Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Monday, April 9, 2012

Aging Gracefully – Ruth Geyer: a Century of Life


The little girl in the front row holding the teddy bear has a birthday today. Today is the birthday of my Grandmother Ruth Geyer (Mum), as she was born today, April 9, 1912, making her a century old. My Grandmother was born the day Titanic left Queenstown, Ireland, on it’s maiden voyage to America. 100 years is an incredibly long time to have lived that’s for certain, but it’s another thing all together for someone else to conceive that length of time on the earth. Good thing that history can set that straight, right away. The Titanic’s maiden voyage splashed across the front pages just five days after Mum’s birth, there was a world-wide ban on Opium, the Girl Scouts of America was born and William Howard Taft was President. Mum was born in Bedford County Pennsylvania, only 7 years after the first movie theatre in the country opened in Pittsburgh, the major city, located an hour and a half away.

My Grandmother is a survivor. Being of sturdy German blood, her resilience was first tested with the terrible and sudden death of both of her parents to the Spanish Flu in 1918, which orphaned her at a very early age. Mum stayed and grew up in Bedford County, until she married Orville Sellers (Pap) and moved to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where Pap owned the Conemaugh Brewery, among his many business ventures. Pap was also a land investor and was often travelling, while Mum worked as a practical nurse. Then came my Uncle Don Sellers and my Mom, Leta. I spent a great deal of time with Mum when I was a kid. She always had a “Barrel Full of Monkeys” for us
to play with and as I got older, of 
course I had the joy of cutting her grass. Thanks, Grandma! She continues to make me laugh, she is and always will be a lover of children and animals; memories abound with her bevy of dachshunds, poodles and white long-haired cats. She was an avid auction-goer too, one hell of a pinochle player, her pork roast was the best and she also used to slip us “sundaes” with vanilla ice cream, topped with green Crème de’ Menthe. The photo above was taken at Thanksgiving many years ago. My Sister Susan had expressed an interest in learning how to make candy. Mum's response was, "Leta, get out the marble slabs." Three generations are present in the this photo: my Sister, Mother and Mum.

Mum is ornery. She is an observer of life. Even the nurses at her retirement community call her “The Queen.” She seems to reign over all at Churchman’s Village, as she sits and observes. She is convinced that everyone there at Churchman’s Village is related to her. Everyone that works there is a Shaffer. She will sit there and point to all the “Shaffers” in the room. Once, my Mother and I were with Mum in the cafeteria when she spotted a rather large African American family of about 14 people. She turned to my Mom, and with a subtle aside, commented, “they’re all Shaffers.” To be there is just hysterical. I visit her as often as I can, she’s in good hands. How can she not be, they’re all Shaffers. I speak of her in past tense, only to point out that the memories are still strong. She’s 100 years young in my book. I assure you that the bartender from Brooklyn will be sneaking into Churchman’s Village with an Old Fashioned in a plastic cup just for her. She deserves it!

Finally, my favorite quote. Once my brother Tim was in the kitchen, and every other word out of his mouth was “fuck.” He just wouldn’t let up, until finally my Grandma shouted, “would you please stop swearing, just stop already!” Tim leaned down to hug her. “I’m sorry Grandma.” “That’s okay,” she said, “you’re my fucking Grandson.”

Happy Birthday Grandma!