Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ruuuth! Quaker Honorary Auntie

In keeping with standard RantWoman practice, still living people and Rant Family members get noms de blog. People RantWoman means to memorialize are referred to by the name RantWoman uses.

Deviating from RantWoman’s annoying practice of referring to herself in the third person, RantWoman will attempt to live with the first person in narrative below.

In memory of Ruth Corwin Meyer
Ruth Corwin Meyer obituary in Albuquerque Journal
I want to offer a few words in memory of Ruth Corwin Meyer but first I want to say a giant thank you to everyone who has been involved in her care and support in her last years. Ruth has been a part of my family, an abiding friend of the Rant Parents and a deeply beloved honorary Auntie to me, RantBrother and Little Sister for many years. After she moved to NM and we moved to MT, Ruth continued to visit us most summers and many Christmases. She even had her own Christmas stocking along with the family ones and an extra unmarked one for whoever else might be visiting.

It has been hard not seeing Ruth since visits became infeasible really on all sides. My heart has been warmed in connection with news of Ruth’s passing and this memorial to hear from and hear the names of several people Ruth has spoken of with great fondness many times. I am also deeply touched to hear more about Ruth’s connections to Albuquerque Friends Meeting. Thank you all and warm wishes as we remember Ruth to carry forward some of her spark, a lot of her music, and all the gifts she has brought to all of us. I am happy to be in contact with anyone interested at the coordinates above.

A biographical note: Ruth was married briefly to a musician she met during her time in Austria. She spoke of her former husband very infrequently, a couple times about some kind of shared experience. I never heard any sense of bitterness. I also never heard any thoughts of remarrying.

 Ruth joined the music faculty where RantDad taught at Western State College, now Western Colorado University in Gunnison CO in 1969 or 1970; she basically joined our family at the same time.

·       We took care of her cat when she travelled to CT to visit her parents.

·       She filled our supper table with hysterical puns.

·       Little Sister probably did not need any lessons about how to be a pill, but Ruth happily helped add a sense of fun.

·       Ruth read us Mary Poppins. At least my memory is that she read us Mary Poppins. Little Sister says to her Ruth WAS Mary Poppins. We both chuckled singing “Chim Chim Chiminey Chim Chim Chiree” as we talked about this.

·       Ruth showed Little Sister where middle C was at age 5 and drafted both younger Rant Siblings as guinea pigs for her piano pedagogy students; I already had a different piano teacher.

·       She lent us her rollaway bed when I broke my leg and needed to sleep in our dining room to save my stair climbing energy for school: fifth grade was on the third floor and there was no elevator.

·       She talked of the WWII-era internment of Japanese Americans long before the topic was more widely discussed.

·       She and my dad and others played woodwind trios and I think she sometimes served as accompanist for some of my dad’s students’ recitals.

·       Ruth’s way of talking about world events helped open my eyes to the practice of thinking about problems from more than one perspective.

·       Ruth also had this gift of empathetic but realistic nonjudgmental acknowledgment. For instance she noticed that the eye conditions that run in my dad’s family were a bit of a challenge for everyone.

·       Ruth was very generous with practical gifts. One Christmas it was a microwave oven. Little Sister remembers Ruth helping equip her with matching suitcase and cosmetic case before Little Sister took off for a study abroad year in Italy. Little Sister says the cosmetic case has gone many places since then.

I think Ruth moved to NM in summer 1972. Later that summer our family moved (back) to MT, but after the moves, Ruth visited MT most summers and many Christmases. One summer my sister visited Ruth in New Mexico. Another year my mom talked about visiting and taking walks on the golf course near where Ruth lived. Most summers until her aneurysms, Ruth visited my family in MT. Our house was not air-conditioned; we closed it up during the day and blew out accumulated heat in the evening. Someone else’s music students cheerily arrived many summer mornings. There were various family stresses, but to Ruth it was a spa.

 I visited Ruth at Pendle Hill in the fall of 1983, around Thanksgiving. I was taking time off from college and travelling with political activism. One of Ruth's many gifts was to talk to my parents of the Quaker idea of leadings: this calmed them a great deal. I do not imagine it necessarily made them worry less about my passion for political activism, but they were calmer about their worry around me and I definitely felt freer not to share every possible worrying detail while I figured out some of how to be an adult about my strong views.

 One sad thing I remember about the visit to Pendle Hill: Ruth received word that her mother passed away. By that time Ruth’s mother was in a nursing home in NM and Ruth decided that she did not even need to hurry back to do a memorial. I found that easy to understand. Ruth's mother had visited MT a couple times after the move from CT to NM. Ruth's parents had visited us in CO and maybe in MT. Ruth’s dad was a very gentle and centered presence; Her mom's delight in children's books was a joy to be around but her dementia was definitely a heartbreaking challenge for everyone.

 I still often just refer to Ruth as my Quaker Honorary Auntie, but that does not do justice to all the music she and my dad and others made, to many trips to bookstores, to  her generosity about family indignities such as our dog who liked to hump her leg, to many moments at the supper table, to all the layers of affection and thoughtful caring observation of our family dynamics.

 One of the things that impressed me was how Ruth kept up her Quaker ties even  when she was living in places like Gunnison where there was no Quaker Meeting. I remember her often having copies of Friends Journal with her when she came to visit; a few times I picked them up because I am a total reader grazer and when I could see better looked at pretty much any print I could get my hands on at least once. Often when she visited Billings she attended worship at the Billings Meeting too.

 I think everyone in my family feels very blessed to have known Ruth. As someone who got more interested in Quaker worship as an adult, I also consider it an enormous blessing that Ruth got to develop her talents and did not grow up among the sort of Quakers who read people out of Meeting for owning a piano!

 Blessings and warm wishes to everyone gathered for the memorial.

 With much love


Seattle WA

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