HOW DOES SHE DO IT? PART ONE: GAIL
When Gail and I shared a room in our farmhouse, she had full reign as decorator of that room—and that was okay with me. I had no wish to enhance/embellish it any more, or any differently than she already had. I loved what she did with the place. I took notes. I tucked them away for my own decorating decisions someday.
When someday happened in my current home, I found myself recalling Gail’s unique, eclectic, personalized style of decorating our shared bedroom. With or without knowing it at the time, I slowly embellished my home with pieces that reminded me of Gail’s flair in our room. Using that guide as a yardstick, every piece I placed in my home fell into that familiar pattern.
And I love my home, and all its decorations in it.
So does Gail. More than once, I recall her taking in my interior flair, commenting on how much she liked it.
“You have the coolest stuff,” she said not too long ago.
As I already had more than once, I reminded her that I got my style from her.
She doesn’t think so, doesn’t think she possessed any kind of style back then for me to emulate. Of course she doesn’t. Taking credit is not her style.
I referred to my decorating style in a previous post as “garage-sale eclectic.” I am adding to that, now calling it “Gail-inspired garage-sale eclectic.”
Mom loved to tell the story of Gail, when perhaps three or four, awoke from her nap as Mom was changing a (cloth) diaper—probably one of the two brothers born just after her. Gail, while still half-asleep, walked by the dirty diaper and, as if on cue, picked it up and carried it to the diaper pail as Mom finished the changing. Without being told. While still waking up from her nap. While she was probably under the age of five.
This, I am theorizing, is how she does it. Gail never knew any different. She never knew there was another way of life besides being a caring, responsible person.
In all her roles—sister, mother, wife, daughter, friend, employee, boss—she has fashioned her life around these two qualities.
For myself in my younger years, her mothering instinct served me well. As the second-oldest child—and the oldest girl—in a family of seven children, this instilled behavior brought out her greatest quality for my benefit: she cared for me. There was not really a choice of whether or not she could complete the tasks expected of her, but she did them with loving care, and without complaining.
In case you needed proof, these picture collages illustrate her greatest quality in action with me, Suzanne and three of our four brothers. I don’t think our oldest brother needed her mothering, as he was two years older than her.
It would follow naturally that Gail would have her own brood, and manage motherhood in her usual seamless style. While working full time-plus. While single mothering her first two children. While maintaining other family relationships. While baking and cooking like that was all she had to do–she even cans in her spare time!
Gail’s locally famous salsa and zucchini relish
While also spending quality time with her friends. While getting very little sleep. While continuing to keep a smile on her face without complaining.
Not much has changed in the last twenty-some years. Except that she remarried and had her next two children who are now both in college.
She works still works full time plus, having just accepted an evening mission in her small town that keeps her working overtime. Except to her, it’s not overtime. It is simply work, and she wants to do it. She even has a few other side gigs. She knows no other way.
Apropos of nothing—no birthday, no Nobel Peace Prize award, no lottery win—I have decided to “roast” Gail in this post. She deserves it. She has worked hard and deserves recognition, but doesn’t expect it; doesn’t ask for it.
It’s simply her way to continue to live a life of caring responsibility.
My previous posts have made it abundantly clear that Gail and Suzanne are my two dearest friends. Suzanne will be “roasted” next week. I wish I could pay homage to them here with another currency besides words, but neither of them expect it, neither of them ask for it. I do my best to show them in everything we do together.
My wish for you is that if you have a sister or sisters, please show them how much you care. If it is hard, start small. Make a phone call. Send her a card. Tell her you are sorry. Accept her apology. Make time to spend time with her. Listen to her problems, and see them through her eyes. Decide to move forward if you need to move past your shared past.
I went to a wedding yesterday. A bright, shiny young couple took the plunge, and it was a beautiful day all around. Instead of a cake, they had a donut bar. Yes, a donut bar. They decided against a long-held “rule,” and opted out of a wedding cake; even deciding against cupcakes. I wish them the best as they begin their married life together; may they forge their own path and make their own rules as they see fit.
For seven years, Gail was the owner, manager and sole proprietor of a Daylight Donut shop in her small western Kansas town. She worked long days and nights, sacrificing regular and adequate sleep for this venture. She did it with hard work and always with a smile on her face, despite the strain I know she felt.
She closed her doors seven months after Mom and Dad died, fully realizing that life is too short. I think we all tried to go back to “normal” after that, but she realized it wasn’t worth it. We all did.
In the few weeks after, Gail, Suzanne and I were talking about how much life had suddenly changed. Before I continue, let me warn you that the asterisks represent a strong expletive, likely the strongest one out there. If you are offended, skip over it. But please understand that the message needs to be reinforced with the strongest word possible.
“I used to get so mad at myself if I made too many glazed donuts, or not enough,” Gail said. “They are the best sellers, and I never knew how many I should make.”
She paused for a moment.
“Now, I don’t care anymore about the f****** glazed donuts!”
We all laughed a much-needed laugh, and continued our conversation. It became apparent to all three of us that this message held for so much more than donuts, and we realized at that moment that this loss puts all other concerns in perspective. We all had other glazed donuts in our lives; letting ourselves become consumed with trivial, unimportant issues that we gave far too much attention and energy to, just like the glazed donuts Gail used to make too many—or not enough of.
Now, neither Gail, Suzanne or I care about glazed donuts in any form. May you figure out what your glazed donuts are, and let them go.
IN HONOR OF GAIL, PLEASE ENJOY THIS MONTAGE OF GAIL’S FINER MOMENTS
Gail-thank you for taking care of me then–
–and now. You’re the best.