Joan Ruskin and Susan Steinhauer

Recorded November 23, 2008 Archived November 23, 2008 01:19:06
0:00 / 0:00
Id: SFB000061


Joan Ruskin, 85, talks to her daughter Susan Steinhauer, , about life after her heart attack and what she now considers important in life.

Subject Log / Time Code

Susan’s father Bucky dies, leaves Joan feeling lost and unhappy with life. Joan misses his sense of courage, his demeanor of ‘indefatigable merriment’.
Joan marries Bucky in 1943. After his death, she never thought she would remarry. Ends up marrying Herman Ruskin later.
Joan has a heart attack, was forced to move from New York to California to be closer to family and get adequate medical treatment.
Joan’s legacy- As a result of her illness, Joan loses her appetite for everything: from food to discussion and art.
Talks about the ‘petty instincts’ she held during the initial phases of her illness. A radical shift in what she finds important in life occurs: a firmness in relationships.
She now has a long roster of friends, and the hospice movement has provided her with huge support.
Bucky balanced out Joan. He unquestionably accepted Susan and loved her unconditionally, which wasn’t always present in Susan’s relationship with her mother.
Joan remembers trips her and Bucky took to Dublin and Paris: falling off of a bus and scraping his knees.
Susan in awe of Joan’s ability to cope and remain happy through her illness and later years.


  • Joan Ruskin
  • Susan Steinhauer

Recording Locations

San Francisco StoryBooth


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00:06 This is Sue. Steinhour. I'm 59 years old. Today is November 23rd 2008. I am at the San Francisco storycorps Booth to record the story of John Ruskin and I am Jones daughter.

00:26 This is John. I'm John Ruskin Sue's mom. I am 85 years of age or today on November 23rd of November is a a very special commands for us for celebration. We're here in the San Francisco contemporary Jewish Museum, which has provided this wonderful space and opportunity for recording as I said, I am I am so is Mom

00:58 Greetings to our loving listeners that we are now about to embark on part 2 of Jones story in an attempt to record some small part of a legacy to release the laughter when the tears have ceased

01:15 Bucky my dad's sudden death in gendered an emulation

01:20 Of mom self in a tomb of Silence

01:24 And I will let Joan continue to tell her story.

01:30 Iron for the Marriott connections, we made Vivid in the Mosaic of our share laws together.

01:39 To watch puppies hands fashion one more Pinnacle in a bucket of sand castle.

01:45 Or two once again hear his voice.

01:49 Would have offered some renewal.

01:52 I offer these words as a caress and embrace to comfort the children grandchildren friends and loves that have found The Reluctant Steward of the last few years. This Force has reignited the subsiding Amber's

02:17 You know much about my life. So but perhaps there are some questions that remain that you would like to pose.

02:25 Can you tell me a little bit about your Early Childhood years?

02:31 In recording my early years. I was shaped by living with a mother who was a practitioner of annihilation.

02:42 And is so incapable of Joy a carrier of Destruction.

02:48 Buckeye who came to love me had to endure my reflective reflexive tendency to say no.

02:57 Buc-ee's unfailing ability to stay the course and make me smile in spite of myself.

03:05 Was it tonic to Sweet to continue to resist?

03:10 Although honestly, I was not as confident as Bucky in our United ability to conquer the world.

03:18 His endurance did prevail

03:23 It was a time of such innocence the later years brought you both great. Joy and almost all killing sorrow, especially the premature deaths of first my Dad Bucky and then my brother your son Greg. I'd like to ask you some questions about some of the darker times and how you were able to enjoy the pain.

03:50 Yes, Suh, reactiveness of negation was just remembering.

03:57 I was no longer a complete person.

04:01 Without the support and constancy of an extraordinary partner. I was diminished.

04:08 Buc-ee's signature quality to those who know him well or bare barely at all.

04:14 Wasn't avoiding an imaginative sense of humor.

04:19 Tumi body sense of courage to confront the fears known and unknown was formidable.

04:28 A quality that expressed his nature at its best.

04:34 What made you want to live again after that loss?

