Celebrating 100 Years

April 27th, 2016
In a bucolic early image, my grandmother strikes a heroic pose with a speckled friend in New York’s Catskills.

In a bucolic early image, my grandmother strikes a heroic pose with a speckled friend in New York’s Catskills.

My grandfather used to say that before 1916, the world was ruthless. My grandmother, Ruth Harris Adams, was born in 1916. If the world was ruthless before that date, I can only guess that afterwards it was ruthmore, ruthful? Ol’ granddad passed on before completing his silly pun. Grandma Ruth lives on.

She’s 100 now.

Grandma at Columbia University in 1936

Grandma at Columbia University in 1936

Think about that for a moment. She not only witnessed both World Wars, Lindbergh and Armstrong (Neal AND Louie), experienced The Great Depression, The Great Gatsby, The Greatest Generation and simply The Greatest in the guise of Mohammed Ali. Civil War soldiers were alive and well in her lifetime, as were warriors from all the wars in Afghanistan, 1878 to present.

It’s hard to fully fathom the scope and landscape of Western and Eastern civilization that she’s seen from the sidelines or actively taken part in. She’s lived in Beirut, Lebanon; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia;  Seoul, South Korea and has traveled almost everywhere else extensively. Her home bases have been Philadelphia, West Virginia, Arizona and her native New York City. And even though an unhealthy portion of her mind has forgotten much of what she once knew, she is a living, breathing historical marker of the 20th and 21st centuries. And we honor her for that.

Grandma was a female doctor in a profession dominated by men. She originally wanted to fight polio, but since that cure also happened in her lifetime, she changed her focus to pediatric liver disease, receiving her degree from Columbia University. Her daughters also graduated from the school decades later. This fall, her great granddaughter begins her graduate work there as well. We are all lucky to live in a family of amazingly strong, bright, courageous women.

Grandma was a doctor in a field dominated by men.

Grandma was a doctor in a field dominated by men.

A large contingent of family members flew out to Arizona in order to reverently shower her with love and well-wishes. At first, only a few of us planned on making the pilgrimage. Then it became a groundswell, finally a movement. A great grand who works miracles with the elderly signed on for the fun of it all. Another great grand asked for an extension from her professor in order to attend: final paper be damned. We kind of felt bad for my aunt and uncle on site and on the spot who had to cope with our invasion for three days. It was all for a good cause, family re-unioning and meeting new members who — in contrast to Grandma — are barely 100 days old. One wonders what wonders these newest born will witness in their lifetime?

Instead of major wars, will they bask in a worldwide outbreak of peace? Like their great great grandmother, will they see devilish diseases defeated? The technology, the revolutionary advances to come, nothing short of a planet and humanity-saving epoch is within their reach.

Sure, eventually the world will be ruthless again and we will all be sad for a time. But the world is already Wyattfull, Russellmore and packed with a whole bunch of other great great kids readily accepting Ruth’s torch, her baton, her legacy.

My brothers, cousins, Mom and I gather around Grandma on her 100th birthday.

My brothers, cousins, Mom and I gather around Grandma on her 100th birthday.

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