Ruth Foljambe Copeland
Ed challenged us to write about Mom in honor of her birthday (Dec.17) This is more than you can read at one sitting but I thought it was an important part of family history. I think we were all pretty candid. Feel free to add your two cents!! Love, Mom
Mom was able to give up her MD status and devote herself to the
new adventure of having and raising me, and then Ed! Today, this is rare
for professional and career women to put all this aside, and just be a mother.
Mom never practiced her MD until 1943 when she felt the need to serve her country as the male MD's were called to war! This is when Mom started to "wear 2 hats" , and went on having a family plus a medical practice, rural style + school doctor. She MADE HOUSE CALLS, even got a spot light
installed like only police cars have now, so she could find the homes in the dark! Yes, she did have trouble with her baby sitters when Barbie was the baby, but we survived, even though Dad was in Greenland for about a year when Mom was just starting to move into an existing medical practice of Dana
Weeks, MD. We even had trouble with our red setter chasing cars, fighting a St Bernard, killing chickens, cats, & rabbits!! Mom took all this in stride! Some how Mom maintained her physical health, and "shape" all thru these years.
Mom told me that she had an aversion to cooking and especially for guests,due to what happened in her teen years. She said she had a one-track mind, and could only do one thing at a time. Cooking was a chemistry lab to her rather than an art, but we all survived, and Ed even became the Camp Bedford COOK!
Mom was a slow and careful mannered eater! It was stressful for her to cook, serve, and then have us eat & run while she was hardly beginning!
Mom tried to train me to eat all sorts of vegetables like LIMA Beans, and I have a real appreciation for her efforts, it has paid off ever since.
Mom had us wash our mouths out with soap whenever she caught us telling a lie! Mom tried to stitch me up when my ear was cut at age 4, but I "refused", and took a "adhesive bridge" instead. But, when I was 9, and cut my knee deeply, again I "refused" stitches, and she tried "bridges" but they didn't hold!! So, when Ed and I went to Camp Abnaki that summer, my
knee was infected and limited me in swimming, etc.
Mom tried to teach me to swim when I was 1 year old, she had a rope tied to me and so I crawled out of "LOAF-A LOT" into the Susqueanna River when Mom [and dad ] weren't looking. Ed & I finally learned to swim dog paddle w/o our "balsa belts" at this YMCA camp, while Mom was re-learning the MD
profession after 10 years "on the shelf"
Mom really encouraged us all to study and learn when we were young, and then each of you tried to outdo me in every way, except Nancy. This competition was very tough, so I think Nancy did it in a more "Nancy way".
I really enjoyed going with Mom to Australia and her old home town of LA! Mom went to bed one night fully dressed so she could make a 5 AM flight!!! I only used a wheel chair in the Sidney huge theater so we could keep up with the tour group. Mom really treasured this trip at age 88. She tried to snorkel over the Great Barrier Reef, but the mask leaked, and then she got severely chilled and shaking for some time before we could warm her up. Mom was loved by all our tour group. She even attracted the curiosity of an old Japanese man who couldn't speak English, but just wanted to know how old
Mom was!!! Orientals respect seniors, which is not the case here or in Australia.
We were truly blessed to have a Christian Mom who lived it more than talked it, but she did give some good sermons from the pulpit. Her "parish" was spread all over the area due to the personal concern and love that she showed her patients and friends. She never collected half of what was due her
as a doctor! Some how she survived in the operating room with all her difficulty hearing.
from Ed :
I met Mom at a distance in both space and time. When I was
discharged from Strong Memorial Hospital right around Christmastime in 1958, I
felt pretty down and alone. I was free again but I could never join my
medical school class and I didn't have any idea what to do. Mom told me on
the phone to go see Wallace O. Fenn, her favorite professor in med school.
I was quaking in my boots but found his office and went in without
anappointment. When he found out I was Ruth Foljambe's son, it was
amazing. He accepted me into grad school on the spot, saying that if I
could get accepted in med school, I could be a special grad student in
physiology. Mom left a trail a mile wide and Fenn stayed as one of my
advisors. In that first shaky year he would drag out old recordslabeled R.
