It has taken me 26 years to stumble across your post, “Forgive me Evelyn” http://www.wildbell.com/forgive-me-evelyn/ and I feel compelled to write to you and fill in some gaps. You see I am her niece, Susie, and while legally her first name was Evelyn (same as her mother, my grandmother) she went by her middle name, Ruth and most people called her Ruthie.
First, I want to thank you for your humanity and I, too, wish someone was there to reach her, to let her know she could get help / relief some other way. To this day I don’t understand what happened. The last time I saw her was at my wedding in Australia in October the year before. She seemed happy and active and played a mean game of tennis or two against my soon to be husband. She flew over for the wedding and toured around with us for a few days. We saw her again at the airport the day after the wedding as she headed home to LA while we went off on our honeymoon. In my first year of married life, I don’t remember how often I spoke to her but know I did call her in early October to let her know my husband and I would be visiting California for Christmas and would love to see her. In hindsight she was non-committal, and maybe that should have been a warning sign to me that something was wrong as she was gone less than a week later.
To me Ruthie was larger than life – a couple inches taller than my dad who was 10 years her senior and always slim and fashionably dressed. She always seemed happy and energetic. While I grew up in northern California, I always considered her my “cool” aunt that I loved visiting. I remember her introducing me to sushi, taking me out for ice cream at Häagen Dazs when it was new and hip, helped me plan a surprise party for my parents for their wedding anniversary when I was in college on the opposite side of the country. She always sent a cute birthday card addressed to me as Sooooozie. She made the effort to be present and flew out to Boston for my college graduation in 1990 and two years later to Australia for my wedding. She was always sporty and loved tennis playing at least weekly.
Ruthie never married and as the only girl with older brothers with their own families, I know she shouldered much of the care for her long-widowed mother through a broken hip and later bed ridden care at home until her passing in 1988. But even before her mother needed assistance at home, she was in regular contact with lots of visits to her mother in the family home from her teenage years.
But it was your more recent post about your new e-bike that really compelled me to write. In the early 1980’s, Ruthie bought a 50cc moped with pedals that she felt was a more environmentally friendly and fun way to commute between her home and her mother’s. But her mother’s place was high up in the Bel Air Canyon and she would have to pedal like crazy in addition to the motor to slowly putt putt up those big hills. I was a teenager then it was exciting to take a little spin on that moped on a flat stretch of road! A few years later I moved east to college and then far west to Australia after graduation so my visits with her then were very few and far between. But as I said, what I remember was a vibrant, active, friendly and very loving person.
I will never know what lead her to take the action that she did. It has haunted me over the years, what did we all miss? While continuing to live in northern California, I know my dad had a scheduled catch up phone call with her every Sunday evening for years. My parents didn’t see it coming either, though they also said she said something cryptic in hindsight on her last call.
It has been an important life lesson for me, to look beyond the façade as we never know what is going on with someone behind the scenes. It takes effort to try to push conversations beyond the light and superficial and probe when appropriate into the deep and meaningful.
Ruthie was a life-long Angelino who I knew as an extremely generous and loving person. She knew the bane LA traffic was to everyone who lives there and can only believe she was in extreme mental distress as she was never the type of person to inconvenience others. As a family member, I am devastated that we didn’t see it and weren’t able to help. I still miss her and now as a person getting closer to the age when she passed, with the digital age, I guess I went looking for more info and ran across your article.
Again, just felt compelled to provide a small glimpse into the person who brought so much joy then unexplained sadness into my life. But in remembrance of Ruthie I truly hope you enjoy your e-bike! Ruthie’s smile when she was vigorously peddling her moped was broad and wide and so full of life. How I best like to remember her.