04:41 As you know, I did not I lost any Appetite For Life.

04:48 But in 1981 when your husband Roth died and you move back to my house with the children, David and Sarah.

04:57 I felt I had no choice but to re-engage as life overrules death. I could not have done. Otherwise, this was a shelter of repair and renewal.

05:11 Perhaps our wounds in healing would present New Beginnings.

05:18 You were remarried again in 1984. Was that because living at home with the kids and me made you want to leave?

05:27 No, I really thought I did not want to be married again. The first marriage had been so magical and so fulfilling.

05:41 I felt nothing could either embellish or replace it? However, Herman who became my second husband capacity to catch me unawares enabled me to accept his Proposal with joy.

06:00 Can I ask you about Greg's death?

06:04 You and I had both been estranged from Greg due to familial differences before the time. He became so ill with colon cancer.

06:14 Our family began to Splinter after Bucky's death

06:18 His overwhelming absence made it less inviting for friends and family to gather and comfort.

06:26 There was no chance for the same resolution that might have been possible earlier when Greg was well and alive and the belated communication became bittersweet.

06:38 Greg was in Hospice at that point and beyond the reach of rational discussion.

06:45 How did you go on after that loss?

06:49 Fat loss was most likely the hardest. It was premature children are not supposed to predecease their parents.

07:00 For several reasons his death left an emotional Schism and yearning for restoration earlier connection and a reprieve from the given death sentence imposed.

07:17 I have admired your fortitude facing such losses.

07:22 Since we are talking about the darker times.

07:26 Can I ask you about your illness?

07:30 And your decision to agree to move from your home in New York to make a new home with Mike and me in Oakland, California?

07:38 Of course.

07:40 My heart attack was the first experience a bitter learning curve in self-restraint and accommodation.

07:49 To a family Dynamic and rhythm of Changing Times both globally and individually.

07:58 Had I stayed in Rockville Centre friends who have been so constant as my illness progressed.

08:06 Would have had to move on with their own lives. I would most likely have become more ill due to insufficient Medical Care. It would have presented more in Super Bowl problems to solve actually looking at this from a more dramatic perspective.

08:29 All of this would have been resolved and a non-issue had I not called 911.

08:39 Because the deaths of Buckeye Greg and Rolfe were ones in which you could not intervene or affect the outcome.

08:50 I felt that for me to refuse the invitation to California what has been to deny an act of love.

09:01 At 82 when you had the heart attack how hard it must have been to give up a cherished home and a custom pattern of life.

09:12 And leave loving friends to start over in my must have seemed and still may seem an alien place.

09:24 Speaking of the aliens Sue and I both have a rather Wicked and dark sense of humor as Bucky did to

09:34 But it is interesting. It's not that I feel the places a lien. It's more that I feel that circumstances have displaced my junk or reducing my sense of self by yielding to incapacitate.

09:52 Or the overriding this is of the moment.

09:57 I feel fortunate that in my short time in Auckland two and a half years to have received sound medical care, but almost more important for you to have made a new friends many of home share my political philosophical and cultural interest all of them with a sense of dark humor. We are all ladies of a certain age but retain a certain amount of I believe infectious flare we do continue to wear our scarves.

10:35 Your illness has left you looking very differently from how you have appeared most of the years that I've known you how hard is that to face? Everyday? That is very serious question and one who prides herself on.

10:53 Giving two vanity don't believe it one remains vein to the very end.

11:01 Because one is very sense of self and the degree of energy to process enough of my John essence.

11:10 To maintain the spirit that permits and encourages continued connection.

11:17 Is imperiled on a daily basis?

11:22 Any closing comments, Mom?

11:25 I think my closing comments would be to sue.

11:33 But first a tribute to the larger family or the larger immediate family.

11:42 I leave this as a modest living Legacy of memories responses to the unique spirits of Sue Michael Cera David and Kim.

11:55 A desire to open an additional window

12:01 To the shelter that we continue to establish together.

12:06 A rich compost promising nourishment and vitality

12:13 I would as much as I have always been a very independent and rather strong-minded.

