Patty was born in December of 1957 to Noel and Joan. Patty was the 7th of 9 children born into this family. Their childhood was bad, and that is a major understatement. But the woman I met beat the odds of her upbringing! She was sweet, giving, honest, simple, loving, devoted, and just plain wonderful. Not perfect, but perfectly Patty!
Joan finally left Noel and took the kids to move into a warped and run-down farm house at the edge of the town where I grew up. It was near 4 Mile Creek for hours of playing and entertainment. There were willow trees on the property for the kids to swing on. And there were other children in the neighborhood to interact with.
Patty would walk across this creek on the old bridge to attend her new school for Kindergarten. She would tell me about the corner drug store that she would walk past and window dream of the goodies inside. She didn’t talk much about her childhood, just bits and pieces. We can imagine how hard it would have been in the ’60s for a single mother of 9 trying to make it alone.
Patty was bussed in to downtown Des Moines to attend Tech High for high school. There in French class she met Michael. Michael was able to wow her with his French (learned from his French father) and the two began to date. They dated for two years until Patty could graduate early at 17. Joan had to sign a permission slip for the marriage to take place because Patty was still a minor, but sign it she did, after some persuading.
Mike took the military call about a year after the wedding and shipped out to Fort Leonardwood, MO for advanced course. Patty began her long military wife career by wrapping up the house and preparing for the PCS while pregnant with their first child. I guess some things just don’t change 😉
My husband was born in the base hospital. Patty nearly had to do that alone as well, because Mike had been admitted to the hospital for major surgery. My husband was born while both parents looked on, the firstborn son of this young couple. Patty would be a well seasoned military wife as they would soon move to Hawaii where the second son was born. She would see Colorado, Germany once, South Carolina, Germany twice, and finally get to retire near family in Iowa. She would add a third son to the mix along the way as well as adventures and experiences.
Living in Iowa, Patty was able to attend family reunions, birthday parties, baby showers, picnics, and weddings. When I first met Patty, she was just the odd mother of a boy I wasn’t fond of. When I got to know her as I dated that boy, she was the first to honestly tell us how shocked she was that we were dating. She was a big supporter of my marriage and even gave me good advice about being a wife to her son. It was a wonderful gift.
The fall of 2004, while we were in Kentucky at seminary, we received a phone call that Patty was having a biopsy done. “What biopsy,” we asked. She had found a lump in her left breast ‘months ago’ and chose to go have it checked out only after it was hurting and tender. We waited and prayed and worried. Her biopsy came back positive: it was breast cancer. Next came tests and scans and appointments. All boiling down to the fact that because she had ignored it for so long, she was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer. By the time she rolled in to surgery for her mastectomy, the cancer had metastaticized and was visible on her lymph nodes. They removed as much as possible during her surgery and she began the rounds of chemo and radiation. Her thick hair fell out. But she remained constant in her motherhood, her grandmotherhood, and being a friend. I remember talking with her during this time and sure she felt fear, but she also felt joy at the antics of her grand kids. She wanted to hear all about Bekah potty training and Danny learning his letters and made plans to come visit when Josh was born. We drove the 10hrs as often as possible to support her while she fought and she was driven down to Kentucky when our children were baptized.
The day my niece was born, June 2005, became a dark day for our family. As we were celebrating the birth of Leia, Patty began to have seizures in the hospital room. She was quickly wheeled off for CT scans which showed us the multitude of tiny spots on her brain. Now we had months, maybe. We helped her to hold the babies she loved so much. We flew my husband in from DC over long weekends to surprise her. We ate good food and let her drive the family experience as she wished.
Patty died just one month later. The down hill spiral was intense and quick. She passed with her large family surrounding her in a hospice house in Des Moines, IA. Her remains rest near her mother in a family plot near a statue of her Savior. She is at peace in a pain free environment called heaven.
Her presence in life was huge, and her absence is also huge. But the sad reality is that as life moves on, the pain lessons, and the memories fade. I am extremely excited to be doing this series to remember. I want to remember a woman whom I admired and loved very much. I hope you will join me as I take some time to Remember Patty.
This is part of a blogging series “Remembering Patty“