The first time I met my future Mother-in-Law was when Mark and I were dating. She was in town visiting Mark and I invited them both over for brunch. I noticed right away that she was a salt of the Earth type, not pretentious - what you saw was what you got. I immediately liked her.
In the twenty years since I first met Mark and Pat, I have heard a lot of stories about her and admired her probably more than I ever told her. Unfortunately, she left us yesterday at the age of 88, so now I have missed my chance.
I admired the fact that Pat raised her boys often times by herself when her husband Harvey was off serving in the Navy and later when he worked long hours in the early Southern California aircraft engineering sector. I liked that she advocated for her children long before that was the thing to do. Like the time the teachers tried to turn Mark from a lefty into a righty. As I hear it, she marched right down to the Principal's office and told them in no uncertain terms that they were not changing her child "he was perfect like he was."
I also admired the fact that she had outside interests of her own at a time when most women did not. She was an amateur thespian and loved performing in local theatre. From what I hear she was pretty good. She loved to laugh and tell stories and boy could she. In fact, well into her eighties, she was working on having some of her stories published and one year sent the family members children's books she had written.
I admired her perseverance at writing. I like to write, but I am not sure I will ever finish my novel. About her writing, though, truth be told, she wrote adult stories with amorous scenes that could make a sailor blush. She was a really good writer and once sent me some working chapters and asked me to critique them. Try as I may, every time I started to read one of those passages, all I could see was her. As you can imagine, I never completed my critique.
Pat was also a good sport, like the time Mark brought home a baby chick from a school project, which soon grew into a rooster. She tolerated it in the backyard for quite a while until one day it attacked someone. Not one to ask others to solve her problem, I'm a lot like that, she found a farm where it could live and took it there herself.
When Mark and I were starting out, we needed to borrow some money in order to combine our two households and ready one house for sale. I was nervous when we asked Pat, but she was so gracious, helpful and kind. She never once inquired about how we were spending her money and we made sure to pay her back earlier than agreed. I admired her generosity of spirit more than her generosity, she could always be counted on to lift you out of whatever had you down.
Sometimes just by being a good listener, Mark gets that trait from her.
I never heard her say anything bad about anyone. I wish I was more like that. She was famous however for "the low finger." That was a signal she used for other drivers whose driving she disapproved of. You can imagine which finger this references but the "low" part refers to the fact that she held that finger below the dash so as not to offend anyone. To this day family members say, "bet you wanted to give them the low finger," and have a good laugh.
She also liked to be in on the joke. One year I invited her to visit when I realized my husband was missing his Mom. We schemed to make him think that my Mother was coming to visit, both Moms were in on the scheme and Pat's acting background helped us with our deception. Mark and I made it to the airport and until Pat was standing nose to nose with him, he continued to look for my Mom. The tears of joy in his eyes made our effort worthwhile.
I am certain there will be tears of another kind over the next few days, as the family gathers to both mourn our loss and celebrate the life of Patsy Breyman. In the Jewish faith, it is said to honor the dead, "May her memory be a blessing." I would borrow from that faith and change just one thing which I know for certain, "Her memory will always be a blessing." Patsy Breyman, I admired you and I loved you. You will always be my extraordinary Mother-in-Law.