At times, following a path established for you is better than following the one which you really want. My daughter had a vital need to visit with her grandmother whom she hadn’t seen since 2005. I respected her need enough to agree to go with her, but in my heart of hearts knew that I would be worn out from Thanksgiving. Alicia is not a person to be denied when she makes up her mind to do something. So it was that I piled in the car with a heavy sigh this past Thursday for a trip to visit with the in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandma.
Let it be said here and now that I luckily married into a wonderful, dynamic family. My husband was the oldest of nine children including a set of twins; in my family, I was the one and only after the loss of my brother. It was and still is often overwhelming to be part of such a family after growing up in a small family of four. Life for large families is different from that of a smaller family. Food is always huge and plentiful, clothes are often passed down and around until good only for rags. My mother-in-law, Pat, is an accomplished seamstress and often made clothes for her brood since my father-in-law, Leo, was in the early years a lower level US Air Force officer. But then, Pat could do anything that needed doing all while taking care of their children due to Leo flying so much. She never really appreciated that she had so many talents either from birth or learned by doing it repeatedly.
Just raising nine children all of whom became accomplished, responsible adults speaks of her abilities. Like any other family they’ve had their problems, but not only survived them, but also thrived after the issue was resolved. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is not how she dealt with nine children, but with nine such diverse personalities. She managed the household by never sitting down from dawn to dusk. When almost all the kids were teens, Pat was a Colonel’s wife with all the attendant duties which she managed to complete with her usual adroit manner. Like my mother, Pat could teach me very little since I was and still am a lefty. I did everything backwards according to their world and correctly according to mine.
Leo, my father-in-law, was a personable, loving man who did a wonderful job for the Air Force serving in the Korean War and Vietnam as a pilot flying sorties to South America during peacetime. Ever self-effacing, he never discussed his professional accomplishments; what I know was learned from the family and/or photos or certificates. He provided for his family, loved them and took great pride in his children although like so many of his generation had no way of expressing it to them. He was known by all of us, some 50 people when the family was altogether, for his wicked sense of humor, Brandy Alexanders at Christmas time, and his cigars.
Leo died in 1996 of cancer caused by exposure to agent Orange during Vietnam. The children and their spouses rallied around Pat holding her up during the stressful time. In her well-earned retirement, Pat stays busy making blankets which the family then donates to a children’s hospital and other needy causes. I wish there were words to tell her what she means to me for all the support over nearly 30 years of my marriage. She called everyone precious rather than by name, but truly she is the one we should call precious. Her worth has value that monetary means could never match.