July 2013 phone conversation between Aunt Ruthie and me:
M: Well, Ruthie, how are you doing?
AR: Well, I’m puzzled!
M: Puzzled? What about?
AR: I’m doing puzzles, doing “word find”! Ha ha ha! (Still witty at 95)
Teaching: Adoring teachers surround their retiring principal at Rheems Elementary School
Living for Others:
Back to the piano at Rheems Nursing Home: Of the residents, many of them younger than she, her response: “They are poor souls. They probably wouldn’t recognize it if I repeated songs.”
Her schnauzer, Fritzie IV:
January 4, 2012 When her care-giver, nephew Mark has surgery, she remarks: “You and I, Fritzie, are orphans now.”
* * * * * * *
The school-teacher, principal, tax collector, family and church accountant, “mother” to dozens of refugees and immigrants has now landed on the spot of the calendar that says 95.
In July 2013, after falling at home, she recuperated at a rehab center and is now living at Landis Homes, a residence for seniors, many of whom are Mennonite, near Lititz, Pennsylvania. She has survived a pacemaker procedure and pneumonia in 2008, a hip break in 2010, and another fall this year. Yet she can still get out of bed, dress herself, and go places with her walker.
Hobbled by her falls and the natural progression of age, she’s no spring chicken, but she is still mobile. However, she finds her memory loss harder to deal with. The pilot light in her brilliant mind (she skipped 2 grades and had to have a chaperone at college because of her age) is now flickering during these last few years:
May 15, 2010 “Am I out of it?” she asks, dealing with the confusion that has set in.
May 17, 2010 “Sometimes I feel as though I must guard against a mental relapse.”
May 22, 2010 “I feel like a monkey on a stick.” Or a doll – Sue (then her housekeeper) comes “in the door, takes me off the shelf, dusts me off, and puts me back up again.”
Feb, 27, 2011 “I took care of my grandfather, my mother, and now, I have to be taken care of. I was hoping this wouldn’t happen to me!”
January 11, 2012 “I don’t trust myself to say the right answer.”
April 13, 2013 Though there is confusion about where she is and the day of the week, she still notices that the hands on her Bulova Caravel watch have stopped. She gets a new piece of jewelry on her wrist today–and a touch quilt!
TODAY IS HER 95th PARTY: Time to Celebrate
Her Wit: She gets the Last Laugh!
At Landis Homes, conversing with her sister-in-law, my mother, who is the same age, has the same name, down to the middle initial:
Aunt: I want to go home to my house, my dog, my things . . . .
Mother: You have it good here, Ruthie.
Aunt: All I do is sit here. I could just as well do my sitting at home.
Mother: Here you have nice people to help you, good food, pretty flowers all around. Virginia Hoover, Simon and Mary Jean Kraybill from church, even Cecilia Metzler, my sister-in-law live here. And they all love it!
Aunt: Why don’t we just exchange places then? We have the same name. You could sit here just as well as I. No one would ever notice.
Your comments welcome! I always respond.
What a heroic life of service. Here is my blessing to Aunt Ruthie from George Bernard Shaw:
\”My life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is a privilege to do for it whatsoever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no \’brief candle\’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.\”
Shaw, at Brighton, 1907
Here\’s my 95th birthday greeting to Aunt Ruthie. She seems to fit George Bernard Shaw\’s famous words perfectly: \”My life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is a privilege to do for it whatsoever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no \’brief candle\’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.\”
Shaw, at Brighton, 1907
Perfect quote! Aunt Ruthie has drunk deeply from the well of life and given far more than she has taken. Still she laments the fact that she can no longer DO. I told her she is now in the BE-ing stage, so heaven won\’t be such a shock. That may be wobbly theology, but at the time it sounded right. Anyway, she smiled. Thanks for the comment and always knowing just the right thing to say. You are carrying your torch splendidly, Shirley!
It was so good to read this about your aunt. And good to see a picture of Jean. Wow, 95 years, that still seems a long way off for me. I knew your Aunt Ruthie, but didn\’t know she has all those cute things to say.
She\’s always been witty and sharp. Now she has good days and not-so-good ones, mostly because she misses her home and Fritzie so very much.
Happy Birthday, indeed! What a remarkable woman. She has more get-up-and-get in her little finger than many people two decades younger than she is! My hat is off to your Aunt Ruthie!
Laurie, I love seeing your merry smile and comments when I post. Thanks!
It seems like your Aunt Ruthie and my grandma Naomi are on parallel paths; my grandma just celebrated her 94th birthday, and like Ruthie, she\’s increasingly frustrated by her memory loss. Her frustration is morphing into depression, though, so I\’m glad to hear Ruthie is in relatively good spirits and still wisecracking; may she always stay that way!