12:23 Decision maker

12:28 I was amazed at how crippling.

12:33 The

12:37 Results of the illness was in terms of Robin Lee of not all night.

12:45 Appetite all kinds of appetite appetite for all the things that I found.

12:51 Profoundly engaging literature theater film discussion

13:00 Reading family

13:04 And see natural Ark that work was no longer ascending. Unfortunately. It was on the low.

13:17 To watch the community that I was now so readily embraced in

13:25 All of suing Michael and our my grandchildren and David and Sarah and David young wife Kim.

13:39 Was a challenge in that?

13:42 I am really not a communal Builder. I do much better in a solitary sense and invite those were they in the door and I'm delighted to have their companionship and interest until next time.

14:06 This was a totally different experience for me, too.

14:11 Standby or sit by or abstain?

14:16 While my head was saying no that is not the way to do it. There is a better way, whatever it may be.

14:26 The way you stack your dishwasher. There is a better way. That's not the way I kept my refrigerator.

14:35 Oh you slice your tomatoes that way I think it's better this way and so forth. It all sounds really quite ridiculous.

14:44 And quite a petty and in the process in which

14:53 I was so not either but so impelled to be critical a lifelong opportunity.

15:05 I had to learn to step back and allow Sue and Michael.

15:12 The freedom of continuing the life that I had.

15:19 Establish together

15:21 Which apparently suited their needs or though it was I'm sure confined by reality.

15:29 A very different reality. Mine was really very privileged in that.

15:38 Both of our first always time and where I was married in 1943 a very different world from 60-70 years later.

15:50 I had the the freedom to

15:55 Enjoy the companionship of man. Who?

16:00 Ethnologist and Revels in my form of

16:07 Both house management and my approach to the world without my feeling that it was that attempt into their own capacity for Independence.

16:20 And not until I was able to quell that devil in my head who?

16:30 Continue to wish to administer all of the errors of the world.

16:40 It was not a good fit and not because

16:46 Michael and Sue. We're not intent upon providing as much sucker Comfort Innovation and all kinds of support.

16:59 But because I could not make the fit one size does not fit all.

17:06 And I had shrunk considerably but not unfortunately in my capacity to

17:17 Question modes of

17:21 Ordinary living

17:27 Even with the recognition or perhaps it was the recognition that for each.

17:34 All these issues to be accomplished to my desire.

17:39 It imposed an additional demand upon the household and suing Michael.

17:46 To adjust to an adapt to what I felt continue to be important but important for me.

17:56 Quite apparently if one had been in our household in the last 12 or 24 hours the amount of Industry engaged in that little house was truly astounding

18:11 I had delayed and delayed creating a brief outline for today's meeting.

18:18 As of last night, I still didn't have one. So sue sat down at the computer open it to my word.

18:28 And we began.

18:33 Continued until we had a rough copy of what I thought needed to be said.

18:42 And this morning it was

18:47 Somewhat revised at the last hour like 11.

18:52 And I was not worst dressed and we managed to leave and arrive here not only on time but early.

19:03 So that is really a capsule formulation.

19:09 Of

19:11 The adjustment required

19:15 In curling wands

19:18 Petty instincts and they are Petty because when one observes the past and the present and the future

19:29 What is really important and if I were to say that there was a consistent theme in my life.

19:40 An importance

19:43 I would say it is the firmness and dependability of connection.

19:51 Which I have been the unquestionable recipient of an abundance.

19:58 Of acceptance accommodation humor

20:04 And

20:08 All things that a transplanted easterner comes to anticipate in moving to this Golden Coast where isn't this place to go?

20:21 Free speech and all of that

20:26 So that is really a thumbnail I think description.

20:32 A very rapid transition of

20:37 A sensory equipment that had to be re schooled and retrained.

20:45 2

20:47 Another

20:49 Evaluation and formulation of the way lives are lived meaningfully.

20:57 Fortunately, we are all of a political.

21:04 Agreement because that would add one more bit of fire to the mix mix.

21:13 Which would not be Samantha Bell we have.

21:22 Certainly cried enough and laughed a great deal at the absurdity of

21:32 Whatever the Day brings.

