Thursday, January 13, 2011

happy birthday, Pat!

(This post is part of an essay that ran in the Columbus Dispatch in May, 2007.)

Only the most precious of mothers adopts the children of an absent mother.

I know such a woman. And she has made it her business to know me. Her name is Pat. She lived across the street from us in Connecticut and befriended my mother, who was born and raised in the Deep South.

No matter to this Boston-bred Irish Catholic: Pat might not have fully understood the “foreigner” who arrived in small-town New England, but she embraced her.

In those days, our families lived on shoestrings, and Mom carpooled with Pat and her preschoolers to the grocery store each week. They were riotous outings lasting several hours, with fidgety toddlers wedged between grocery sacks in the back of our station wagon.

The two spoke on the phone daily as they washed breakfast dishes or folded a load of towels. They cackled hysterically over who-knows-what.

Sharing first days of kindergarten, child psychology and recipes, Mom and Pat forged a sisterly friendship - one that lasted 15 years, well past our family's move in 1971 to Tennessee.

But when my mother died eight years later, she couldn't have imagined the extent to which Pat would honor their friendship. She slid unobtrusively into the roles of mother, mentor and grandmother for my three siblings and me and the 11 grandchildren my mother would never know.

Pat wasted no time demonstrating her devotion: The morning of Mom’s death, she dropped what she was doing to make arrangements for her two high schoolers, tend unfinished household details and book a flight to Memphis. Once there, she comforted us in small but memorable ways, like helping my sister and me clean out mom's closet.

Through the years, postcards from “Gramma Pat” arrived in our mailbox as she lovingly related a travel adventure to my children. Boston Globe articles were carefully clipped and mailed as only a mother does -- articles often about the Red Sox because Pat and her husband John share a love of baseball with our son David.

Birthdays, Christmases, graduations, and even the occasion of a new driver’s license – Pat remembers them all. She and her husband John have attended both my sons' weddings.

I treasure the phone calls and notes in which Pat still encourages and guides me by sharing wisdom from her seasons as a mother and grandmother. Even with a sizable family of her own, she has taken on another. Pat has doubled her love-output for over 30 years.

For that, and for her, I am grateful. A very happy birthday today, Pat Power!

Pat, with me, my brother Mark and sister Anne, and Pat's husband John
at my son's wedding in 2009.

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