Foljambe and plop them down on the table in front of the med students. Little
did Mom know in 1927 that she would be making her son very proud and give him
hope when all seemed lost.
My story about med school/grad school is true but is mainly about my gratitude to Mom, not about Mom. I remember a little about Englewood, NJ but not much about Mom. The fire in the grass roofed hut against the garage with gasoline on the other side of the wall...the bag of sand I dragged to school which lost all its sand...the cute girls at my 5th birthday party...I liked a brunette when we played stand and face your partner...Still no Mom.
In Port Henry I remember watching a movie about a Protestant, a Catholic and a Jew who fought and died in WWII. I watched it 3 times to see the cartoon with fireplugs that walked. Mom came in to get me. I don't remember much except she was worried about me. I remember playing with clay with Jim. Sometimes this stuff would melt in the sun. Still not much about Mom. I think she got me baptized.
I remember Camp Abnaki and trying the side stroke in Lake Champlain. I remember the red or yellow balsa floats but don't remember who had what color. I guess Dad was in Greenland then and Mom must have been studying at Physicians hospital. When Mom was town doctor, I remember the sound of the blender squeezing orange juice every morning. Mom was doing that. I remember finding cigarette butts in the gutter out in front of Marsha's and the Tavern and then going around to the river side to smoke the butts in the ice house. I remember when Peanut Swab shot Jim in the back with a BB gun. Jim and I had been polling our raft out over the logboom and up the river. I remember Mom being worried about us.
Remember making beautiful flying planes from the back of Wheaties boxes. You put a penny in for nose weight. I remember when Dad came home from Greenland with a doll for Barb and kayaks for Jim and me. I vividly remember Mom giving me an illustrated talk about how men were different from women. I remember the little Pray's cottage with kerosene which Jim and I had to lug and tip over into position. We had "desks" way up in the pine trees beside the house. I don't remember much about the Straight sister's house. It was in 1946 in the big house when Nan joined us and things began for me. We swam and swam and canoed and sailed. What an idyllic life. Dad was sick in 1947 and we all met the "gyroscope". We had a pretty dense population of unhatched manics. Nan, I'm glad you came along because Mom had to carry the yeoman's share of bipolars. Forrest, Grandpa, Dad, Jim, me and Barb. Nan, you showed the innovation without the mania.
When I really try, I come up with little. I rmember helping Mom between the little and big houses. I remember getting her to play with my ear and getting her up on water skiis when she was 65. Eating slowly so now I'm the slowest eater. Whereas Dad would answer almost any question and do a credible job just flying by the seat of his pants, Mom always wanted to look things up. Later, I found out just how complicated medicine was...so too was engineering.
Mom really cared. She was almost worshipped as the woman doctor. I still have trouble expressing my feelings. I'm grateful to have had Mom to grow up with, the woman who gave my wonderful brother and sisters half their DNA.
Reflections on my Mom from the largest of the Copeland-Foljambe clan at birth and the smallest in adulthood.
I work best under pressure, so I have waited until last and have read everything and looked at all the photos, too. In addition, I have read a love letter Dad wrote to Mom in January, 1932. He quoted poetry and sounded so blinded by his love for her that it is a wonder he could drive from Rochester back to Philadelphia. It is a good thing he stopped in Ithaca to drop off entrance requirements for "Bunny" (Ralph). Dad declared Ithaca "an ideal spot to spend one's college years". (Where did Ralph go to college?) At the end, Dad wrote "from the empty feeling within, I think I left my heart in Rochester; you haven’t found it have you? As ever, your own, Rogers (XXXXX) to the 14th power (how do you write exponents on computers….I forgot).
P.S. from the sublime to the ridiculous…Am missing one red sock. If you find it around your or Esther’s room, please save it for me.
Reading the letters Mom wrote Dad when he was in Greenland, I can’t imagine how she managed it all. She moved us on her own, we all had whooping cough. The babysitting help was not reliable. She had lost close contact with the friends she had in Port Henry because she had no time to keep that up.
