Years later, as we worked with the Central Church in Cincinnati, we met Bob and Ruth. Everyone admired Bob and Ruth, and so did we. They were loving to each other and to everyone else. They took people in to live with them when it crowded their four children. Finally they moved to a large house where they could easily house families or individuals in need of shelter and nurturing. As I’ve said about my parents’ house, some stayed for days, others for years.
They called their big house “Central West,” and offered it constantly for church and family events for the last 27 years. They hosted everything from weddings to volleyball games—a weekly event in the summers.
They were the ideal grandparents, hosting a “cousins’ week” every year that made me fear to be a grandparent, knowing I could never live up to the fanfare and folderol that went on there every summer. Ruth wrote long stories about the adventures and activities of each grandchild, which she and her daughter eventually published in a keepsake book.
Both Bob and Ruth were very educated and professionally successful, but they had the common touch when it came to relating to people. Bob, now 80, still fixes people’s cars constantly, no doubt saving them hundreds of dollars, though his skills are not connected to his Ph.D. His truck is available to anyone who needs to move or haul. He gives generously to all in need, sometimes to the dismay of his family and friends.
When our son knew that Ruth was dying, he traveled to her home for one last visit. He told her that he and his wife wanted to be like Bob and Ruth, and they have started by buying a house with a guest house next to it. “We want to follow the example you and Bob have set,” he said.
When he heard that Bob was selling his house, he inquired about buying Bob’s elaborate volleyball setup. “We’ll need to get started having Sunday night volleyball pretty soon,” he said, “since we want to be Bob and Ruth.” Of course Bob wants to give it to him—unless someone from Central buys the property and continues the volleyball tradition there.
Our daughter and her husband commented on the impossibility of their buying Bob’s house. “Not now,” she said, “but we do want to be Bob and Ruth some day.”
As I talked to Ruth not long before her death, she said, “Sometimes I kind of get Bob and Jesus mixed up in my mind.” I understood that. I think lots of people feel that way about Bob, which totally baffles him. No surprise there.
So if you can’t be Jesus, who do you want to be?
How have you started working on that?