for and what made it sell. They wanted their crossword puzzle, comics, sports and gossip. A lot of other stuff was just fluff. One thing you could count on was that folks read the obituaries or “obits.” People want to know who has died and how old they were. They also want to read the nice things said about them.
It makes you stop and wonder why folks don’t try to find out more of the good stuff while someone is alive.
A friend sent me an obituary of a lady who passed away in Florida; she was 90 years-old. I didn’t know her; all I have is her obituary. She seemed like a wonderful and interesting woman and loving wife and mother. Her name was “Ruth.”
Ruth was born in Baltimore in 1920, the year that the Red Sox traded Babe Ruth. I wonder if maybe her Father and Mother were Yankee fans. Also in 1920, the New York Times ridiculed American rocket scientist Robert Goddard. Ruth was there in July of 1969 when the New York Times publicly apologized when the Apollo crew was on its way to the Moon.
She was raised Episcopalian, but converted to Catholicism after marrying the love of her life Sal. Sal was a Navy man and they were married in Florida where he was stationed during World War II. A young couple married and witnessing one of the most horrific wars the world has ever seen.
Ruth and Sal spent the years after the war in Baltimore where they raised their daughter and enjoyed life.
They moved back to the Florida Panhandle in 2003 and lived together for 4 years until Sal passed. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been on Ruth.
What else did they have to say about Ruth?
“Ruth kept a warm and welcoming home where her husband’s and daughter’s needs always came before her own.”
Wow. Show me a child or a husband that wouldn’t want to live forever having a mother and wife that thought that way. Can’t you picture her? No, I don’t know her, but I see her in the doorway.
What do you say?
Ruth, you did your job well. But that’s not all.
“Ruth was a woman of common sense and quiet dignity, with a realistic attitude toward life and death. She suffered the rigors of old age with fortitude, making it easy for others to help her.”
“Common sense and quiet dignity.” I assume they are saying Ruth met life and death head on with a sense of confidence that we all would love to have. Ruth did it with fortitude. We get the picture. She was courageous, she was loving and she was indeed very special.
Did she have fun in those 90 years? Are you kidding? I bet she was a joy to be around. These few lines tell it all.
“She enjoyed drinking tea, playing cards and scrabble, and unscrambling the words of the Jumble.”
Hot tea or iced tea? It doesn’t matter. I would tend to believe it was hot tea in a pretty cup held by a hand that was strong but gentle. What kind of cards do you think? My guess is bridge and I would say that she was good. Remember “common sense and quiet dignity,” I’m sure she played cards well.
Playing scrabble is a dead giveaway for a wonderful vocabulary. Ruth, the homemaker and mother paid attention in those 90 years and was educated by a life that seemed to be very rewarding.
I found all of these things interesting, they made Ruth more familiar.
“…and unscrambling the words of the Jumble.” Oh Ruth, you just stole my heart. I have this picture of you and Sal sitting at the kitchen table, laughing and working the Jumble. Ruth and Sal figured it all out; they “unscrambled” life and lived it to its fullest.
Is this not what we all want to do?
No, I didn’t know Ruth. However, we all do know “Ruth’s” and “Sal’s” by other names. They are our relatives, neighbors and friends.
What a wonderful world this is.
Dr. Seuss said it best when he said “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
I’m sure that Ruth and Sal are smiling and working on a puzzle right now.
BN Heard is a syndicated columnist. You can find his “Cranks My Tractor” column in newspapers across the southeast, parts of Ohio and LA (Lower Alabama).
If you are a Kindle owner, read his stories available at Amazon three to five times a week on your Kindle.
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