21:35 And also the unexpected possibility that just

21:41 A fraction of the turn of your body

21:45 Allows you to look through another window.

21:52 And observe another possibility

21:56 Why endless

22:00 Awareness of how much has been required

22:05 Of the family to make their adjustments to the changes that have been wrought.

22:16 And to the recognition particularly sous-vide may not be saying it but it's right there on my Torrid.

22:25 Quiet down it has truly been.

22:31 I have been blessed with the kind of unswerving affection and recognition.

22:41 Of my SMS

22:45 We are anticipating a little person from David and Kim is coming spring.

22:57 So it will be one more reassurance.

23:02 Is that

23:03 A protective of Vitality will be brought to the family.

23:10 And another moment to celebrate at the end of

23:18 I think a fairly long life of 85 years.

23:23 Yes, as I have exhibited there have certainly been losses which cannot be compensated for.

23:31 But I can certainly say that from the time I was 20.

23:38 I have had a very rare opportunity for great fulfillment and for being showered with affection and love from those are loved and who have loved me.

23:56 A growing roster of unexpected friends

24:02 Even here at this age. It is very hard to make new connections.

24:08 But I was fortunate enough to be.

24:12 Invited into a circle of friends

24:18 And that nourishment was is irreplaceable. I must say a word to for not only storycorps providing this kind of opportunity.

24:31 But for the fact that since my illness progressed

24:38 Sooner pipe on discussion realize that in terms of the specifics

24:45 That was available had been either offered to me and I either benefited from or could not or could not tolerate and it was time to move on to another kind of support and that support has come unstintingly from the hospice movement.

25:06 Lie detector office comes from Emeryville, I believe but each and every person who has entered my life from hospice.

25:17 Has been most extraordinary in terms of

25:22 The depth and breadth of the individual has the capacity to

25:28 Not be

25:30 Bound by Orthodoxy of the policy

25:36 To give me the support to remain able to question and to accept or reject a recommendation.

25:48 And I will say that.

25:53 I am always pleased to open the door and have

26:00 All of these wonderful people

26:05 Come into my environment and leave me feeling refreshed and somewhat more able to weather the extremes of the day.

26:21 There are tributes here to be made to numerous friends and family.

26:28 Which will have to come in another way at another time. They all surely know who they are and how they remain as part of the structure of my spirit which has brought me much further than at many times. I thought I would exceed 2.

26:52 I don't know if there are any other questions Sue might have

27:03 Play I couldn't avoid it during the recording, but hopefully when I reflect upon this later, it will be a sweet Solace. I hope so soon because although I've had a lot of practice crying and I am not at all pretty when I cry. So I hope that the memory of leaving.

27:29 In writing and certainty

27:33 This small Legacy for those who remain to continue the task.

27:39 Will have significance for each one of them in the terms of our relationship and the the past that we elected to follow.

28:06 They have a question or two about

28:16 And I'm not sure if

28:19 It was at a time. When were you living with Sue at some point when you came to California? She's been okay, which shortly followed my initial illness?

28:46 You said they had to adjust to what you considered to be important in the what what were those things well and attention to particular our days. Let us say I always enjoyed

29:03 The elaborate attention to setting a table at a say it was important to me. It's still important. We don't care steak with our hands. No, that's that's true. No. No, we are not speaking of heathens.

29:19 Hagen's maybe now, but when one considers the trajectory of their day beginning at 6 a.m. Heading off to San Francisco to work and returning 12 hours later to encounter, whatever must be encountered.

29:41 Some of which was frequently supplied by my nervous system wanting this piece to be there and for you to know why it's there because it is more beautiful. I mean how ridiculous, and a quite ridiculous believe me. I do have the comfort of having yielded to very precious rooms when their children grew up and out of the house to me so that I have my bedroom and next to it a study.

30:20 Some of the remains of the home that I had a New York and if it can be a retreat for me when I begin to feel out of control.

30:35 Of my shopper instincts

30:41 And the the recognition of the ability to be so in touch with one's.

