Don’t let her dainty appearance here fool you, my Grandma Ruthie was as strong as they come. She married here sweetheart Dean while she was young and, despite Dean having some serious health problems, they had 5 children. Having 5 kids is a brave thing to do, especially when you don’t have much money and you’re not sure how long your health will hold. They had their children in faith, knowing it was what they should do and that somehow things will work out. Things did “work out,” but only through a lot of heartache and pain and hard work and growth and experience and progression and…. doesn’t everything “work out” if you look at it that way? Life certainly has been no picnic for her, but I have all that I have because of her perseverance and sacrifice. Dean died when my dad (the eldest of the five) was just 15 years old, or was it 14? He left my dad with instructions to be the man of the house and he left his dear Ruthie with a house full of kids to feed. But, it was a house that he’d built for her with apartments upstairs that she could rent out to help support the family in case something happened. Something about that hits deep. I imagine Dean planning out a house to build for his family and carefully planning in some contingencies in case he wasn’t around to support his family. Acknowledging that he might not be able to be there for his family must have cracked his heart right open.
I’m sure I have no idea the pain Ruthie must have gone through, losing her husband but still having to press forward being a mom to 5 little kids. She loved (and still loves) Dean as much as anyone has loved anybody. How do you manage that kind of grief while mothering and trying to help your own children grieve? How do you raise 5 children on your own, thinking about it makes my heart hurt.
She helped to create the Joy School, wrote most of the curriculum and ran a commercial Joy School for years. I loved visiting her orderly little school as a child and have loved feeling her presence as I have done Joy School with my kids. Her organized, creative, cleaver personality oozes out of those lesson plans and has spilled over, blessing so many children and moms for so many years.
We were lucky to get Grandma to the lake this year. While she is just as spry and witty as ever, sadly she’s really loosing her memory fast. She can’t remember who we are from minute to minute and has to ask who we’re connected to over and over. Sometimes she even forgets how many children she has. But, what gets me, is, even though she doesn’t know who exactly we all are all of the time, she still manages to radiate love for all of us, all the time. When I call her on the phone she is just as warm and loving towards me as ever. How does she do that? I think I might be a little hostile to someone calling me who I didn’t feel like I knew. I guess those bonds that she worked to form with us run deep and she can feel the strength of her relationships even if her brain can’t completely put them together.
All the Joy School graduate grandkids sang her a wild and crazy rendition of “I’ve got Joy.” Which thrilled her. Look at that posterity (and that’s not nearly everyone!)
I wish I would have taken a picture of her with Charlie. He is Charles Dean after her dear sweetheart. And he was born on Dean’s birthday. I think those two might have a relationship that goes way back, to before Charlie graced us here.
Here she is with all her daughters who are all caring for her so well now.
Grandma Ruthie has so quietly built such a strong posterity. And, while it may look like she’s done it on her own, I know she feels deeply that Dean has been beside her a long the way. Even though I never saw them together, never saw the way they interacted and loved each other, she has taught me a lot about what true love looks like. From as early as I can remember she has talked about how much she loves that Dean of hers and how excited she is to see him and be with him again. I think she feels like she’s been waiting an awfully long time. I hope she gets to see him again soon, give him a long hug and thank him for all he’s helped her to build.
Thank you Ruth and Dean for your lives of faith and work and love.