by Erin Webb
As any stepparent marrying into a family with teenage boys will tell you, adjusting can be hard. Learning about them as individuals can be even harder. Soon after moving in, I discovered that my stepsons would drive up to the house blaring their radios at all hours of the day and night. I reprimanded them, especially after I learned there was an elderly lady, Ruth, across the street. I figured it was only a matter of time before she came over to complain.
She never did. However, one day she came across the street with a loaf of homemade bread. I was shocked, as I assumed she would resent the noise and traffic in front of our house. She sweetly told me she had made the bread for my stepsons, and was glad to see a lady around the house now. I struck up a conversation with her and soon came to understand why she was so patient with my teens.
One day not long before I came into the picture, my oldest stepson, Nathan, heard Ruth screaming. He ran across the street to help her. Her husband had a stroke and was lying on the floor. Nathan stayed by his side until the paramedics arrived. Ruth credited Nathan with saving her husband’s life. Her husband moved to a nursing home when he got out of the hospital because of permanent paralysis, leaving her alone in the house.
Ruth didn’t know how she would handle the yard work because she was in her 80s, and her family only visited a couple times a year. She soon discovered that upon returning home from visiting her husband, as she did every day, her yard work was done. My husband and stepsons took on the job of caring for her. Ruth tried to pay them for the work but they wouldn’t accept it, so she made them bread to show what they meant to her.
After we met that day, we talked all the time. When she needed something done, she would call me — and when she was lonely, I would meet her and we would talk for hours.
Ruth passed away on Thanksgiving weekend three years ago. She had complained of being “so tired” the week before. I realize now what she meant; she was ready to go. I have her watch, which I bought at the estate sale, as a reminder of her. I miss her very much.
Every once in a while I take the watch out of my jewelry box and think of what Ruth gave to me as a new wife and mother. She showed me a side of my stepsons I hadn’t seen yet; a glimpse of caring teens who were willing to go out of their way for a neighbor, who knew what was really important in life. For that I am eternally thankful.