Smart, strong, independent, adventurous, feisty, and liberal. That was Susan Rathman, mother of our daughter-in-law Anastasia (married to our oldest son Wick, and mother of five of our seven grandchildren.)
I first met Susan at Wick and Anastasia’s Princeton University graduation festivities in May 1999. That was when Wick asked Anastasia to marry him while giving the “Latin Salutatorian” speech at the Princeton graduation ceremony with all the cameras rolling and the national media in attendance. Susan and I hit it off, dancing at the “graduation dance” and rooting for “the kids” to make it official and start a life together.
A small town Midwesterner (like my wife, Cathy) from Minnesota, Susan reminded me of the “true characters” from our college days. Like many of us steeped in an earlier age of upper Midwestern progressive liberalism, Susan eventually took refuge on the coast, in her case the ”left coast” of California. But, she remained an avid Minnesota Vikings fan.
In addition to politics, Susan and I bonded over our love of professional football. Her Vikings and my beloved Packers are in the same division, and we always carried on a friendly banter about the games. But, Susan was always the first to congratulate me if the Pack won, and I returned the favor when the Vikes prevailed.
Indeed, one of my fondest recollections of Susan was when we “jointly underwrote” a Packers – Vikings game at the one and only Lambeau Field with Wick and my son-in law Daniel. Perhaps fittingly, the game ended in an overtime tie. But, it was a memorable occasion, and I remember walking back to Wick’s car with Susan while discussing what our respective teams had to do to save their seasons.
Susan joined our combined family for a number of great events, Thanksgiving at my brother’s home in Milton, Massachusetts, Christmas with us in Alexandria, Virginia, and our daughter Anna’s wedding to Daniel in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The grandchildren were ushers and flower girls, and Susan designed and made their dresses and suits.
Sure, there were some rocky spots. We carried on continuing internet dialogues about immigration policy, particularly as it affected California. Susan “respectfully dissented” from my view that religion could play a positive role in the quest for social justice in America.
Susan also gave the grandchildren and the Anastasia-Wick family some memorable trips. I see Susan’s strength of character in Anastasia. Of course, I also can see Susan in the faces of our grandchildren, particularly the girls. And, I see Susan’s legacy in the courage, determination, passion, intellectual engagement, and, occasionally, stubbornness of the grandchildren
Susan died last Monday, shortly after a final visit from Anastasia, Wick, and their family. Several days ago, I deleted Susan’s name from my e-mail distribution list. I guess that’s when it really hit me that I wouldn’t be getting any more of her comments on my frequent internet posts, nor would we be discussing this year’s Packer and Viking playoff prospects.
I miss Susan. I always imagined that we’d “do” another Packer-Viking game together at Lambeau or celebrate the grandchildrens’ graduations; now I have to face the fact that’s not going to happen. I’m thankful for what she left us – Anastasia, the grandchildren, the intellectual dialogue, her commitment to liberalism, and the memories of good times together.
On Sunday, October 15, 2017, the Pack will take the field against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. I have to believe that somewhere out there, Susan will be watching. May the best team win!