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Ruth To The Rescue

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2010 @ 5:18pm

Thanks to technology (and a great boss), working at home can be a positive solution to help parents spend more time with their children.

The catch? How much can you accomplish when your children are young?

After my husband, Stan, and I became parents, we looked for someone to come to the farm so I could be as productive as possible when I worked at home.

Ruth Heck came to the rescue after our daughter, Alexa, was born. Ruth's daughter, Marilyn, had helped us when our older daughter, Allison, was a baby.

Ruth and her husband, Jim, had retired from farming years earlier and moved to town 2 miles away. A native of Grant City, Missouri, Ruth worked side by side with Jim after they were married in 1946, raising two daughters and helping with the farmwork.

Ruth was a loving grandmother to her four grown grandchildren. She wanted a job close to home, and Ruth felt at home on the farm.

That was a stroke of good fortune for us, as we came to realize during the next 12 years. Ruth's contributions to our family went far beyond a job description.

When Allison was 8 years old, she needed a costume for her role as Annie in a community theater production. Despite my mother's best efforts to teach me, my sewing skills are very weak!

Ruth came to the rescue by sewing a pinafore for Allison's dress. It was a perfect costume.

Ruth took on many mending chores over the years, and no one else could remove a stubborn spot from clothes like she could.

We still have a box of crocheted hats made by Ruth for our girls. At Christmastime, Ruth's fudge was a special treat.

As you see at left, if Alexa wanted to play in the snow, Ruth brought her own coveralls. Doesn't it look like it was fun painting jack-o'-lanterns? If Alexa insisted that Ruth dress up for a play, why not?

Not that every day with our children was a picnic at the park. Alexa admitted a few years ago that once when I was gone, she locked Ruth out of the house. She says she doesn't remember why.

During after-school hours at our house, Ruth probably longed for a reprieve from the sisterly bickering and the din of piano, horn, and vocal practicing.

But over the years, Ruth became family. My mother died before our daughters were born. Ruth became a second grandmother to them. And I recognized my own mother's common sense in Ruth.

Did it diminish my role as a mother because Ruth was there? No. Did it reduce my mother-in-law's influence as our girls' grandma? Not at all. Our children were doubly blessed.

Soon our younger daughter started school, and our girls learned to respect Mom's other job. Ruth and Jim remained close members of our church family. Ruth loved raising flowers, having coffee with the girls, and visits from her great-grandchildren. But her health began failing before Jim's death in 2008.

During our visits with Ruth last year, it was hard to see her once-busy hands stilled, her strong voice weakened, and her breathing labored. Too difficult, in fact, for our older daughter.

Alexa's birthday precedes Ruth's by a few days, and Alexa, 17, stopped in to visit her. Ruth, 82, died 11 days later. Just as Ruth always seemed to think of others in life, she donated her body for research into pulmonary fibrosis.

Alexa played "Amazing Grace" at the funeral. Like her Biblical namesake, Ruth was resourceful and loyal. In Hebrew, her name means lovely friend. She came into our home for a finite span of time, but grateful memories of Ruth will live on in our hearts forever.

Thanks to technology (and a great boss), working at home can be a positive solution to help parents spend more time with their children.

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