Monday, October 13, 2008

"Graunt" Kathy

When Grant started Kindergarten, I remember meeting and liking his teacher, Mrs. Dillon. She had funky glasses and fun hair, dressed sharply, clearly loved kids and laughed freely. Her laugh is infectious and it often echoed in the lobby or down the hall as she released our kids at pick up. Every morning, she would greet Grant by name and every afternoon, she'd release him with a quick hug and a "see you tomorrow." Over the course of the year, our conversations at pickup got longer and longer and we started blurring the line between teacher/parent to friend. On the last day of school, we hugged and said we should get together over the summer. I wasn't sure if we would follow through, but the weeks after school seemed long and dull. Even though I was immersed in LOUDNESS with four kids, I missed the peal of Kathy's laughter and the days seemed quiet without our daily updates and her hugs. In early July, we set a lunch date for a picnic at a park and officially crossed the line into friendship.

Kathy has two grown kids that by the world's standards, are the benchmark of success. They are well-educated, gorgeous, and successful in their careers. But they also love the Lord and are kind and generous and I know this is what makes Kathy and her husband Rob, puff out their chests in pride. What Kathy lacks, at least for now, are grandkids.

When Kathy and I met, Curt and I were living in Illinois, raising our four kids with no family closer than a 6 hour drive. I didn't realize how much I missed having a mature woman pouring into my life until I became friends with Kathy. She offered wisdom in parenting, encouragement when I was ready to throw in the towel, and a genuine love and understanding for my kids since she had the oldest two every day in her class. She filled a void in my life that I didn't fully realize I had. She and Rob "adopted" our kids as their own, and showered them with love, attention, time, sleepovers, and date nights at the movies. One of our last nights in Illinois was spent at the Dillon's house and many tears were shed when we said our final goodbyes and moved to Oregon.

We've been residents of Oregon for 3 1/2 months now and a recurring theme has been how much we miss the Dillon's. Multiple pictures have been drawn, letters written and dictated, and emails exchanged between our family and Rob and Kathy. In August, Kathy and I compared schedules and picked a weekend for Kathy to visit. She booked her tickets and we all started counting the days till she arrived. A few weeks ago, she fell and broke her arm. It killed us to know she was in pain and we all held our breath to see if she could still come, then exhaled loudly when the answer was YES! Last Thursday, Kathy flew in for her first visit to Oregon. Her plane was delayed by two hours, so she didn't even touch down until 1:15 a.m. Pacific time. We giggled on the way home about how her trip to Oregon started with such an adventure and I tried to point out landmarks and suburbs in the dark as we drove home in the early morning hours.

Friday morning, Grant woke me from a dead sleep with a tap, tap, tap on my chest. He said, "Mom, I've been up since 6:05 a.m. It's now 7:25 a.m. I've played games with Paige and we've tried to be so quiet. We peeked in on Aunt Kathy, but we're wondering if an adult is EVER going to wake up." I laughed and pulled all the kids into bed with me. We were giggling and talking about my midnight airport adventures when Kathy knocked on our door. The kids made a mad-dash for her and it was like Christmas morning watching their excitment over her arrival. Alli was put off by her sling and was very cautious about hugging her with her broken arm, but once she realized she wouldn't hurt her, she couldn't get enough.

When Kathy was Grant and Katie's teacher, we called her "Mrs. Dillon." But when Katie graduated to 1st grade, we all sat in a circle and discussed what her new title should be. The kids were split between "Grandma Kathy" and "Aunt Kathy," but when the vote was taken, "Aunt Kathy" prevailed. The kids out of habit, often refer to Kathy as Mrs. Dillon then correct themselves and call her Aunt Kathy. Now that they live by grandparents, the confusion on her arrival was even greater and they kept mixing up all her names. The name that kept prevailing was "Graunt Kathy" - a combo of Aunt and Grandma Kathy which I think fits her perfectly!

On Friday, we headed over to the Oregon coast, where Curt was staying for the weekend at a conference. The hotel was nestled on a hill overlooking Agate Beach and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. The weather was perfect - blue skies, sunny, slight wind, and mid 50's. We explored the sand dunes, found treasures in the sand that the kids piled in Graunt Kathy's pockets, took lots of pictures, and laughed at how the wind blew Kathy's coat sleeve, that was devoid of an arm because it was in a sling, back and forth in the wind. She offered to watch the kids for us, so Curt and I took advantage of a child-free night and dined with his coworkers at a quaint seafood place on the bay, met up with his students at a local brewery, and snuck in a late night walk on the moon-soaked beach. The kids and Kathy dined on pizza in their hotel room, watched cable TV, and had a sleepover in her room.

Saturday, while Curt was at conference, we swam in the hotel pool, then drove down to the historic bay front. We walked past fine art galleries mingled with fish refineries and tiny little restaurants, all toting the best clam chowder in the area. We dined on salt water taffy and hot carmel corn from Aunt Bea's candy store, marveled at the murals on all the buildings, and spent a long time laughing at the sea lions that sun bathe on the docks by the bay. They lay on the docks and grump at each other all day long - one second sleeping, the next barking and carrying on at the sea lion next to them who dared to nestle closer, move the dock, or cover up their sun. You can almost guess what they're saying! We waited for almost an hour in a crowded cafe to dine on fresh halibut that was battered and fried and served with homemade french fries and worth every second of the wait. With full bellies, we piled back in the van and enjoyed the two-hour drive, over the coastal mountain range, back to our house, marveling at God's amazing creation and the breath-taking beauty.
Sunday, we worshipped with Graunt Kathy in our new church home, then drove around to all the suburbs and neighborhoods we've been house hunting in. She finally got to visualize all the places I've been explaining and weigh in with her opinion about the areas we're considering. We dined at Red Robin for lunch and took the kids to Target for Paige to pick out a potty treat for finally pooping on the potty. In classic Stilp style, she pooped in her underwear while I was holding up choices for potty treat reward, but Graunt Kathy is WAY too nice to make her put her treasure back and re-earn them. Paige still waltzed out of Target with hot pink, sequined ballet slipper shoes and a sweater dress to match and hasn't gone "plop plop" on the potty since!

Today is Monday and our house is quiet. Kathy flew home this morning and the kids went back to school. The guest room is sterile again -futon stripped of sheets and repositioned as a couch, towels washed and ready to be folded and put back in the linen closet, the "welcome Aunt Kathy" signs thrown in the garbage. And I don't like the silence. I miss Kathy's laugh reverberating in our home and my kids clamoring for her attention. And I thank God that He saw fit to cross my path with Graunt Kathy's and begin a friendship that will last for a life time.

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