Wednesdays With Ruby By Brian Biro

As a network marketing leader and teambuilder, there is no more foundational key to lasting success than being fully present. 

When you are fully present for others, you express to them the one crucial message you must convey to build trust and relationship.  By being present you say to others that they are IMPORTANT.  When people feel important, they rise, they commit, and they shine. 

The rewards that come from being present may not always be immediately apparent, but the impact on your life and everyone around you will be enormous in the long run.

Years ago, I read a deeply moving book entitled Tuesdays With Morrie:

An Old Man, A Young Man, and the Last Great Lesson (Doubleday, 1997) authored by a well-known sports columnist, Mitch Albom. This is a book that digs into the essence of what being fully present can mean to you and those you love.

The true story centers on Albom’s Tuesday visits with his mentor and life coach, professor Morrie Schwartz, who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. With each visit, the window to Mitch’s heart, which had closed gradually from years of cynicism and diminishing faith, was pried open through the wisdom and power of Morrie’s indomitable spirit. Morrie taught Mitch to live every day as if it was his last—that the only solution in life is love.

When I read this wonderful book, I was flooded with memories of a similar experience in my own life—regular weekly visits with a special mentor who transformed me into a coach and human being.

These visits opened me to the possibility that there is something to value and admire in everyone, and that we may completely miss these qual­ities until we are truly present.

After I graduated from college, I spent the ensuing eight years completely immersed in my chosen career of coaching. I was so obsessed with building my swim team that I closed off nearly every other area of my life, with­drawing from friends and family as I relinquished any semblance of balance. There was only one small excep­tion in my single-minded, all-consuming compulsion. Each Wednesday, as soon as I finished coaching morning practice, I headed east on the Ventura Freeway to the L.A. suburb of Encino to visit my mother’s parents, Ruby and Ben.

They were poor, living in a run-down apartment as they scraped by on the tiny stipend of their combined Social Security checks.

My grandfather, Ben Harrison Orkow, had been a writer his entire adult life. A big success in the twenties and thir­ties, he had been an acclaimed screenwriter and play­wright living in Beverly Hills and rubbing shoulders with such stars of the day as Clark Gable and Cary Grant. But he had stubbornly refused to adapt his writing style and language to the changing world of the post-war years and lost every cent of his once sizable fortune.

My grandmother, Ruby, was a dazzling beauty of nine­teen when she first met Ben, the sophisticated and bril­liant writer. Having been raised in poverty, she was swept off her feet by his wealth, charm, and confidence.  After a whirlwind courtship, they were married, certain that a life of affluence, glamour, and success lay ahead.  A year after they were married, they welcomed a beautiful little girl into the world and named her Miriam. 

They were elated about their baby, who grew up to be my mother.

But their carefree joy was short-lived. As my grandfather’s fortune and reputation plummeted, Ruby was forced to take a job as a salesperson at a woman’s clothing store.  Ben steadfastly refused to pursue any other employment to help with their dwindling finances and continued to pour out manuscripts, plays, and screenplays that drew rejection after rejection. 

Every day, Ruby worked at the clothing store, rushing about on her feet for eight to ten hours, only to return to a house that needed cleaning, a husband impatiently awaiting his dinner, and a daughter who needed the love and presence of a mother too exhausted to deliver.  Gradually, Ruby developed more and more dependence on alcohol to escape her frustration and fatigue.

Over time, the marriage diminished into empty co-existence.  Ben had married Ruby for her beauty and charming innocence.  He had envisioned her as the perfect hostess for celebrity dinner parties and as his companion for gala evenings in Hollywood and New York.  But, as the strain mounted and Ruby’s physical beauty faded beneath lines of worry and weariness, Ben never looked beyond her physical appearance nor opened his heart t feel her pain.  With understanding and tenderness, he might have discovered her real beauty—her great wit and passion for life. But he never balanced romance with respect. They grew further and further apart as they lived separate lives held together only by the single focus and purpose they still shared—the love they felt for their daughter. But when Miriam left home at nineteen to marry and begin her own family, the walls between Ruby and Ben grew nearly impenetrable.

The gaping wound that was left when my mother moved away was partially healed when my sister and I were born.

We became the new bright spots in my grand­parents’ otherwise lonely lives. To my grandfather, I was a shining star, and as I grew up, I looked up to him as a genius and my true idol. He had brilliant, creative ideas with energy for learning that knew no bounds. A vora­cious reader and thinker, he rose every morning at four to devour every book he could put his hands on. When I was a boy, I was certain he was the smartest man who ever lived.

I viewed my grandmother quite differently. We had my grandparents over for dinner at least two or three times a month and for every holiday and birthday throughout the year. Ruby continued to be the breadwin­ner, working full time into her late sixties while my grand­father kept writing without results. Inevitably she would arrive at family dinner parties already tipsy from nipping at her bottle of vodka as soon as she returned from the store, and then would proceed to have another couple of cocktails before we sat down to dinner. I knew nothing about her alcohol addiction at that time, so I just assumed she was bizarre—gentle and affectionate—but scatter­brained and basically wacky. I built a superficial rapport with her, clowning and joking to make her laugh, but without really knowing her, loving her only out of duty.

Two things about Ruby puzzled me, though. They didn’t seem to fit the loony-tune picture I had created of her. The first was her hands. Ruby had the gentlest, most expres­sive, and wisest hands I had ever known. When she spoke, her hands painted beautiful images in the air filled with emotion and delight. And when she touched me to rub my back or hold my hands, the effect was hypnotic.

Love flowed through her fingers like the touch of an angel.

The purity of heart that softly radiated from her hands brought me instantly to a place of peace that let me know there was somebody who loved me unconditionally.

The second anomaly came once each year on Christmas day. This was the one day I saw Ruby in the morning—the early morning. As a youngster, I was so excited about Christmas I pleaded with my grandparents to arrive at our house by 6 A.M. so we could begin to open packages. From the moment she walked in the door each Christmas dawn, it was as if a completely different person had stepped into Ruby’s body. It was the one day her being seemed to perfectly match her hands. On Christmas, I loved my grandmother for who she was rather than out of a sense of familial obligation. She was like an angel each December 25: light, vibrant, and posi­tively radiant. I felt a peacefulness and wisdom about her that day that blended perfectly with her warmth and affection. The effect was irresistible as she nurtured rather than smothered. Looking back now, this transformation in my grandmother each Christmas day meant more to me than any present or a holiday treat. It remains my most precious Christmas memory.

When I went away to college, much to my surprise, it was Ruby’s letters that I looked forward to more than any others.

The packages she sent were filled with all sorts of delightful treasures. She had a knack for finding quotes, quips, or stories guaranteed to bring smiles. Her letters were filled with fun and energy. They almost seemed to glow when I pulled them out of my post office box.

After I graduated and settled into my new life as a coach, I decided that I would visit my grandparents every Wednesday morning. I would bring them their beloved delicatessen food, take them shopping, and make sure they had what they needed to get by until the next week. I’m not at all proud of the fact that I approached the visits as my duty as a “good grandson” and can see now I looked at them as a sort of noble sacrifice that would prove I was a truly giving person. Little did I know that I would receive far more from these visits than I could ever give.

These Wednesdays with Ruby opened my eyes to the beauty we can discover in the human soul when we learn to move beyond judgment...

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Brian Biro
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