“Who will I talk to about this when you’re gone?”

1994, Opening of Perspectives MGM Inc. in Calgary, Ruth Ann and Spice, from mentor to mentee to lifelong mental companions
1994, Opening of Perspectives MGM Inc. in Calgary, Ruth Ann and Spice, from mentor to mentee to lifelong mental companions

I’ve got the ‘Novembers’. It’s not a terminal case, but I thought just telling you would somehow ease it. No real reason. Just the time of year I think. Lots of little things and ‘shoulds’ that seem bigger than they are…

Thanks for listening.

Nellie

Ah Nellie. I ache for you. I haven’t had the Novembers for awhile. But look at what famous writers have said about it that I keep in my “Phrases” file…

Charles Wright: “November pares us like green apples,/circling under our skins/in long, unbroken spirals…”

Lots of Love,

Ginny

Today, December 3, my friend Ruth Ann, a.k.a. Nellie, turns eighty. When Magellan and I hosted a surprise birthday party for her 50th, Ruth Ann and I had been friends for over a decade.

Some might say we’re an unlikely pair. She was at the altar twice before she met Bruce, her long-term partner since 1986, while Magellan’s my first and only love. She fearlessly rode a motorcycle and would doze off as a passenger, while I (a.k.a. Ginny) have a scarred leg from my single folly on a motorcycle in a backyard in Texas. She’s hoisted sails throughout the Gulf Islands. “Ninety percent boredom, ten percent panic” is what I say about that pastime. Hiking is my favourite sport but the vestiges of three back surgeries, fibromyalgia and cancer make it impossible for Ruth Ann on our annual getaways, like this year’s trip to Salt Spring Island. As she says,

The first back surgery (L4-5) was in 1965 shortly after I was married the first time. Neither the surgery nor the marriage turned out to be successful.  

The second surgery about 13 years later was occasioned by the first doctor leaving a bit of matter lying around the spine and scar tissue built up around it. It was successful and my second husband and I took a motorcycle trip across the country the following year. That surgery did better than the marriage.

We met when Ruth Ann was a VP of Baker Lovick, consulting on a strategic plan for Jarvis Travel, where I was the VP of marketing/communications. Later, the client roles reversed (crazy, eh?) and I was the consultant, managing the annual report for BP and then Talisman, where she was the director of corporate communications.

It’s been said that a true friend is someone who thinks you’re a good egg even though she knows you’re slightly cracked. What connects us is our enjoyment of the written word, our trust in confiding in each other, and our penchant for spotting and laughing at the absurd.

I think when we are together, we each spot ‘stories’ in the people and places around us and end up building possible narratives together. And of course that leads us into gales of laughter as we sit around later. I think we have always been careful though not to do it at the time we spot some strange character or to hurt anyone.

So, what do we do when we’re together?

We read, play Lexulous, go for beach walks, eat out, cook simple dinners, drink champagne—and engage with the locals. Like Gabe on Gabriola who housesat for a model; he regaled us with stories of his cruising days over his homemade bread and French paté. The poet Naomi Wakan and her artist husband who invited us (or did we just show up?) to their home for tea. A woman photographer who specialized in nudes backed on old-growth trees. (Unable to imagine where Bruce and Magellan would hang such portraits of us, we didn’t follow through.) A guy at a liquor store who trusted us to return his own very expensive bottle of Korean rice whisky after we took it back to our cottage to try. Feedstore Bill in Sooke whose strawberry fields were invaded by (wait for it)—peacocks, a story I kept coaxing out of him that still makes us laugh.

Neither of us saw much humour in life when Ruth Ann became so weak she couldn’t peel an orange.

I think it was when I was 50 that I developed fibromyalgia. We were in the midst of a huge acquisition at work so of course I kept working ’til it was done and ’til I couldn’t.

That I think is partly why my company was so supportive and indeed stood up to the insurance company for me. I never went to the office again.

My FM doctor tried everything under the sun—and eventually the cocktail of meds was too much for my system and I developed pancreatitis, which not only caused even more pain it meant I lost ⅓ of my body weight in six months. 

But I never really gave up. And I didn’t look or plan ahead. I tried to live each day just the way it was—and live in (undefined) hope for the future.  

I gradually improved and when we went to NZ for the winter the oxygen-rich, salt-rich air sure speeded that up.  

I’ve been lucky to have Bruce’s support—and the support and love of so many friends, both in Canada and in NZ.

I feel a little like Tom Sawyer by giving Ruth Ann the privilege to write this blog—she thought she was just answering my questions. But who better than she to give us insight into herself?

One of my early jobs was with the Kitchener-Waterloo Record. In my early 20s I was lucky enough to become the Religion Editor—and that meant mostly feature writing for my weekly page to page-and-a-half. What a dream job—there were so many churches and denominations, some of which, such as the Swedenborgians, I had never heard of before.  There were 13 varieties of Mennonites, from those as liberal as the United Churchers to those who only drove horse and buggy and felt buttons were too decorative so only used hook-and-eye fasteners.  

This was the mini-skirt era and I wore my longest (still above the knee I admit) when I went to the Mennonite Central Committee offices. I probably didn’t ride my little motorcycle there either. The guys at the paper used to call me ‘the God Broad’.

Neither of us is into prayer, even though she’s a minister’s daughter and my seat was in the pew every Sunday until I left home. Ruth Ann’s mom lived to be 104, so I’m putting my faith in maternal genetics that we’ll have lots to talk about for years to come. First off, asking her if she knows the meaning of encomium.

Navigation

Collins, Billy. Questions About Angels. Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburg Press, 1991. “The History Teacher” comes from this book of verse from one of America’s Poet laureates. Whale Day: And Other Poems (Random House, 2021) is the source of the cardigan quote from the poem “After a Long Fun Boozy Dinner, the Four of Us, at Captain Pig’s, Our Favorite Restaurant in Town.”

Wakan, Naomi Beth. Segues. Toronto: Wolsak and Wynn, 2005. “Sex after 70”, one of her funniest poems, is in this book.

11 Responses

  1. Beautiful tribute Gloria! I have heard many wonderful stories of Ruth Ann through the years nice to put face to the name. Happy Birthday Ruth Ann!

    1. You did get to meet her once many years ago when you were here on business and thinking of starting your own consulting company. But it was brief—and in typical Ruth Ann fashion, she was asking the questions, not telling you about her life.

  2. I love this story of enduring and deep friendship, and the all the things you do and share together! And, the way you enrich each others lives! I have enjoyed several close friendships throughout my life; I will borrow from this blog on enriching my relationship with a few of my friends, even more!
    PS I’m sure you read Lynn Truss’s books on the comma and other grammatical issues!

    1. I went to my bookshelf and pulled out Lynn Truss’s book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, and a review from the New Yorker entitled “Bad Comma” fell out. Boy, did Louis Menand trash the book. Another review, this one from The Globe and Mail, was tucked inside the book. Equally dismissive, its title was “What is this thing called, love?” I don’t remember if we talked about this book, but it’s the kind of thing that would keep Ruth Ann and I in stitches.

  3. One of my favourite blogs this year! Indeed everyone needs someone to bounce the ideas, stories, wants wishes and dreams..off!
    Excellent is all I can say, thanks for brightening this dreary Sunday Morning!

  4. Sounds like a friend for life, always so nice to have people like this to bounce your thoughts off of.

    Cheers to you both,

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