THAT WAS PATTY

It’s hard to believe this is my last week in NC.  It’s been an amazing time filled with walking, writing, and watching my Turtle Family.  It’s been fun to walk, breathe in warmer air and spend so much time with old friends as well as meeting new ones.

Today, I’m ready to post another short story to my blog.  This story makes me smile and at the same time, brings tears to my eyes.  It is a story of love, it is a story about my friend and sister in law Patty. She departed this earth over a year ago leaving an empty space in my heart, but a plethora of memories to last me a lifetime.  

I am GRATEFUL BECAUSE……

That was Patty!

“Do what is Fair and Just to your neighbor”.  “Be Compassionate and Loyal in your Love, and Don’t take yourself too seriously”. TAKE GOD SERIOUSLY!

That was Patty!  

It was a warm summer afternoon in 1964, when we arrived at her home a few miles away. I was invited to enjoy a picnic in her backyard and to meet this woman Patty. Greeting us at the front door, were three very cute children and Ron her husband. In a short moment i heard this voice in the background inviting us to please come in. Along with our welcome, I could hear the nervous little giggle i would forever identify as Patty

On that beautiful afternoon i added two words to my vocabulary. Patty referred to the Hot Dogs she was serving as TUBE STEAKS,

But, most importantly i was introduced to this Patty woman who would become my sister in law, and my friend! Patty and i spent the rest of the day laughing and talking.  She was a warm, kind and friendly person and I knew immediately i wanted her to be a part of my life. Did I mention she was the quintessential Hostess? That was Patty!

Over the years we spent much time together, as sister in laws and good friends. She was a most loving and trustworthy kind of friend.  Over the 51 years i knew her, i never heard her repeat gossip or speak unkindly of anyone. Patty treated others equally and justly. That was Patty!

When we were together, our conversations sometimes continued into the night as we drank our tea and shared life.  At times we resembled two schoolgirls giggling and laughing ourselves silly but we easily transitioned into serious conversation, standing present with one another as we listened intently. That was Patty!

Over the years, Patty and i would frequently have our “GOD TALKS”.  Patty lived her faith in the most authentic way and although we disagreed on some issues, we could honestly and openly talk about it.  We worshipped the same God, and respected and loved one another. That was Patty!

My husband and I walked with Patty through her husband’s untimely death. She told us this difficult time in her life helped to grow her in many ways, as she stepped out on her own.  When Patty unsuccessfully searched for a Grief Group, she created one which was ultimately helpful to others as well as herself. Patty trusted God for her present as well as her future.  That was Patty!

Patty and I loved to shop, but i think she coined the phrase “shop til you drop”. Department store clothing departments were her favorite as evidenced by her overstuffed closets.  I loved Patty’s classic style, including her eye for matching the perfect jewelry to complete her ensemble. That was Patty!!

She loved to sew, including clothing for her children and created the most beautiful quilts.  I admired her work but would explain “Patty, If i were Betsy Ross, we’d still be waiting for the Flag”. She insisted i could learn to sew!  Later in life, Patty suggested i buy a sewing machine and promised to teach me. I tried explaining to her I’d tried a million times, but she wouldn’t hear of it.  She was determined i would magically become a quilter. Patty was the great encourager, and never gave up on me! I remember calling her in total frustration as i worked on a quilting project. She gently walked me through my issue then said “Pat, put your mind to it, you can learn to quilt”.  After a time, of sewing and ripping, and sewing and ripping, i realized, although i put my mind to it, i was actually losing my mind over it. Patty fully expected i would create a masterpiece, but It never happened! Patty understood, and love me anyway. That was Patty!

Patty journeyed with us following the birth and short life of our son Mark.  She sometimes cared for our other children while we spent time with him in the hospital.  Many years later Patty was present as we said goodbye to our 13 year old grandson, whose tragic death dramatically altered our lives.  While some people quoted Bible Verses, believing they were helpful, Patty communicated authentic caring that ultimately aided us as we began our healing journey.  I specifically remember Patty holding my hand, looking into my tear filled eyes and expressing “Pat I am here if you want to talk”. “I am sorry, and I wish i could take away your pain”.  That was Patty!

Approximately ten years ago, Patty  was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  It was a slow difficult decline of her cognitive abilities. Although I’ve been reminded that this disease is “The Longest Goodbye”, I found it to be a time of learning, affirming and a clear understanding that life on this earth is not our final destination.

In the beginning of Patty’s struggle with the disease, I assumed her memory loss was partly age related.  We agreed we were aging although, I would remind her i was the younger one. We joked about growing old telling our own stories of misplacing our keys, or going into a room and forgetting why we were there.  But once i understood the complexity of her disease, I wanted to be there to support her. Many times her brother and i prayed for a cure or a new medication to change the trajectory of this deadly disease. I wanted the disease to go away!!

Soon, as the  Alzheimer’s progressed, I realized i was grieving the loss of what was, and would never be again for us. It was at that moment i began to think of how difficult it was for her. Patty would try hard to think of a word she wanted to communicate and so many times it wouldn’t come out.  I continued to talk to her as if she could understand me while sometimes believing she could. I knew she was “In There” ! At times i needed to listen as she worked to communicate slowly and simply. I would pronounce the word i thought she meant and sometimes it worked. I knew one thing for sure,  Patty was becoming my teacher. She taught me about patience and suffering with grace and dignity. When she could barely verbalize words, she continued to speak (and sometimes to perfect strangers) in “Her Language”, always speaking with a smile on her face. Patty became my role model as she demonstrated living in the moment with impermanence.  
When she neared the end of her life on earth, Patty taught me how to be quietly present with someone you love. This lesson aided me when years later i sat with her brother as he lay dying from Esophageal Cancer.  Although at this point, Patty wasn’t communicating verbally she taught me the language of “HUG”. Patty gave the best hugs!! That was Patty!

When she passed, i listened carefully to those who served her physical needs at the nursing home.  They shared their stories of Patty touching their lives as they cared for her. They spoke of her gentle spirit, smile and kindness.  They cried too and told us they were going to miss her. That was Patty!

I miss you Patty, but i am grateful you were part of my life all those years.  Thank you for making a difference in my life, and for your compassion, love and courage.  You taught me so many life lessons!

That was Patty!

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