On January 15, 1964, Mother wrote of Aunt Ruth’s funeral.
Cousin Florence has a theory about the forces that shaped Ruth’s personality.
It was Ruth’s big day! A minister delivered oral bouquets of compliments concerning this “much loved, extraordinary woman.” Love -- love -- love -- everyone who knew her loved her! I imagine that she imagined there would not be a dry eye in the congregation. But I saw no tears. Even loyal old Morrie couldn’t squeeze any out.
I am more than ever of the opinion that funerals, except for the truly great, are out-moded ostentation bordering on the barbaric. I want nothing at all—no flowers—no display of my hideous old overcoat—nothing but a prayer from the family—and that, inaudibly. Of course, if darling Dick feels hurt by this, I’m willing for him to pray aloud—but only to the family. No friends, nothing. I will not be there. Either I will be extinct or “on my way.” I truly believe in the latter idea due to certain experiences which (to me) furnish proof of further progress. Whichever fate it is I still want only a thought now and then in some loved one’s heart.
[That you have in abundance from your second-born child, dearest Mother, loving you forever, always grateful to have had your sweet self and your poetic genius in my life.]
From Cousin Florence
February 18, 1988
Your mom came to Colorado and we set out for Florida, stopping at Ellie’s in Nashville. There we got a phone call from the administrator of the retirement home where Mother lived. He told me she had fallen and broken a bone, so was in the health center.
We stayed in Mother’s apartment and the two of us went to see her several times. We were flabbergasted when she looked at me and said, “When am I going to see you alone?”
Ernestine said, “Right now” and she left the room, and I’m sure never saw Mother again.
When Mother used to come to visit us for 2 weeks I was the buffer between her and my husband. Believe me, we were happy to put her on the plane at last. So were the girls. Sue never liked to swim and didn’t go to the public pool with Nancy and Ellie, but when Mother was there, she went every day. I wished that I could have gone, too.
You referred to my happiness at finding Mother was out when I came home from school. The main reason I was happy was because I wouldn’t have to practice on my violin and could fib to her that I had done an hour or so. I adored my violin teacher but I was never meant to be a violinist. It’s a wonder I didn’t grow up to be a real liar, but I can’t remember fibbing to anyone except for white lies.
Can you believe I never shed a tear when she died?
She used to insist on going to Concord to visit Bob and Hester whether they wanted her or not. They always had a cocktail before dinner, and he would offer her one. Obviously she would politely turn it down. Then after dinner Bob would excuse himself and retire to the TV room to see one of his favorite programs. She later told me that it almost made her feel that she didn’t want to return. How dumb can one be!!!
I really think Mother had no appreciation for your mom’s creativity. She just couldn’t understand why Ernestine wasn’t the best housekeeper or best cook—not recognizing that her talents went in a different direction. In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing that Aunt Ernestine wrote poems until I was an adult.
She really was a pathetic person. I don’t know whether you heard about her first eight years of marriage. My father’s sister, Aunt May, ran the house and took care of us children after my mother died. Three years later, when I was about five, Father married Mother and Aunt May stayed on. She had been used to managing things and continued doing so, although Mother had expected to take charge.
Can you imagine how awful that was? On top of that, Aunt May didn’t think Father needed to marry and did her best to monopolize as much of his time as she could. Finally Mother went to a psychiatrist in Boston and told her story. He said Aunt May should have gotten out after they were married. Father had been oblivious to the whole problem but finally told Aunt May to leave. It was too late—the 8 bad years left a deep scar in Mother’s self-confidence.
If you say so, Florence. I’m not so charitable . . . perhaps because I share the same gene pool with Aunt Ruth. Personally, I think the old tyrant was born that way.