My mother passed away Thursday, February 9, 2012.
But first a little laugh in her memory:
Goldberg is the Shammas (the person who handles the details) at the synagogue. One day he receives a package for the shul and signs for it with an “X”.
The shul President asks what gives with the “X”, and Goldberg admits that he can’t write. The President discusses this with the committee and they agree that it will not do to have an illiterate Shammas, so they fire him. What is an unemployed Shammas to do? He opens a grocery store…. And it does very well…. So he opens another.
He becomes so successful that very soon he has a chain of supermarkets. He decides to expand across the country and he gets a billion-dollar loan from the bank. The loan documents are placed before him for his signature. In the space he makes an “X”. The bank Sr. V.P. looks at the “X” on the document, shakes his head and says to Goldberg: “Mr. Goldberg, can you imagine what you could have become if only you knew how to write…?”
Goldberg answers, “Yes, I know… a Shammas.
My mother was a clothes horse with exquisite tastes. If she were coming here this day for any other reason than her own funeral, she would be worrying about what she was going to wear. Her bags, her scarves, her purses, and her jewelry meant a great deal to her.
I once attended a party that celebrated local authors, artists, and assorted ilk. We were asked to introduce ourselves as we went around the room. I knew that I would say that I was a writer. But, my Ruth, my guest and Mother , I could see was sweating bullets. She was wearing a beautiful fur coat. One of the other attendees insisted that Ruth had just come in from New York City because she looked so chic.
When the circle stopped at Ruth, she stopped the show. She said she was a theater critic from New York, which was all true. She had found her perfect calling. Ruth was born in Wiessenbron, Germany, on a farm in a small village. Her father, Sol the grandfather that I never knew, was a cattle rancher. Her mother, Emma traced her heritage back to the 1700’s.
She had one younger sister, Katy. She studied English as a foreign language as much as we do here in high school. In 1937, she was able to escape from Germany with just the clothes on her back on a ship because a relative in New York City was willing to sponsor her. She left her whole immediate family behind. She never learned their fate until many years later.
Today, we are in contact with the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, getting bits and pieces of information about their tortured existence in the concentration camps. She lost her parents, her sister, and her grandparents. Most of all, my mother lost her connection with the foreign world she left behind when she immigrated to the United States.
Ruth loved horses, traveling, writing and supporting Jewish causes. She was a member of a Temple in Chicago, Temple Har Zion, where she was an active participant in the Sisterhood, B’nai B’rith Women, and the PTA. She always had chronic health problems, which limited her view of the world that most of us, love. Colitis, a disease of the colon, prevented her from ever eating out in restaurants. She cooked her own food at home. Her kids and her husband would tell you honestly that she was a lousy cook. She never used spices, she would cook three types of meat together so none of them tasted like anything identifiable, and never used salt, sauces, or any such stuff. It was pretty boring.
The one dish that her children really enjoyed were her hamburgers, though. We were a family of six meat eaters and everyone wanted their meat cooked individually. Ruth did accommodate us by broiling the hamburger patties and removing them according to taste. So we could have rare, medium, or well done; some had onions and some were bland. That was the one family meal that her children looked forward to.
Her greatest heartache was the loss of her first-born child, my elder brother, at the young age of 39 in 1985 due to his health problems. Stephen was one of the inventors of the home smoke detector.
Ruth complained bitterly that none of her family would visit her often enough, stay with her long enough, or be friends with her deeply enough. She was a difficult person to get close to, physically and emotionally. She drove her own car and she liked doing things her way. She made friends easily with people outside her family, of any age. As she grew older, naturally, her friends grew younger. But, she always concentrated on sharing what she had in common with her friends, which brought them closer to her. She liked animals and enjoyed visits from dogs and cats alike.
Ruth’s home was always filled with music. She encouraged all of her children to take piano lessons. She was a lover of Country and Western music. She was thrilled to visit the Grande Ole Opry and often told of her adventure. She drove through Canada with Sidney. She drove to Florida with Stephen and with Andrew. She took a trip with Sidney once trying to find missing relatives long before there was a Facebook.
Ruth felt she was too set in her ways to learn to use a computer. She clung to her Smith-Corona typewriter, refused to have a fax machine, and had a computer printer for her copies only. Ruth had her own desk, filing cabinets, the whole works in her own home office. She liked taking photographs and she loved being the subject of photographs.
Ruth had bonus time but it was never enough. She outlived many of her friends. As she declined physically, she remained sharp as a tack, lucid, voracious, and condescending. But, she lost her ability to do the things that she always liked to do. This was depressing to her.
We tried to remind her of the good times and tried to keep her mood up. My mother, was a very private, very proud, very courageous woman. She would have been 96 years old next month. She saw so much change and progress and often felt left behind. She believed staunchly in her Jewish faith and was so disappointed at how we Jewish People have been treated, but she never gave up on her faith.
Ruth read a daily newspaper every day. She paid her bills on time and hated late fees. She loved pink and enjoyed the variations on the theme. She liked art fairs and outside summer concerts. She liked a tidy home. She lived with my father for over 50 years. She ate apple butter, animal cookies, and Stella Dora biscuits.
She had a button collection you would not believe. She never did any gardening but enjoyed her backyard’s flora. She used to brush her teeth for 30 minutes every night. Ruth was a robust, vibrant woman, who was often hard to keep up with. She loved all of her children equally and drove them all crazy. She never paid attention to freshness dates on canned items but was always looking for the freshest dates on dairy items. If she wanted one item, she would shop at six stores to get it. She would order bulk items of things she wanted long before there was a Costco.
On her 90th birthday, I took her to the Rancho Bernardo Library to get her an email address. I was very surprised that she had been planning her Internet adventure and was just waiting for someone to give her the opportunity.
That is what I liked best about my mother. She always had a sense of adventure, a longing, a desire, an interest in the what was happening today and tomorrow. I wanted my mother to be happy and I am sorry that she has left us. Only in the physical sense which we all have to do sometime. Ruth G., as I lovingly called her, suffered a lot of pain and misfortunes but she had a lot of opportunity for joy and happiness. She loved my cat, Violet, and always liked to visit with her. She left a legacy of peace and a place in society. I will miss her three times every day when I say Kaddish for her and whenever I feed the cat. Shalom, Ruth. Love, your son.