Thursday, January 14, 2016
goodbye aunt ruth
my aunt ruth died last week. she was the eldest of my father's sisters. she made it to 91. there are only four of dad's siblings left now and six are gone (including dad). i guess we've reached that point. aunt ruth looked more and more like our grandmother as the years went by. her voice came to match the same pitch, her weekly coiffed beauty shop hair increasingly white like grandma kate's. the same impatience if you were slow to play your card or made a dumb move in scrabble. her thrift - apparently no amount of leftovers was too little to save. she had other parallels with grandma - losing her husband early and having to cope with a whole flock of children on her own.
she had five children, five cousins who i don't know as well as i know many of my other cousins. only two of them were in my age range. the others were quite a lot older than me and we never lived close to them. my impression is that only one of them has really stayed in touch with the family. i remember "brother bruce" calling my dad on occasion.
i have warm memories of the oldest of those cousins. the summer when i was 18, i lived with my horse trainer in rapid city and i went to visit aunt ruth frequently. barbara, her eldest, and her husband were there. in my memory, they were there that whole summer, but it may have been just a couple of weeks. memory is like that. it stretches out at times. especially in the long, hot days of summer.
i'd go over and have dinner with them and after dinner, we'd play cards. barbara and her husband would mix each of us up a white russian - kahlua, vodka, plenty of ice and a dash of cream. i was only 18, so it was deliciously illicit to me. it was legal in those days for 18-year-old in south dakota to drink "low point" beer, but white russians were a forbidden luxury until 21. and when it's slightly forbidden, it's that much better. and even aunt ruth drank them with us (that was decidedly un-grandma kate of her). i felt like i had joined the club. the club of adults. i don't remember ever getting tipsy from them and i don't remember if we ever had more than one. but i remember those card games very fondly. and to this day, when i drink a white russian (which is all too seldom) i think of those long luxurious summer nights when i was 18.
thank you aunt ruth. you will be missed.