When a patroness passes.

19 Apr

The things we know are coming are not softened by the blow of hearing them finally arrive, except in the honor of the words one carefully chooses, like those I’ve read about Ruth from her family and friends, like temporary blossoms in Spring, lilacs to curry our hearts in grateful remembrance.

I once told Ruth she was magnificent, early on in our relationship, and she looked up at me as she looked up at most of the world given her physical stature and leveled me with, “You’re Irish, aren’t you?” Her gift of bringing the world down to size was formidable. I remember thinking this is a woman who will not suffer fools; deal with her honestly and humbly and you will get the same in equal measure. It was a fitting analysis of one who knew the world entire but took it in daily doses, like a democratic drawbridge, allowing everything true and fair to pass over her moat. She was unimpressed by anything that wasn’t truly impressive in the way that a bee is impressive, or a breeze, or a good play.

She’d come to rehearsals and afterwards wouldn’t talk about performances, she’d talk about the play. The actor in me that sought approval would be momentarily knocked off balance, a little disappointed, until I opened myself up to her greater wisdom: We were there to do a great play, and if the play made sense to her, the compliment was implicit and weightier than any stroking of a sad and sadly inflated ego. Somehow, she knew that. She knew what mattered.

Ruth was obviously proud of her extraordinarily accomplished children, but even at a dinner when I prodded her relentlessly, she would not go on about them. She had a gilded propriety perhaps of another age, one that she carried and barely alone into the 21st Century, to remind us that manners matter, that dressing for the day was not preening but a way to honor the event, that the invitation to a luncheon was not compulsory but the indication of a gracious heart that understood wealth was nothing unless accompanied by generosity.

Ruth was generous to me in every way possible. Mostly with her time, and I treasure my time with her. It was enough to be silent with her and take her in. It was enough to be with Ruth. And I’m not sure I will ever feel the precise thrill of knowing she and she specifically, was out there and listening to the play she had chosen and fostered and loved and entrusted us to share.

I’d go on, but she’d tell me to shut up. But I loved her, and my heart is broken for the time I think she would allow me a broken heart. She knew I was Irish. I think she’d indulge me one last longing in my soul that feels a little lost today.

Ruth G. passed on Monday at the age of 97. She was committed to producing thought-provoking, cutting-edge, often controversial plays for the enrichment of her community. And I am lucky enough to say: She was my friend. –NC


14 Responses to “When a patroness passes.”

  1. Ruth Mills April 19, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    I’m sorry for your loss…..she sounds like a great lady, and your tribute to her is lovely.

    • NC Coot April 19, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

      She was a pistol. Thanks for reading, Ms. Mills.

  2. Alison April 19, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    A beautiful tribute, to a lady who sounds truly magnificent.

    • NC Coot April 19, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      Thank you, Alison. I’m grateful we have this forum to share our thoughts with one another.

      • Alison April 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

        As am I. Thank you.

  3. pouringmyartout April 19, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    Oh my god, only an Irishman could rip out my heart the way you just did. It is something in the soul. Your heart is broken, but only for as long as she would want you to let it be. That was freekin beautiful on so many levels… Your curmudgeonly facade is cracked… and my tough-guy image has taken a beating as well.

    • NC Coot April 19, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      Eventually, if you write enough, the cracks do start showing. Thanks, A.

  4. Joe Pineda April 19, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    Sorry for your loss. This is indeed a beautiful tribute. This is the best gift you could give her after her passing.

    • NC Coot April 19, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

      Thank you, Joe. I appreciate this.

  5. The Wanderlust Gene April 20, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    I think she’d have approved, perhaps even smiled inwardly, a little … Great Dames like your patroness need to be lauded in passing, not for themselves, but for what their lives can teach others. She’d have understood that.

    • NC Coot April 20, 2012 at 9:44 am #

      A truly lovely sentiment. Thank you, WG!

  6. transparentguy May 4, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    Beautiful tribute to Ruth.

    • NC Coot May 4, 2012 at 8:51 am #

      How kind. Some things are easy to write about despite being hard.

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