Thursday, September 6, 2012

Being Thankful and Saying Goodbye

Devil's Lake, Oregon, with my Uncle Joe, Aunt Ruth and five of my ten cousins. About 1981, I think.

I sometimes enjoy remembering my years in Oregon. And I sometimes don't. People were wonderful to me in Oregon. My career took off like a rocket in Oregon, and I was married in a Portland church. But there were sorrows in Portland too. Then. And now.

What I realized only after I left Oregon, was how incredibly lucky I was. I had great coworkers and a ready-made family in Oregon.

The people I worked with were among the most talented people I ever met in my career. One coworker became a producer for CBS "60 Minutes." At least one went into politics. Several became network correspondents. One went on to become a producer at "Frontline" on PBS. Patricia Joy, a loyal and kind friend, became the first woman to join the National Press Photographers' Association. The late Jon Tuttle won a Peabody Award among many other accomplishments.

Robin and Patricia Joy from a photo spread in the Oregonian, about "working women" I think.

I thought having people like that as coworkers was just the normal thing. It isn't. KGW-TV, where I worked in those days--was exceptional. King Broadcasting, which owned the station then, recruited mostly on the campuses of Ivy League schools. My UCLA Masters Degree must have helped me slip under the door.

I had another resource in Oregon that I've mentioned here before and that was my Aunt Ruth, my Uncle Joe, and their large family. Aunt Ruth was my mother's younger sister and she and Joe were living in Portland when I moved to Oregon to take the job at KGW.  I was not from a really close family so I had no experience with anything quite like them.

Their mixture included (besides an enormous pile of laundry), a medium-sized pinch of chaos, a large dose of values, and a huge amount of acceptance and love.

Ruth and Joe had then (and still do today) ten children. My mother and her sister Ruth were close, but when my mother got her annual letter that Ruthie was expecting a(nother) baby, I remember my mother making odd snorting noises over in the corner of our kitchen as she read.

My mother's snorting noises notwithstanding to the contrary, Ruth's family took me in. The older kids were in and out of the house by then--one married, one in business, one set of twins (fraternal) in college. The youngest (identical twins) were in first grade I think. And the rest were in between, of course.

Aunt Ruth and family accepted my growing television news fame as just another family eccentricity. Ruth is the kind of person who, if you came in one day with three heads, would just say: "Oh here's Robin and she has three heads. Let's hear what she has to say about that." She's absolutely unflappable.

Even, in recent years, having cancer didn't slow her down and it certainly never made her feel sorry for herself. They told us she only had about five months to live and that was five years ago. If she ever had a bad day with it, she would just shrug and say; "Oh well. What's an eighty year old lady supposed to feel like, anyway?" And she would say she had to go because her quilting club was waiting.

My last visit with Ruthie, last year at Devil's Lake. She was doing well and she and Joe and I went shopping and out to dinner and, meanwhile, back at the ranch, my cousin's dog ate a box of See's chocolates I brought. So we laughed and laughed.

It is still very difficult for me to get a picture in my mind of the family without her. And yet, it really won't be without her, come to think about it. She's in every smiling face among them. And, though it sounds really corny, every tear I will see on their faces, as well. She cried and laughed with equal ease.

I remember once, long ago, I had to go somewhere on a business trip and she took me to the Portland airport--back when people still used to do things like that for each other. As I gave her a hug, I noticed she had tears in her eyes, and I said: "Ruthie! I'm just going to Spokane for a couple of days! It's a business trip! Why are you crying?" And she just laughed and said: "Oh, I always do that when I say goodbye."

Me too. Especially this time, Aunt Ruth. Me too.

Ruth Elaine Latta Peterson: (1928-2012)

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Janet Grunst said...

5 foutom
Another lovely tribute, Robin. You've had too many lately. Relish the memories, my friend.

Florida Beach Basics said...

touching story - sorry for your loss, but aren't you glad you knew her. marge

Robin Chapman said...

As I said, I've been very lucky in so many things.

Ken Burch said...

I was a frequent viewer of your work on KGW in the Seventies...also remembered the gentle features Jon Tuttle(he was kind of the Charles Osgood of KGW, and I'm sorry to hear he has passed) did and greatly admired Patricia Joy, both as a broadcast journalist and(to my mind) a living exemplar of feminism in the practice of work and life.

Sorry for the loss that prompted this blog entry back in '12, but glad to read that you are still around.