Friday, April 20, 2018
Opinion

Dan Ruth: Mom ruled the roost — and how

It's probably fair to say matriarch Ruth Ruth (yes, that's her name) would never be confused with the mother from central casting, June Cleaver.

Demanding, highly opinionated, disciplinarian, stubborn and devout — I swear the woman has the stigmata. This was like being raised by the Evita of Akron.

One of the questions being asked within these pages on this Mother's Day, is to reflect on the best advice we've ever received from our moms. I fear I'll fail miserably in satisfying the maternal mandate.

It's not that my Doris Day separated-at-birth mother was shy about dispensing advice, attitudes and counsel delivered at various decibel levels on everything from my general appearance, to my politics, to my religious practices (or lack thereof), to my grades (or lack thereof), to my choices for girlfriends.

This much is pretty certain — one was NEVER in doubt as to where Mommie Fearless stood on anything.

A quick story. As a freshman in college I did what any other young man did upon leaving home for the first-time: a) lose the virginity as quickly as possible; and b) start growing as much hair as fast as one could.

I had been away from the ancestral homeland for a couple months doing my level best to take care of the first mission. Then on a long weekend, I returned to Akron. No one was at the house and I needed a bottle of wine for a party that night, so I drove over to a local grocery store.

(I'll save you the time doing the math. Yes, I was 19. Yes, it was illegal to buy alcohol. But this was Akron in 1968, where liquor laws were considered — quaint. Good grief, the infant in the E-Trade commercials could get served.)

At the market the first person I saw was my mother. "Mom!" I called out as I moved in to give her a hug.

My mother has a glare that could melt diamonds and now it was affixed on me as she took in the scraggly growth on my face. "I don't know you," she said coolly before turning around and walking away. I wasn't allowed back in the house for the rest of the weekend, which I spent at my grandmother's.

Ruth Ruth. Tough room.

She didn't give "advice." She offered pronouncements. Same thing, I suppose, at least in our house.

And perhaps this is the one that sticks the most.

I was born with severe spinal scoliosis, which meant hospital stays, traction, spending long periods in bed — and a squeaky leather/metal body brace. But I wanted to play football. My high school was a state powerhouse and I wanted to be a part of it all, even if it meant rarely getting into games.

After my junior year season, the head coach told me not to bother to come out for the team my senior year. I would never play, I was told. It would be a waste of everyone's time.

I went home that night feeling like a penny waiting for change. As I moped around, my mother asked me what was the matter. I told her what the coach had said.

There were no warm fuzzies, no consoling words, no motherly embrace. I got — the glare.

After she locked in her Vulcan death stare, my mother offered these words: "I'm not raising a quitter." The next day I informed the coach I would indeed be coming out for the football team in the fall. And I did. The view from the bench was lovely. Besides it sure beat having to deal with the Parris Island of materfamilias.

I've never doubted that my mother, now 89 and as intractable as ever, loved me. She never quit. And neither will I.

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