December 15, 2005
My mother died 25 years ago today – December 15, 1980. Ruth Finn was an amazing woman. She raised eight kids, all of whom have developed into happy and successful individuals, at least by our own standards. She had an unshakable faith in God and raised us all as Catholics. Mom instilled many of her best values in each of us, including a love of life, a love of people, a love of hard work and accomplishment, and a healthy love of ourselves. She was principled, tender (but tough when she needed to be), and complained so rarely that I can’t remember an instance.
Mom also had a wonderful sense of humor. She liked to laugh with you, and she could laugh at herself. One of my fondest remembrances is her love of practical jokes, especially on April 1st. I was only 8 years old when I came to understand her wicked sense of humor. Upon opening my lunch pail, I found a flashlight where my thermos should have been, an empty box in place of a sandwich, and a potato instead of the usual apple. There was a short note: “April Fools Day! Go to Grandma’s for lunch. Love, Mom.” So I walked the three houses down from the school to Grandma’s. There was Mom, with a twinkle in her eye and a big grin, making lunch for the five little victims of her little joke. I’ve had people suggest that was a dirty trick to play on a second-grader. I disagree. I remember it being fun when it happened, and my friends who know that and other stories about Mom say it goes a long way toward explaining my sense of humor and zest for life.
Mom had a lot of different interests. She talked politics with her friends. She was a moderate Republican who saw through Nixon and Watergate long before her friends did. Mom was the main reason she and Dad socialized with a circle of friends who were 10-12 years younger than they were. She played bridge, that most challenging of card games, and took up golf and other hobbies once the kids had grown.
But she was most proud of the efforts she made on behalf of family and friends. She considered her children her main accomplishment. Without Ruth Finn, there would have been one fewer missionaries working with the poor in Brazil, there would have been one fewer Catholic theologians in the world, one fewer assessors, and fewer economists, managers, business owners, teachers, psychologists, consultants, workers, fathers, and mothers. The fact that half of us are conservative and half of us are liberal is indicative of her balanced approach to life. And while half of us are practicing Catholics, half of us now pursue our spiritual growth outside the church. Mom never once disowned or even distanced herself from any of her children for any reason. She raised us to be individuals. And regardless of religious views or political persuasion, each of my brothers and sisters has a sharp mind, a good heart, a generous spirit, and a passion for life. And this is the legacy of Ruth Finn – the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. I love you, Mom.
You can hear more stories about Ruth, in my words and those of my brothers and sisters, in the archived broadcast of my December 15th show. Click on Archived Audio Files on my home page to hear about the biggest lazy susan, the 1948 Cadillac limousine, the recessed swimming pool, ‘Johnny Blacksuit,’ the Monroe County fair huckster, our Christmas Eve ‘minute of silence,’ obituary dishes, and cardboard caskets. Mom was an unforgettable character and the driving force behind each of these episodes.