Life is a continuing adventure
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” It’s a shock to learn that Ruth Pickard is 85.
Instead of knitting or watching television, she’s out and about, volunteering around town. Every winter, she hops a plane for the British Virgin Islands ” just as she has for nearly the last 40 years.
And when it come to her faculties, she seems as sharp as can be.
“Do I have sort of a younger outlook on life? I don’t know,” she said. “I never felt that older people have all the answers. We’ve sort of goofed up a lot.”
If she doesn’t seem taken with the mystique of “wise old age,” it’s because she’s just not. She never expected to make it this long.
“I don’t know how I got the pleasure,” she said.
She was sitting in her living room in the same house she’s lived in for the last 32 years. Stacked around were old issues of the “Sunday New York Times” and “The New Yorker,” proof of her desire to still learn and be part of the world. One of her cats was lounging on the floor, and Pickard was apologizing for her life’s story being so “boring.”
She was wrong about that, of course.
She was born on Jan. 23, 192,3 in New York City. Her claim to fame from those early days was being Lauren Bacall’s classmate. She studied chemistry for two years at Hunter’s College, but when the war hit and her mother died, she decided it was time to go to work. Throughout World War II she was an “experimental test engineer,” checking out airplane engines, set to go overseas. She even helped test the first jet engines. But then the war ended, and she and her fellow working women were out a job.
Her next gig was as a stewardess ” back when that word was still in use. She could still picture her uniform at now-defunct Eastern Airlines: a navy blue skirt, white jacket with red-striped sleeves and a little hat with a big rosette. Back then, all the ladies of the air had to be young and perky, not shorter than 5′ 2″ nor taller than 5′ 6.” It also took seven hours to get from St. Louis to New York.
At 24, she married her husband, Kenneth, and the young couple soon were having children. Kenneth worked at a corporation of “variety” stores (like the precursors of Wal-Mart), and so the family moved around to places like Chicago, Dallas and Memphis. Ruth never really had a career, but she took care of their three kids (Tim, Joan and the late Kenneth). She also became involved in the League of Women Voters and Planned Parenthood.
In her 50s, she was one of those women who went around to classrooms of squeamish schoolchildren and preached safe sex.
“It wasn’t embarrassing,” she said. “You did it because you believed in it.”
Being a little outspoken never seemed to bother her.
More than three decades ago, her husband purchased his own variety store in downtown Glenwood, and though she knew nothing of Colorado, they picked up and moved here.
After Kenneth died in his late 60s, Pickard never thought to remarry. He had been such a huge, caring part of her life. As she put it, “a hard act to follow.”
So now, she lives alone, spending her days reading and seeing friends. She volunteers at the blood bank, history museum and Lift-Up, and she dispatches for the Traveler, Glenwood’s senior transport van. Her oldest son, Kenneth, died in recent years of cancer, but her daughter lives in town, and her other son isn’t far away in Denver. Her five grandchildren are scattered every which way, and she had this grandmotherly glow talking about them.
“I take life as it comes,” she said. “Go with flow ” is that the expression?”
Yeah, that’s the one. And it perfectly describes her. She doesn’t know if she believes in heaven, though she thinks reincarnation “might be fun.” She’s not particularly scared of death (“It’s the last great mystery, isn’t it?” she said). And when asked about her most joyous memory, she spoke only with appreciation and joy ” no sadness.
“I guess the love and the togetherness of my husband and my children and seeing them accomplish their dreams,” she said. “I had a husband who respected and loved me, and I loved him. There’s no one joy thing.”
Though she admitted to a bit of loneliness here and there, she feels she doesn’t have the constitution for depression. She loves people but also relishes being alone. She explained that with books, she’s constantly confronted with new things she wants to know. In her words, she still asks herself, “What I am going to learn next?” everyday.
“The world is always unfolding,” she said.
She sounds comfortable with her place in it.
Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111
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