Remembering Ruth Hackman
For the past few years, Grammy Hackman brought up Elon Musk in almost every conversation we had. I can’t remember exactly when it started, but at some point, I must’ve mentioned that I thought Tesla’s were cool. Then, Grammy would’ve asked “What’s a Tesla?”
I explained what a Tesla was and as much as I knew about Elon Musk, the company’s founder. From that day on, grammy scoured the papers for any news about Mr. Musk or Tesla she could find. Then, she’d ask me about what she read whenever I visited. Within a few months, I had to pay closer attention to the news so I could keep up.
Grammy loved to learn about what you were passionate about. It was one of the almost infinite ways she showed that she cared about us. Yes, she cared about our lives and what we were doing, but she also wanted to let us know how valuable our dreams were.
I’ll miss those conversations the most.
Some of my earliest memories of Grammy were from Spruce Lake, a camp up in the Pocono’s. Grammy and Grandpop had a permanent campsite and I’d go up there in the summer to spend time with them.
I loved that camper. Being the sci-fi nerd that I was (am), the sleek silver Airstream always felt like a space ship. I remember going inside, sitting on the couches in the front. Grammy would sit next to me holding a jar of either pink candies or peanut M&M’s. She’d talk with me until Grandpop called us outside to join him by the campfire.
“Ruth,” he’d yell, and we would go outside to see him cutting a sausage to let Grammy check it. Grandpop loved to grill, but it was Grammy who decided when dinner was ready.
No relationship is perfect, but in the eyes of a young boy and now a not-so-young man, their’s came close. The love they had for each other is something that I haven’t found the words to write about yet, and I’ve tried.
I’m sure that Grammy could.
Ruth Hackman was an author with two published devotionals to her name. Her stories focused on life’s smaller moments. She believed in finding meaning everywhere, if only we slowed down enough to reflect.
Not content being simply a published author, Grammy also wrote a column in the Morning Call for 22 years. She wasn’t on the paper’s staff, but instead, her column was one of the first examples I know of of sponsored content. Every week, Grandpop bought a large ad block, filling only the bottom with a small ad for his bookstore. In the space remaining, Grammy wrote her Reflections column.
In it, Grammy detailed her life and the lives of her children and grandchildren (including me). The stories were personal, and many felt that they had a closer connection with our family through her words. When she decided to retire the column, hundreds of people showed up to her retirement party to thank her.
After writing, Grammy also had a passion for painting. She set aside her easel to raise her family and help her husband run the store. Then one year, her kids bought her some new supplies and Grammy started painting as if she never stopped.
Her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have at least one picture she painted. When you’d visit Grammy at the home, every trip would end with a trip to her “studio” so you could see what new masterpiece she was working on.
I don’t think losing her has hit me yet. Grammy wasn’t someone who drew a lot of attention to herself in your life. She was a comforting voice on the phone after a long day. Her presence filled those small moments that you take for granted until after they’re gone.
It’s impossible to write every moment, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Christmas Day at Grammy and Grandpop’s old house in the middle of a blizzard. Grammy had the weather channel blaring from the living room while she was in the kitchen. Two of my cousin’s began joking that it was great we had the weather channel to tell us what was going on outside. Grammy, from the kitchen replied “I like the music!”
- Visiting Grammy on to get lunch at the Apple Orchard Cafe. She ordered a “K-so-Dilla” (quesadilla), but not too crispy.
- My brother asking her if he could have some iced tea when we came to visit. Grammy would smile and say “I don’t think so,” and seeing him fall for it every time.
- Her fridge had a never ending supply of Diet Coke, Klondike bars, and fresh fruit she’d always offer to everyone. When you asked her if she wanted anything, she’d always reply with “just a smidgen.”
- Her retelling how she met my grandfather when she was growing up and when he came to ask her on a date, she refused. Multiple times.
The way that my grandparents would always hold each others hand when they were together. That’s how I choose to picture her now. She’s with my grandfather, holding a diet coke while waiting for him to yell “Ruth!” and call her over to the grill.
Ruth Hackman lived an incredible 92 years, and I’m going to miss her. She might not be there to answer the phone when I call her asking for advice anymore, but she’ll always inspire me.