I’ve seen many a Christmas, sixty eight of them in fact. I was barely a month old that first year but it still counts. My mother lovingly recorded a list of the gifts that Santa and friends brought to me. Unfortunately I don’t recall much of that first holiday so well. Over the years however I’ve had some wonderful times with truly remarkable people. There’s no Scrooge in my world even though my husband, Mike, likes to pretend that he’s a distant relative of old Ebenezer or Mr. Grinch. That’s just his impish nature coming out. He does like to tease and enjoy a good laugh. He get’s that from his father, but I digress.
Some of the best times in holidays past were spent with my good friend, Pat Weimer. I think of her all throughout the season. I have a Christmas quilt that she gave me, a lovely set of placemats, some cute little snowmen, a multitude of ornaments for my tree, and memories of truly fun times. We made it a habit of visiting Old Town Spring, strolling through Dickens on the Strand, and watching Christmas movies together. Pat brought such fun and joy into my life. She was like the big sister that I always wanted but never had. Ironically I met her in a very odd manner indeed.
I was teaching a Sunday school class for kindergartners when the nun in charge of the program called me one day asking that I do a big favor for her. She explained that a lovely woman wanted to help with the classes but had endured a rather unpleasant experience with the woman with whom she had originally been paired. Sister wanted me to invite Pat to work with me. She believed that we would get along swimmingly. Since it sounded nice to get some assistance I agreed instantly.
What the good nun didn’t realize is that no two people could have been less suited to work together than Pat and I. She was a planner down to the last period in a lesson plan. She wrote everything down and meticulously created multipage documents outlining her goals and methods. I have always been a fly by the seat of my pants kind of educator. Everything is inside my head. I adjust on a dime. I require only the barest of guidelines to be effective in my work. I can’t bear long meetings or paperwork that seems unnecessary. I’m like the quarterback on a football team who huddles for a few seconds and instantly comes up with a plan. Pat, on the other hand, had been a nurse and a very good one. She knew the importance of writing every little thing down. She liked to spend hours developing ideas. From the standpoint of job efficiency ours was a terrible match and yet we somehow muddled through the small stuff and over time became the very best of friends. I attribute that to Pat, for she had an almost magical way of making everyone that she knew feel quite special in her presence.
I became so close to Pat that it was only natural that her husband, Bill, and my Mike would also become great buddies. Her children were the playmates of my two daughters. Pat’s daughter, Lisa, was perfectly suited to bridge the age gap between my two girls. She was two grades behind my eldest daughter and two grades in front of my youngest. Over time all three of them got along beautifully and grew into the lovely women that Pat and I had always dreamed they would be. We had so much girl time together that it would fill the pages of a book. We laughed and cried together. We shared growing pains and major accomplishments and then as suddenly as Pat had come into my life so long ago, she was diagnosed with a cancer from which she was not able to escape.
In my usual way of trying to wish things away I convinced myself that Pat would come through her treatments as strong and adventurous as ever. I believed with all of my heart that we would grow old together and take trips to wonderful places but none of that was to be. Pat slowly succumbed to her illness even while I tried not to face the reality of what was happening. During that time I grew to be in awe of her daughter, Lisa, who somehow found the courage and endurance to care for her mother with great love, compassion and strength.
Lisa worked each day at her quite demanding job and then spent her evenings and weekends sitting with her mom at M.D. Anderson hospital. All the while Lisa was pregnant with her second child who would become my godson. Her faithfulness to her mother and father was stunning and I rarely heard her complain about the demands being placed on her. She showed herself to be the best daughter any mother might have wanted to have. I was humbled and awed by her composure and compassion but she was after all her mother’s child. She had learned how to be an exceptional person from the very best.
Since her mother’s death Lisa and I have become friends as adults. I still see her as a beautiful little golden haired girl once in a while but mostly I now think of her as an accomplished and outstanding peer. Lisa is the quintessential friend, the one that everyone would want to have by their sides. She’s the person who climbs out of her bed in the dark of night to rush to the aid of those that she loves. Like her mom she is an angel of mercy and a confidante who never ever breaks a promise. I suspect that Pat looks down from heaven with a huge grin as she watches over Lisa. Her sweet daughter has become even more exceptional that she had even hoped.
I honestly don’t know where Lisa finds the energy to do all of the things that she does. She is a supermom who takes her sons from one activity to another and treats them to hours and hours of her time. She manages a beautiful and loving home while working as a consultant for students seeking admission to MBA programs and teaching a class at the University of Houston Downtown. Somehow she also watches over her father and regularly drives for hours to visit with her aunt whose health is waning.
Recently Lisa dropped everything to be with her godson who was hospitalized with a collapsed lung. She accompanied my grandson on a tour of Texas A&M University when he was trying to decide where to go to college. She has met with some of my former students to help guide them in their decision making regarding college majors and life choices. She came bearing food and lots of support when I had surgery. She contacts my daughters whenever she senses that they are going through some tough times. It’s not unusual at all to receive a text or a funny card from her just because. She is truly as loyal and considerate as anyone that I have ever known and when I am with her I always feel so loved. She quite simply makes people feel good about themselves.
It never really occurred to me that Lisa would one day be as good a friend to me as she is to my daughters and as her mother had been for me. Somehow the difference in our ages doesn’t seem to matter. We are simply two women who have shared a lifetime of memories and learned the essence of being good and faithful from the very same woman, Pat Weimer. Now Lisa and I share good times during the holidays along with my own daughters. We laugh and share jokes and support each other through the good, the bad and the ugly moments of our lives. Mostly we just feel blessed and lucky to have one another. It’s funny how those things work. Just when I felt so lost and alone after Pat died I looked up and there was Lisa and I have been okay ever since. Somehow I suspect that Pat planned this all along.