I’ve been thinking a lot about Erin’s grandmother, Ruth Robinson, since she passed away Friday morning. I have lots of memories, all cherished.
Whenever I think of family, there’s always a lot of dysfunction to go with the joy. It’s like that in every family, and the dysfunction can be good, the stuff that goes into the humorous aspects of family lore. But when I think of Nana Ruth, I always see that smile. That smile could put the most uptight, cantankerous people at ease and fill them with warmth.
I know this because when I first started dating Erin 19 years ago, I was an uptight kid with a chip on his shoulder. Being the negative type, I always thought of my own family gatherings as battles to be survived. It didn’t occur to me at that point that you could or should enjoy time with family. I always chose to run. I don’t blame my family for that. It’s just how I was back then.
My perception started to change when I met Erin’s family. I didn’t feel like I had to be on my best behavior or watch what I said. I felt comfortable in my own skin. Nana Ruth really personified that environment. Hanging out with her was like soaking up the warmth of a roaring fireplace. She and Erin would talk for hours whenever we visited. Erin inherited a lot from her Nana: a love of knitting, endless worrying about other people, that smile.
Nana was big into family history. She’d spend hours telling us about the Sawyers and the extended Robinsons. At Robinson family gatherings we’d laugh and laugh. All the girls of the family had traits Nana passed down to them. There’s my mother-in-law Sharon’s serene nature, Cousin Martha’s sense of humor and everyone’s faith in God.
Of course, she rubbed off on the Robinson boys, too. I think of Uncle David and Cousin Andy — two guys who are always generous with their time and talents. Uncle David once got rid of a dent and paint blemish on my car for free. Andy designed the art you see atop this blog, and didn’t seem to care if I ever paid him. I did — two years after he did the first design.
It all goes back to Nana Ruth. Her kindness rubbed off on everyone, including our kids.
Sean and Duncan are still young, but Sean remembers Nana Ruth getting down on the ground to play with him and his trains. She did so for a whole week once, keeping Sean occupied so Erin could continue working while I recovered from a back injury. She played with Sean on the living floor for hours as I lay on the couch a few feet away, passed out on pain meds.
We have to say goodbye to her this week, but all that warmth, kindness, laughter and beauty will be with us forever. I’d like to think she’s helped make me a better person, though that’s for others to judge.
At the very least, her influence — just like that of the grandaughter I married — makes me want to be a better man. I’ll keep trying, and I know she’ll be watching.