“He takes with Him Memories of Ourselves” by Paul Stephen Lim. Reprinted from Dreamtime: Remembering Ed Ruhe: 1923-1989, edited by Robert Day and Fred Whitehead. Published in 1993 by The O’Neill Literary House at Washington College in Chestertown, MD 21620.
I remember taking Ed Ruhe’s “Novels into Films” class in the fall semester of 1969 (with people like Chuck Sack and Jim Pearce) and how, years later, Ed often said that it was the most extraordinary group of people he had ever taught. What really made the group extraordinary, of course, was Ed himself, with his boundless enthusiasm and passion for the visual in print, the literary on film.
I remember innumerable afternoons and evenings spent around the large and cluttered dining room table in Ed’s apartment, talking both small talk and Big Talk. Whatever the subject of conversation, whether it be an essay on cannibals by Montaigne, or an obscure movie by Kurosawa, Ed would reach back at some point and pull out some dusty book from those inexhaustible shelves to further the discussion.
I remember trips to Kansas City with Ed to dine at some new Italian restaurant, to hear Kathleen Battle, to see the Alvin Ailey Dancers, to marvel at the latest foreign film at the Bijou, to browse through the bookstores and record stores at Westport.
I remember sharing with Ed a rare 1958 Maria Callas recording of “My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice” from Samson and Delilah, which she had suppressed because she had been unhappy with her rendering of three or four notes, and Ed’s playing the said recording over and over, trying to determine exactly which three or four notes had displeased the diva, until we both gave up because it was nearly midnight, and much too late to call Jim Seaver and ask him for his opinion.
I remember the parties at Ed’s apartment, not only the lively ones, but also the deadly ones. One, where an out-of-town friend of Ed’s decided to show over 200 slides of tombstones he had photographed in Europe, and how the guests slipped away quietly until there was no one left, but still the show went on. Another, in which Ed listened quietly to the interminable chit-chat about the significance of I-forget-which-novel by I-forget-whom, with the discussion ending when Ed finally said, with great impatience, “Only time will tell, and we won’t be there to hear that discussion.”
On a more personal level, I remember bringing early drafts of my plays Conpersonas and Chambers to Ed’s office and subjecting him to the agony of listening to me reading all the parts, and the heated discussions we had afterwards because he said my plays were “too complex.” Years later, the reviewers in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere said the same thing, and when Ed saw how depressed I was, he took me aside one day and said, “There’s nothing wrong with being too complex. It just means you’ll never be rich.”
I remember the last movie I brought to Ed’s apartment, to watch on the new VCR I had convinced him to buy. The film was Pedro Almodovar’s The Law of Desire. I’d seen it before, but wanted to view it again with Ed, to see if the movie would strike him the same way. It did. Toward the end of The Law of Desire, there’s a scene where the flamboyant transexual heroine goes to the hospital to visit her brother, a victim of amnesia. The woman brings with her a faded photograph of two little boys at the beach, a photograph of the two of them when they were still young and happy. She thrusts the photograph in her brother’s face and begs him to remember. “You must remember,” she pleads, “because if you don’t remember, then I do not exist.”
Ed Ruhe was a great teacher. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t miss him, not only because he had a tremendous capacity for friendship, but also because he had a phenomenal memory. He’s gone, and he takes with him bits of ourselves which only he knew and remembered, memories of ourselves that now no longer exist.
Ya hoo! Riding the universal rail of eternity! Who says death is the final stage but the ignorant and fearful. There are so many openings, so many ways to still commune with all that is or will be. In conversations with Jane van Meter and others I learn to see life as more than corporeality and open up to see all existence as illusion, but to embrace this earthly dance, anyway, and just “be”.
Many of us travel our daily path bored out of our skulls as the saying goes and yet almost diliberately seek our own daily dose of psyche pain. Jane, as a friend and mentor, offered me another way to see and experience the incredible present moment, full of potential and wonder and opened me up to the writings of Pater Enomiya-Lassalle, the music and power of Heribert Ritter von Karajan who really deserved to have “raja” as part of the middle of his name. So many tables and never empty of life’s potential.
Thanks, Jane, and thanks Ed Grier, and and Terry Moore, and Bill (WD) Paden, Yale man to the end, and thanks Katy Hinman, Myra, and all the cats.
And, “thank you Jesus”, “thank you Jesus”, and the wild and craziness of the short-living planet.
Ed was a great guy. Nearly 30 years later, with only one of his courses under my belt, and a whole history of my life filling in the time later, I remember…the times in his apartment, the books, the art, his enthusiasm. I hope to find all the Eds in my life, and encourage them. Without them, I don’t want to be here.