THE GIFT OF GAIL
“She had me at hello.” –Tanya, my old friend and Gail’s new friend
“Gail is one of the funniest people I know! She has such a good and generous heart and I just love her.”—Maureen, “Mo”, Gail’s friend since college
“Back in the day, she could sleep less and drink more Coors Light than any other woman I knew.” –Gail, a mutual friend with a great name
“She has a presence. You just want to be around her; you can’t wait for what she has to say next.” Tana, our mutual friend featured in two previous blog posts (Stars and Stripes and Sisters Forever—July 2018, and Swheat Girls Part Two–July 2017)
All the ballots have been cast, and they all voted the same: Gail is awesome. As if I had to ask other people to confirm that for me.
Gail will celebrate her 59th birthday next week. She welcomes another trip around the sun, relishes the opportunity to grow older, wiser, and to keep having as much fun as she possibly can in this life. She isn’t afraid to share her age; to her, it really is just a number. And she’s not really a numbers girl.
When we were growing up, Gail was bigger-than-life. She was the older, cooler, fun-loving sister who mesmerized me with her spirit. She was a goddess, a trail blazer; a force to be reckoned with. She still is all those things, and more.
She has been mothering Suzanne and me since we were born.
Above all this, she is always faithful to those she loves. She would give you the shirt off her back—and probably her pants, too. She would—and still will—do triple back flips to help you in whatever way she can. She extends everything she has to make your time with her a joyride.
Before my husband and I were engaged, he had a building project in the small town she lived in, the town where she raised her first two children while she managed the Pizza Hut there. He was staying in a Podunk motel with four boring walls, so she knew she needed to brighten things up for him. She recruited him into her bowling league, which was his saving grace.
“You can imagine how much fun it was to bowl with Gail. It was a trip. And whenever I ate at her Pizza Hut—which was often—she made sure my meal was awesome. She didn’t normally stock anchovies as a pizza topping, but she knew I liked them, so she kept them on hand for me. She had me and all the guys on my crew over for barbecues, too. I don’t know how I would have survived my time there without her to keep me from going crazy.” –Mark, my husband on his time in Osborne with Gail in the early 1990’s.
And we weren’t even engaged at the time. I don’t think she would have rolled out any more red carpet than she already had for him if we were, she simply gives her all no matter what the situation.
Gail rarely complains, especially about the weather. She embraces it, no matter what the temperature or conditions. This early picture may be the closest she ever came to complaining:
It rarely happens now, but sometimes I still find myself thinking “I should call Mom and ask her…” and then I remember I can’t, so I go on. Since I couldn’t ask Mom or Dad for their input, I went to the next best sources, the only two siblings of our parents remaining: Mom’s sisters. They have known us since we were born. They were much younger than Mom, so when we were younger, they were sometimes partners in crime with us.
“Gail and I and two of your brothers got on top of the wash house and jumped off the roof into an old stuffed chair below. They taught me how to do it. She was always adventuresome.” –our aunt Sharon
I am recalling the time when our visits to their home in Wichita were the most exotic vacations we could have imagined. 423 South Crestway in Wichita, Kansas was the southern limit of our universe, the edge of the world for us. We never traveled further than that; we didn’t have to. All the excitement in the world we needed was right there, starting with meals at their kitchen table. The one and only puff I ever took from a cigarette was right there at this table, way past midnight one magical night. Gail was a willing participant too, but neither of us ever picked up the habit.
Gail and Suzanne at their table. Not sure where I was. No cigarettes that day.
“Gail is truly amazing, raising four kids, being a single mom of two part of that time, working, never complaining. She has a positive attitude, a fighting spirit, and the will to accomplish whatever needs to be done and I have always admired her for that. And I hope she has an amazing birthday!” —our aunt Reitha.
Sharon echoed her sister’s sentiments as well. Above the mischief they engaged in with her, they knew this about her for sure.