She has good days and bad days. Yesterday she seemed morose, but the staff has ways to help her snap out of it. Thanks for stopping by, Rebecca.
I\’m laughing right along with Aunt Ruthie. Thank you for all the pictures.
And thank you for dropping by to enjoy . . . and comment. I love when blogging is a two-way street!
The quotes–a poignant portrayal.
Yes, our exchanges now are bittersweet. And that works both ways.
Wow 95, and I whine about my aches and pains being slightly over 50….I am so ashamed. i just love little old people who refuse to grow old…or do so gracefully. I aspire to be like Aunt Ruthie!
At the rate you are going, SK, you\’ll make it! Thanks again for dropping by.
Marian, your Aunt Ruthie is a remarkable woman. I, too, wish she could see her little dog. I bet he misses her as much as she misses him.
Barbara, welcome and thanks for stopping by. Yes, we do have plans to have Fritzie come in for a visit after we get clearance from the staff. Then it will be Whoa, doggie!
Happy Birthday Aunt Ruthie. She sounds like my Grandma (who is 98 and goes for 2 walks a day). At 95 she was mad when she fell and ended up in hospital for a few weeks: \”I\’m only 95. How dare my body give out on me!\”
She sounds like a feisty one–you are blessed!
I\’ve known Ruthie since I was a college kid roaming the world searching for a wife. Actually I only searched California, Mississippi and South Carolina, never suspecting I would find Ruthie\’s niece, Marian, a perfect match for a life\’s mate. All of these years Ruthie has been such a giver to others. She is a hero in the Longenecker clan and I\’m sure she will spice things up with her short quips and sense of humor at Landis Homes.
And what did you say your name was again please, Sir?
Love the photo on the lawn mower! When my own grandmother\’s knees got too bad to walk, she used to scoot around the porch on a chair in order to mop! Can\’t keep a good woman down 🙂
My own mother has similar creative ways to do her laundry and housework now–she\’s 95 too and has had knee replacement surgery.
Your Aunt Ruthie sounds like a delightful person. I enjoyed the examples of her wit. In the photo of her by the piano, it looks to me like there\’s Blue Mountain pottery on the right side. That\’s made in Collingwood, Ontario. I\’m wondering if she travelled to Ontario or if she received it as a gift from someone who did.
She did travel widely when she was able, but my guess is that she received it as a gift. She was always doing kind things for others and they reciprocated with presents for her. Thanks for stopping by and noticing. You have sharp eyes!
I still remember waking up to Ruthie mowing the lawn the first time I stayed at her house. (Thanks, Marian, for your part in that.) That was just one of my many fond memories of your incredible aunt! We had many wonderful conversations – a plethora of topics! She drove me all over that trip & actually wore me out! Ruthie is also probably the most genuine person I have ever met. When she was in Jacksonville, it was such fun & a delight having her stay at my home. We all stayed up late every night, talking & more talking amid much laughter.
I just NOW got back from my visit to Ruthie and others in PA + attending my class reunion at EMU in Virginia. Yesterday when we visited Ruthie she seemed content, continues to love the comfort quilt and is noticing the less vibrant lives of her hall-mates. Ruthie: \”The people around here need help. Stuff falls off and they need help in getting it back together again.\” She needs a bit of help herself, trust me, but we are thankful she is aware of her surroundings and showing insight, making judgments. Always something to be thankful for.
What an amazing woman! Thank you for sharing Aunt Ruthie in this post. It makes a difference in my outlook today to have met her.
And look at you and all the comments you\’re getting on your posts! 🙂
Sherrey, I will definitely pass your comment about Ruthie on to her. She often laments the fact that she feels so useless now that she has trouble thinking straight and getting around physically. I was happy to hear that Landis Homes has an Artist-in-Residence from a nearby College to assist with art therapy for the memory loss households.
Thanks so much, Sherrey, for taking the time from your own writing and \”upkeep\” with writing to read and comment. I don\’t know how you juggle it all. You are an amazing woman, for sure.
Thank you so, so much for providing this link Marian. I absolutely love your Aunt Ruthie. I love her mowing the lawn, playing the dulcimer, helping others, teaching and her wonderful sense of humor. What a full life she had. Yes, it is sad that she felt the decline by asking if she was out of it, or commenting on her housekeeper “dusting her off and putting her back on the shelf” (which by itself speaks to how clever her mind could still be). And then she wanted to trade places!! 😂 Brilliant! What a wonderful woman. ❤
As you are discovering, Aunt Ruthie had a brilliant mind–and a mind of her own–even in decline. It’s wonderful seeing you here, Melanie. Thanks for the comment! 🙂