I’m sitting in my new bungalow in Valparaiso, IN – just 27 miles down the road from my sister, Pat, and brother-in-law, Otto. It’s been a year since I put the Las Cruces house on the market and set my sights for home. And now, I am home, largely due to gifts from Pat, Otto and their family – married 51 years ago today.
They met at George Rogers Clark High School in the late 50s. When Pat brought Otto home to meet the parents he was fun, handsome and sweet. He went into the Navy and was stationed in Okinawa. She put herself through St. Agnes School of Nursing, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. They married December 31, 1960, have seven children and 24 grandchildren – neat people, fun, generous, smart, good looking. It’s fun for me to visit.
Living in New Mexico afforded me the opportunity to travel home once or twice a year and stay for several days or weeks. With the folks gone, “home” is Pat and Otto’s warm, inviting and largely hospitable place in southern Lake County. Staying at “Patto’s” meant quality time with my only sister and being at action central when the kids or my brother visited. The “compound” – Patto’s for swimming and son Mike’s and Mandy’s across the street for cookouts and yard games – teamed with lively, laughing adults and beaucoup les infants.
During one of those visits, in a private, profound moment, Pat spoke to me about being a part of their family. She so touched my heart that I made a pact with myself and the universe to accept her offer. At the same time, my sweet niece, Jenny, was softly saying, “It would be nice to have you closer to home, Aunt Kris.” It was a one-two punch with velvet gloves. Oh, and there was that one Christmas Otto invited me to live with them, if ever the occasion presented itself. Wow, Otto, you’re being pretty sweet, I remember saying. “Yeah, don’t tell anybody,” he said.
The Universe was informing me and I was listening.
Holiday celebrations, biking the drive with Connie, Jenny and their kids, lots of wine on the patio with Pat, morning conversations over coffee with Otto, getting to see Rick and several cousins – there have been so many opportunities to celebrate family. And because no family is perfect, there have been opportunities for growth. There’s that one little nagging thing I’ve got to work out. Stay tuned about that.
I spent more of 2011 at Patto’s than in Las Cruces. They’ve spoiled me. Pat makes dinner. Otto takes care of Aw’gy my houndy lab when I’m running around. In fact, my fuzzy buddy may feel more at home with Otto and Jake, his dog and the big family. Yeah, I think Aw’gy is going to miss living at Patto’s. So will I.
But now I can stop over for coffee! It’s 27 miles and not 1,627 plus three days, two hotels and one weary driver with a non-speaking copilot. My heart told me to spend more time with family, travel a bit and write the book. Thanks in no small part to Pat, Otto and their family, I believe I am on my true path. Happy Anniversary Patto! Happy New Year to all.