I gathered just a few tidbits from her college roommate quoted above, as well as these pictures from a road trip to see Mo’s boyfriend-now-husband:
Last week, I wrote about the love between parent and child. Gail’s children know this very well from her. Her second child, Abigail, shared this:
“To my Mama ‘Mean Gail Jean’ (as I used to call her growing up.) This is YOUR day, and I want to thank you for being my forever best friend. You have loved me and supported me even in my darkest of moments, and have taught me so many of life’s lessons that I am still learning to this day. Raising two strong-willed children on your own was never an easy part of motherhood, and I can attest to this now firsthand! You are the most selfless person I know, and the hard work that you put in for everyone else day in and day out doesn’t even seem like ‘work’ to you. You are such an admirable person, and I am so blessed to call you my mom and teacher. I admire your drive for the ones you love, and I hope that some day I can be half the woman you are. Happy Birthday Mom and GG. Love, Abby, Hudson and Hank.” —Abby and her sons.
Gail with her two grandsons. I am pretty sure she wasn’t driving and texting with him in her lap.
Lydia, her youngest, offered this: ” I am so blessed to have you as my mom. I really do miss your donuts and living under your roof because I miss your cooking and just having you around. You are my inspiration and my role model, I look up to you every day because you are you. Without you I’d be lost because you help me with so much, especially counting my carbs! You are my best friend, and I love you so much Mom! Happy 59th birthday–don’t party too hard!” —Lydia
Kate, her firstborn, echoes all this and then some: “I could never do Mama Gail justice in only a few sentences. She is the hardest working, most genuine person I know. Every single one of my accomplishments belong to her…I would not be here without her.”–Kate
Gail and her progeny
Gail knew I was toasting her in this blog for her birthday, but knew few other details. I asked her for pictures, and she was willing to share these:
Even on her first birthday, she knew the importance of having fun.
Don’t let the serious look fool you. Ideas were surely brewing…
Preparing the Thanksgiving dressing has always started with LOTS of toasted bread, something Mom always did. We NEVER take shortcuts on something so important.
Wedding cake and beer are always an unbeatable combination.
Anyone who grew up in, or close to our hometown will need no explanation for this picture. For anyone else, it defies explanation.
Gail and her husband will come for a visit next weekend, and a grand birthday celebration will ensue. He was also asked to provide a few words as well:
“Gail is one of the sweetest, most outgoing people you’ll ever meet–if you haven’t already. The most fantastic woman, wife, mother, sister and friend you could ask for, and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. Happy birthday, and remember I love you always–always have, and always will.” —Terry
I was honored to be her maid of honor when she married him in Las Vegas.
Suzanne knows her in her own unique way as a sister, but also as a boss. She worked for her at the Pizza Hut: “She has always been an authority figure–in a good way. She always knew what she was doing, and still does. However, I do have a few stories from after-hours that would get her in trouble with the actual authorities…”
Gail’s motto at the Pizza Hut, according to Suzanne, was this: If you have time to lean, then you have time to clean. Her work standards have always been high. Suzanne recalled her asking a job interview candidate “Do you know how to run a broom?”
I have spoken many times about Gail’s strong work ethic. It is simply how she was raised; it is who she is. I am happy to report, however, that she is taking a much-needed step back from one of her many self-imposed obligations, and learning how to spend more time on what is important to her. She will likely never be the slacker that I am, but she is now one step closer to my take time for yourself ethic.
As press time approached today, there were contributions I was not able to include in this post from more people who adore her. Next Sunday, I will likely report on our birthday celebration, and they will be included.
I saved my own comments for the end. Everything everyone else said is true, and sometimes, as a writer, the right words escape me.
I simply want to let the world know this, and by posting it for the world to see, I want Gail to fully realize it: Nobody gets me like you do. And for that and everything else, Gail, I love you dearly.
You are still a goddess, a trailblazer; a legend who is bigger than life. I always wanted to be like you when I grow up, and I still do.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY GAIL!