30:50 Inherent

30:52 Capacity for

30:56 Positive action and contribution to someone's welfare and well-being.

31:04 Has been a lesson in.

31:09 A Habitat for Humanity

31:13 My habitat and their Humanity

31:24 So you talked a lot about Bucky as well. Fuck you as your first husband and my dad.

31:33 I'd like to know just kind of a little more about puppy and I mean, what was your father like growing up? What was he like as a husband? What was he a real person was he at?

31:49 I wouldn't describe him as jovial, but he certainly was positive and he was a great equalizer in terms of balancing mom's sharp Corners. So that life was fairly Pleasant and he brought out mom's pleasantness with he's so that her harshness was certainly softened in her ability to criticize was challenged or softened by his embracing ability to to unquestionably except

32:29 Me and whatever I did even if he was not in agreement with it, there was an unconditional nastu his love that was not always there with Mom and his sense of humor was Corky and his view of the world was skewed but it made all things possible and his his death brought a severe change obviously to the dynamic and it was much more difficult for four people to accept that loss and to come into our Aid

33:09 With him not being there.

33:12 Zedd is a beautiful appreciation of the essence of Buffy. I met you when I was 20 and he was 25.

33:24 We had a very brief courtship and were married in Thanksgiving of 1943.

33:33 He was a man who radiated worms.

33:39 Anesthetic for

33:43 A combination of the bizarre and the Beautiful and irreconcilability to reconcile both in a unique ways. That was just

33:57 1

34:00 Always was sure in his

34:05 Responses to any of life's verities

34:10 But one could not always be sure about some of his more.

34:17 Dramatic forms of

34:21 Ordinary life Bucky and I celebrated our 20th anniversary in 1963. We were in Paris.

34:30 And we went out that evening for dinner and after a block or two. I look like I said darling you or you're wearing your bathrobe. No, he wasn't wearing if he had it on his own right? You're right. He had it on his arm, and it looked just like his raincoat.

34:53 And he said no, he just marched off into the Parisian scene while he had Panache could pull off anything anything such as taking along a bathrobe instead of a coat. It was Dad and part of that trip. We had been in Dublin and the buses as they make the circle to admit passengers never really come to a. And he had hopped on and was holding my hand and I could not get the momentum to make the leap. He should come on you can do it. Well know what I did was drag him off the bus.

35:38 Scraping his

35:41 Pant knees down to his knee bone.

35:45 And we went to a men's room nearby in which I don't remember now what he did but he divested himself somewhere of his trousers which we continue to look for in Dublin streets certain that someone would love the fabric and ignore the rent in the knees. And there was never a complaint for the remainder of our holiday. He walked around with vaccination cups on his knees to keep the separation from sticking and life went on, you know, and it was that sense of indefatigable merriment and

36:32 Circling capacity for sobriety that

36:38 Made it all worthwhile and made in part of me what I became.

36:46 He was a remarkable man.

36:50 And he didn't stay to finish the task. Do you hear me to soon? He was 61 when he died.

37:00 And we met in June and he died in June.

37:05 And he left a tremendous.

37:08 Spirit and installation of an understanding of what it means to be human.

37:17 Not many people can do that.

37:25 Any last words for weekend?

37:29 No, I'm well, maybe maybe one.

37:36 I do continue to when I say this guardedly be in awe of you not in the same way. I was when I was five or six that was true all.

37:50 And Terror but your fortitude and ability to

37:59 Rise above your physical impairment and condition does

38:08 Leave me speechless.

38:10 Well darling, I hope not to speechless because the sense of

38:18 An expense of spirit

38:21 Is really what rescues us all and in that Fairy Rescue.

38:30 It determines the fallacy of seeking Perfection, which was unfortunately one of my strongest the lights.

38:43 In making it it whatever it was better. It could be better than this and a sense of

38:55 Having a certain kind of realignment in your 80s.

39:01 We're bit by bit that Veil or sheave.

39:07 Is turned back?

39:11 Until one confronts the real issues of

39:18 What makes one's life worth living?

39:24 Well said, I love you. I love you darling very very dearly.