Sunday, May 07, 2006

Haven't Posted in While!

A week ago I found out that one of my best friends in the world has only a couple of months to live. Her name is Patti O. and she is well known in Mukilteo for a variety of things. She was devoted to her church, the youth and our schools; she was a dedicated nurse with a Master's Degree in cardiac care; she cared for and had concern for those who had need of food and medical care in our community. But probably, she was best known in Mukilteo for her brave fight against breast cancer which she won ten years ago. A different, unrelated cancer is now about to take her life as it spreads to her liver and her lungs. She is one of those people where you ask, "Why, oh why?" This is not fair. The world still needs her. Her husband of twenty-five years still needs her and her only child--her 23 year old daughter who wants to plan a wedding still needs her. And doggone it--I still need her to be my friend.

Patti moved with her family from Mukilteo to Pennsylvania four years ago so her husband could advance his career at Penn State. We have missed them terribly though we have kept up with each other's lives. Yesterday, I wrote this tribute for her for Mother's Day:

Happy Mother’s Day, Patti! May 6th, 2006

Do I remember when I first met you? I can picture the occasion clearly in my head. We had met Curt earlier, of course. During the time he was seeking to return to the University of Washington from Vermont, we had him to our house for dinner. At that time we lived in Seattle proper not far from the U. He told us that his wife was from Montana—Billings to be exact and that she went to Montana State University. Dave and I realized that you must have been at MSU during the same years we were. We immediately liked Curt so we knew we’d like you.

When you arrived in Seattle, we invited your family to our house for dinner. Julie was a new baby at the time so this must have been 23 years ago. I remember watching you walk down the gravel walkway to our house carrying Julie in a baby carrier. Probably, I noticed your smile first of all. I was so happy because I knew we would become good friends from that point on.

It is hard for me to limit writing about you when we are talking about 23 years of friendship. So many moments stand out in my mind so I will try to give highlights. I remember when we became pregnant with Lucas---Julie was just two years old. Students and friends from the U gave us a baby shower and you and Curt came with little darling Julie. Julie was so bright and involved that we let her open all of the baby gifts. Little did we know at that moment that Julie would be one of the most important individuals in both of my children’s lives.

At first, I am not sure Julie liked baby Lucas so much. Our husbands had a meeting in Newport, Oregon when Lucas was only four months old. We decided it would be fun to accompany them and bring our little ones. Lucas was a difficult baby and he cried and screamed with colic until he was nearly a year old. While you and I were doing some sight seeing in Newport with Julie and Lucas in car seats, Lucas’s relentless screaming caused Julie to break into tears. She couldn’t stand him and we both started to laugh—-two screaming, crying unhappy children and we were just trying to have fun!

Twenty-three years—-this is hard—-so very hard for me to write. You are the reason we moved to Mukilteo. By the time Julie was five and Lucas was three, we had baby Kaley and we were outgrowing our Seattle house. Plus, Lucas was about to enter school. You had already moved to Mukilteo and you liked the school district so you invited us to your brand new beautiful view home in Mukilteo for New Year’s Day. It was just the four of us plus our three little ones and we ate pizza. You drove us around to show us the neighborhood, the new schools and the new homes being built. I remember I worried about moving in next door to you because I didn’t want to be the annoying neighbors who followed you everywhere. But we loved it.
Within the next weeks, I drove from Seattle to Mukilteo and dropped baby Kaley off at your house while I looked at houses. We found one in the next cul de sac over and thus began our years of not only our husbands being colleagues, but we were neighbors, friends and frankly---we were family.

I don’t go to Jazzersize any more—because you moved away. We kept each other involved in the two to three morning per week routine. A few minutes before it was time to leave, you’d call. "Are you about ready?" Even if I did not feel like working out, I’d always go because the company was fun. Yes, we were usually late and afterwards we’d go to coffee and come home and chat in the driveway. I’d never get anything done on those days. But we talked about everything including our children, our dogs, and we solved all sorts of the world’s problems. Patti, I will always cherish our driveway chats—-forever and ever.

My favorite times were the holidays we shared. Mother’s days, Easters, Thanksgivings and Christmases. We traded having dinners at each other’s houses. You expected our cranberry orange relish and we expected your scalloped potatoes. Frankly, your fabulous potatoes were the only thing picky Lucas would eat and even now he expects them every holiday. I loved these get togethers; our tables would be decorated; we’d have wine and good food; stories we’d laugh about; the kids would play together; and we’d play with our dogs: Cory or Jed or Jeb or Chuck. Because most people get together with family at these times, my children actually thought Julie was their cousin.

I asked my children today to give me a memory of our times together and both of them responded that you, Patti, have been a huge part of their entire lives. They both mentioned the potatoes but I know Lucas remembers how Julie saved his life at your house. The kids were all upstairs playing and Lucas choked on a piece of candy. You, being the great nurse that you are, had taught Julie as a little girl the Heimlich maneuver. She "heimliched" Lucas and the candy popped out and rolled down the steps. Needless to say, we are eternally grateful. Kaley, of course, remembers playing dress up with the marvelous hats and fancy play clothes Julie had. She always admired Julie and her participation in the Kamiak musicals and she influenced Kaley’s desire to go in the same direction. I even remember borrowing an old costume for Kaley that you had made for Julie.

My mother, Ginnie, who is here with us now, wants to chime in that you, Patti, had picked her up at the airport in Seattle one time when I wasn’t able to get there---probably due to one of three or four music lesson conflicts. I have no memory of that at all but I do know that always, you were willing to step in if my life was too hectic!

Finally, one of the spectacular highlights of our lives is our trip to Italy with you and Curt. It will forever be a source of the great stories we share at holiday time. Backing into light poles, hiking in the Cinque Terra, or sending back bad wine are all now a part of "our family" lore. Patti, you were so beautiful on that trip and you had so much fun buying cute clothes to take—including those darling purple shoes.

We love you---forever! Janet, Dave, Lucas, and Kaley

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Patti won't need to charge through the gates of heaven.
The Gates of Heaven will be wide open with a big welcome sign.

(photo taken in Italy amongst Carrera marble--Michaelangelo's favorite)