40 years is not enough time to spend with your Mama.
I walked in the room, and she looked so tiny and small. She didn’t look sick at all, in fact she looked beautiful, almost angelic. Her eyes lit up when she saw my mother and me, and she smiled. We both hugged her and she immediately started telling my mother how she needed to quit smoking. But Patsy was too weak to talk, so she wrote out notes and made motions. She seemed amused most of the time as we tried to figure out what she was saying, as if we were playing charades.
Bossy as ever, I thought and smiled.
Then she tells me that I smell of cigarettes too, since my mother and I rode in the same car. She writes down how she remembered getting after me for standing with my head in the freezer for several minutes one summer that is was particularly hot. We all laughed, as I had not thought of that memory for years.
There are certain people in your life who have a profound effect on you. There are those who are family by choice, who you love just as much as if they were blood. Patsy is one of those people for me. She is my best friend’s mother growing up. She is my second mother. And there are so many memories as the years have gone by; 28 years to be exact.
I met Patsy when I was just 12 years old and was the mother of the first girl I met in my new school in 7th grade. Her daughter and I became fast friends, having sleep-overs, passing notes in class, talking about boys, planning our lives at that tender young age And Patsy was always there, always keeping a loving but stern and watchful eye over us, making sure we stayed out of trouble. And we did, most of the time.
And somehow, just like my Mom, she knew where we were and what we were doing, all of the time. If we sneezed, she knew. It made it very difficult to misbehave in our small town, so we just gave up trying. That alone kept me out of more trouble than I like to admit.
She raised 4 children – 3 boys and 1 girl, on her own. She ran a business – a plant nursery that never seemed to close. She is a hard worker, honest in business, loyal to a fault and very much from Tennessee. I love hearing her speak, as her thick accent rolls out. She laughs easily and always has some advice to give this wayward woman.
And even when her daughter and I would have a falling out, as young girls often do, she and I would always speak. She still looked after me.
And when it was time for me to move out of my parents house…I moved across town to a little house she owned, where her daughter and I lived as friends and roommates. She charged us $100 per person to live in that house (oh, how I wish rent was that low now!) She was there with us every day, as the house was on the same property as her business.
She made sure we ate right, studied for school and were generally well behaved. She made sure that we didn’t let any of our friends drive our cars, since we were not the ones who paid the insurance. She would let us know when that house was just too messy for any of her girls. And no boys spending the night, as she would want to know why they were there on her property if she didn’t know them. It also helped that she and my mother were very good friends too.
And then I talked to my old friend from so long ago. Her mother, my 2nd Mom, is dying. Of cancer, and it is too far for any treatment. And what treatments might work, her mother has refused. She is ready to go. And it broke my heart to hear the news.
And so it is, and I am thankful that this wonderful woman has been my second mother, a steadfast friend to my mother, someone who I could always talk to and who echoed my family’s values. And I love her with all of my heart. I will miss her, but am so very glad for the time with her, to say good bye and let her know how much she means to be. And I thank God for her being in my life.