Lilies are in bloom all over town right now. I can't see them without thinking of Pat. She always had a bed of lilies right by her front porch. Pat was a good friend. We met when our daughters were in daycare and preschool together. M was her youngest, while K was my oldest. M was a tomboy deluxe, and K was Ms. Prissy Pants. They were an unlikely duo, but their friendship clicked and through the years they rubbed off on each other. M pushed K to play sports and "toughen up" a little. K taught M how to do her makeup and be a little more girlie. As the girls became good friends, I grew to love Pat.
Pat had dark hair and the bluest eyes I've ever seen. Those eyes smiled when they were happy and could start a fire when she was ticked. It was hard not to love Pat. She was brutally honest and had an irreverent sense of humor. She had three kids who could push her buttons, but she minced no words when she was fed up. Her expressions cracked me up. Even today, in almost any situation, I know exactly what Pat would say.
Pat was a kindergarten teacher, active in our church, and a 4-H leader. Other families might have a Dad who worked with the kids and their animals. Pat's husband would always say that the animals were Pat's "thing." I can remember her dealing with pigs, lambs, steers, and bucket calves. She led the community Bible School back in the day when we would sometimes have 120 kids attending. All three of her kids were athletes, and she attended sporting events every season of the year. I don't think she ever missed any event her kids were involved in.
Emotionally, Pat was a rock. I think I only saw her cry a couple of times in all the years I knew her. I remember her at the funeral of her father-in-law with one arm around her husband and the other around all three kids at one time. The rest of them were in tears, but Pat was rock solid and the glue that held them all together. That was such a typical Pat moment.
New Year's Eve and 4th of July are two holidays that I always associate with Pat. On New Year's Eve, six or seven families (kids in tow) would take in a movie. The kids would go to one, while the adults went to another. (Pat would frequently sneak out to check on the kids.) After the show, we would go to Pat's house for the evening. The adults would play cards upstairs, while the kids would have their own games in the basement. At midnight we would go outside to set off a few fireworks. The kids loved it. One year, we had gone back in after the fireworks when L looked out the window and said, "Look. More fireworks." A cedar tree had caught fire! A lot of rushing, a little water, and things were back to normal.
4th of July was all about the kids. Everyone would buy fireworks and gather on the front lawn after the potluck and watch the kids (and adults who were still kid-like) set off fireworks. When it was dark, the men would set off the display fireworks. The rest of us would sit in lawn chairs and watch. Pat spent a lot of time yelling at the boys not to "be stupid." (That usually went in one ear and out the other!) Pat's son was pretty ornery. A trait that I think she appreciated, even when it frustrated her.
The October of K & M's senior year (14 years after they had first met), Pat had surgery where they discovered stomach cancer. That same week M was crowned Homecoming Queen, and Pat was given a prognosis of about six months. At this point, K and M had decided that the two of them, along with good friend J, would room together at college the next year. Normally, I would have discouraged that. Rooming together can ruin friendships, but I knew that with what was ahead that M was going to need the support of someone who understood her and loved her.
Pat tried every option available to her, but she couldn't beat the cancer. On my last visit about a week before she died, she asked me to make sure that M finished college. She was worried that M would go off the deep end, and Pat wouldn't be around to keep her in line. I told her that we would never let that happen, that K would never let M get away with that. Pat grabbed hold of my arm, looked me straight in the eye, and said, "I'm counting on that. Promise me that you won't let that happen." I promised I would nag M as well as she would have! I was in tears, and though her voice was weak--she was rock solid. I can't remember any other detail of that visit, and it was the last time I saw her alive.
Ten years ago today, Pat died. She was 48 years old. M had already left for her summer job, so they called K and asked her and the Mr. to go get M and bring her home. K was in bed when the call came. She was pulling on clothes, scrambling for a hat, and saying "I can't do this. I can't tell her." Of course, she didn't have to say a thing. I wasn't there but when K and her dad walked in the building, M took one look at them and knew. She went to her knees. K said that she had always heard of "keening," but she never knew what it meant until she heard M that morning. They helped her to her feet and took her home to her dad.
About six weeks after Pat died, we watched her oldest daughter get married. Pat had been too sick to do much planning, but she knew what the wedding was going to be like and her presence was everywhere. Today, all three of Pat's kids are married. She now has three grandchildren, and I know how much she would have enjoyed them! She has missed so much. We have missed her so much.
I think of Pat often. K & M are still good friends. I think they always will be. Sometimes M and her big sister are so much like their mom that it takes my breath away. They don't look like her, but they are as strong and "no nonsense" as Pat was. You'd have to be to go through what they have. So as long as Pat's kids are in our lives, we'll always have a bit of Pat around, too. And I'm counting on that!