Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm ruthless - or am I?

(My aunt Ruth, back when women did NOT sit on Caterpillar machinery and smile about it!)


What's in a name? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

My parents gave me the middle name of Ruth. When I got married at the oh-so-young age of 22, I put my maiden name in the middle instead. Very progressive. Very liberated. Or so I thought.

Ever since, my husband has joked that I am "ruthless." Get it? Ruth-less? Yes, very funny. But there's more to the story.

You see, as I grew older I learned more about my aunt Ruth. She was my mom's older sister. She grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, smack dab in the middle of the Depression. This was back when women were seen and not heard. Women stayed home, cared for their families, and fainted when stressful things happened. (read The Great Gatsby and you'll see what I mean.) I think I might practice that myself.

"The electric bill is HOW much??" ... flop
"Client X wants ANOTHER rewrite??" ... splat
"You want me to make dinner AGAIN???" ... kerplunk

Anyway - Ruth did things differently. While other women were busy becoming as invisible as possible, she:

  • Moved to Boise all by herself, to get married to husband # 1 - then ended up in a small mining town in the mountains, cooking for the miners.
  • Lived in a tent house and got around on skis and Caterpillars - or on foot when necessary.
  • Worked whenever and wherever she had to, determined to avoid her father's dire predictions of ending up "in the poorhouse."
  • Built a successful career selling mutual funds - the only female in the entire company.
  • Acted as caretaker for ailing husband # 1, ailing mother and ailing husband # 2, never losing her wry sense of humor.
  • Raised a daughter who was equally formidable and accomplished. In fact, she became a lawyer back when female lawyers were about as common as talking elephants.
Ruth had profound things to say ...

About our government: "We should pay them all to stay home."

About finances: "The best thing you can do is to start a dollar-cost-averaging account. In 25 years you'll probably be a millionaire."

And about self-sufficiency: "Let every tub stand on its own bottom."

Now that I am older and wiser, I appreciate my heritage of strength, independence and persistence. I am amazed by the accomplishments of women who broke barriers without even realizing that's what they were doing. And I'm thankful that even though I left Ruth behind, she never left me. She is in my life - my daughter's life - and my granddaughter's life. She is right here. Spunky as always. Stronger than ever.



Rae said...

Lesley, Please stop by my blog. I have a surprise for you to pick up.

MzzLily said...

What a lovely legacy! I too was named after a woman to admire...

Lesley said...

Rae, thank you!!! You are so sweet.

MzzLily, thank you too! You're a busy blogger - I am so impressed. I just set up my second blog and I'm worried about keeping up with two. I don't know how you do it.

The Retired One said...

I like Aunt Ruth. She had it goin' on!!

The Retirement Chronicles

gaf85 said...

It sounds like your Aunt Ruth knew more about women's liberation then the bra burners.


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