Mom set rules and guidelines for living, both verbally and non-verbally. Perhaps the most fundamental:
1. Do not be introspective.
2. Do not release your emotions, especially in public.
3. Do not discuss family problems with anyone outside the family.
4. It is okay to put yourself down with others, but do NOT brag.
5. Fold and save wrapping paper at Christmas.
6. Eat a healthy breakfast before going off for your day.
7. Work all the time except swim once a day during swimming weather and play bridge every other week, even though you have nothing in common with the other women.
I MUST CONFESS I HAVE BROKEN ALL OF THE ABOVE, ESPECIALLY THE FIRST THREE. I have found that in moderation, the first three are quite healthy in the affirmative. I destroyed Jennifer’s childhood by using her as a confidante!
I have discovered that #6 is an essential in my daily maintenance program, so I have accepted that one. An extremely valuable tool in everyday interaction with people Mom taught me when I was having trouble with my two roommates in Buffalo where I had my first job in cancer research at Roswell Park: if you feel irritated by someone, take a look inside. You may find a similar quality or part of your own personality that is lacking and therefore seeing it in someone else is particularly aggravating. I have put this tool on automatic, so that I always try to find out why there is friction not instantly blaming the other person.
Three poignant memories:
1. I remember going to Rehobath Beach, Delaware and running with Mom along the sand next to the ocean. Just the thought of it makes me feel happy.
2. When I was dating in high school, I used to cover the clock next to Mom’s head with one hand and wake her gently with the other. Without putting on her glasses, she couldn’t tell how late it was (or so I thought). 3. In her mid-80’s, Mom and I went to a show at SUNY Plattsburgh. We joined Susan Sunderland and John Pattno afterwards for ice cream at the Dairy Queen. As we sat and talked, Mom started to say something and forgot it; then she forgot that she forgot; we all laughed with her and she laughed so hard, she was almost doubled over in her seat.
In my introspection, I have found a deep gratitude for Mom’s nursing me (and nursing us all). When I feel stressed and I need to be nurtured, or when I awake and cannot sleep at night, I drink skim milk with a little maple syrup or molasses…if at night, I drink it warmed in the microwave! I know, I know…it has tryptophane, but it also soothes me. When I had Jennifer and regardless of the Caesarean, started to nurse her, I felt a bonding to Mom I had not ever felt before.
Mom was always there for me when I was sick, but I was one of the main supporters for her emotionally when Dad was sick (from when I was 12 on) and so I never felt the closeness of a nurturing mother. I have determined through much introspection over the years (after being challenged by a psychiatrist in 1977) that I actually could make myself manic enough to have to be hospitalized if I felt overwhelmed by the pressures of my job(s) and felt I could not meet my responsibilities. When I was a baby, Mom lived as an intern at the hospital. I learned to feel comfortable in the hospital setting and I still do to this day. I now go as a visitor instead of as a patient. I watch for early warning signs of needing nurturing and get it by treating myself, or asking Roy or my friends for help. I also try not to get into states of over-stress or too much responsibility. I teach others this as well.
Mom would always listen to the latest things I learned in science or medicine, even if I didn’t know every fact. She welcomed my over-detailing and my energetic teaching style. I have two English teacher friends who provide that outlet for me now. I was always proud of Mom because everyone thought she was a saint, especially those she treated medically and the nurses she worked with. I became frustrated with her in the last years because she had not made more than one or two close friends and therefore depended on Nan (mostly) and myself for company. I had a lot of guilt when I didn’t visit on a regular basis.
After reading this lengthy treatise, I have one last thing. I was particularly close to Grandma. She spent a lot of time with me and we talked a lot about things no one else seemed to care about (cosmic consciousness, philosophy, etc.). Mom dutifully took care of Grandma, but intuitively I sensed her dislike. I guess I learned that everyone in our family and outside had parts that were favorable and parts not so favorable. I learned not to cross people off the "list" just because I could see unfavorable characteristics.