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My dad was originally from Texas, and I have always longed to move there. I don’t really know why. I just have a yearning to be in Texas.

When I owned my transcription business I took on a couple of occasional clients. They were doctors who already had a transcriptionist on staff, but I covered sick days and vacation time.  I didn’t really know the docs, and they didn’t really know me.  As I stood chatting with one of them one afternoon he interrupted our conversation to ask, “Are you from east Texas?”  I told him no but that my daddy was born in Fort Worth.  He said that he just knew it because you can definitely hear it in the way I form certain words.  I took that as a compliment.

Earlier this week I linked an article to my Facebook page that honored Texan women.  It was quite lengthy and discussed many famous Texan women and some who are not famous but perhaps should have been.  The writer told their incredible stories and postulated that Texan women can be characterized by certain qualities.  It said they are earnest, stalwart, compassionate, loyal, wise, astute, brave, risk taking women of integrity who cherish beauty.

The women of my dad’s family do indeed embody those qualities.

As I’ve written before, my dad’s side has not been a family for nearly three decades.  However, four deaths in one year have brought us together with a dogged determination to not let go again.  So, today my aunt, the youngest of the five children in her family, hosted a lunch for her daughter and nieces at a nearby historic town.  The restaurant is a high dollar, impressive venue with wine colored velour chairs and formally dressed waitpersons.  She requested a private room where we could talk and cry freely.  It was beautiful.

My aunt arranged for my uncles to watch my children.  I was to meet her at my uncle’s house at 10:30 this morning and then ride with her.  We would drive to a neighboring town to pick up her daughter and then over to the historic town to meet the others at noon.

I was five minutes late, and she seemed tense.  As soon as we were on the highway she began to pray out loud.  She then shared with me the unknown difficulties of her personal life.  I was shocked.  I had no idea.  Her husband, my sweet, silly, loving uncle, has dementia.  His moods swing, and he gets aggravated easily.  Sometimes he verbally takes it out on her or drags his feet so that she is late.  Not that he’s being mean; he’s just so confused that he doesn’t understand why things are the way they are.   Her adult son is living with her and has been entertaining a house guest for the last three weeks.  She struggles to keep up on the housework behind these guys, but her advanced arthritis makes sleeping, moving, and standing excruciating.  She wondered out loud what the Lord is trying to teach her in all of this.

I sat there listening in unbelief.  She is struggling, living with chronic pain, and hanging on for dear life in a difficult situation, yet she is actively seeking opportunities to minister to her extended family.  At nearly seventy she is still a vision of loveliness, too.  Her skin is smooth and soft.  Her make up and nails are perfect.  Her outfits and jewelry are carefully chosen to represent her great sense of style and taste.

I sat in silence for most of the meal, thoroughly enjoying my Caesar salad (which I think must be laced with nectar from Heaven), and watching these seven incredibly beautiful women.

One of my cousins is just gorgeous, truly movie star beautiful.  She is very vivacious and talkative.  She excitedly told us about how she has decorated for Christmas and bragged on her grandchildren.  And, then, she honestly shared why her one son doesn’t come to our new family functions.  There is still old bad blood between him and an uncle that prevents him from coming.   You would never know that she buried the man she married at 18.   Theirs was an iconic, 25 year love affair, and she still cries when she talks about him in private.  But, life goes on, and it must be conducted with enthusiasm and grace.  You would also never know she was a mother who watched as one of her sons was sent to prison.

My cousin, the daughter of that uncle and equally beautiful but in a softer, more naturalist way, suggested that the son apologize to her father.  However, she did so with tenderness, not defensiveness.  She was certain he would forgive the young man.  I’m certain he would, too.  This cousin and her daughter, an exquisite, brilliant young doctor, made granola and quaint containers for each of us.  This is her first holiday season without her loving mother, but she did not sit quietly nursing her own wound.  In her grief, my cousin thought of us and invested time in a homemade gift that would express her love for each of us.  She exemplified the softness and earthy kindness she learned from her mother.

It is my other older cousin (we are all spread out and some cousins are closer in age to our aunt than they are the other cousins) though who is the most awe inspiring.  She was a teen when her daddy died.  She was in her twenties with two babies when her husband was killed in a car wreck.  And, her 32 year old son was one of our deaths last year.  I would think she’d be a wreck.  She says she has good days and bad days.  But, every word that comes from her mouth and every action she exhibits express that her greatest concern is for her elderly mother, her husband, and her daughter and her daughter’s family.  She is a woman of incredible dignity.

Her daughter is just like her.  This blonde beauty is extremely talented, too.  Today she shared with us her parenting concerns.  She struggles, like all mothers, with letting go, but it is more pronounced for her because of all of the loss she has experienced in her life.  Her dad died when she was a little girl, but she was old enough to remember, and her only sibling died last summer.  She battles the fears of what if.  She speaks openly and honestly but softly, with dignity, like her mother.

She readily took the role of family photographer and always quickly shares the photos with the rest of us.  Before we left our luncheon she presented each of us with a boxed Christmas gift.  My children and I couldn’t wait to open ours so ripped the package open as soon as we got home.  It was a huge, soft blanket with a life size print of my four youngest children and me–the picture she took of us at the family reunion in August.

My hostess aunt also presented each of us with a gift, a magnet, and each one seemed perfectly suited for the one who received it.  The lovely young doctor who demurely pumps her milk for her newborn and juggles meeting the needs of her patients with the needs of her husband, infant, and babysitter received one that said, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”  Mine says, “Work like you don’t need the money, Dance like no one’s watching, and Love like you’ve never been hurt.”  Pretty pertinent advice for a broke DV survivor who knows her every action is being scrutinized.

Though I had come over with my aunt and younger cousin I needed to hitch a ride back to town with another cousin.  Everyone was going shopping, but I couldn’t stay gone that long and only one other cousin also needed to get back.  I was apprehensive.  This cousin had snubbed me at my dad’s funeral.  Though she has been pleasant in the ensuing months as we have gathered together, I still was uncertain as to where I stand with her.  Besides, her rare beauty and her outgoing personality are both a little intimidating and overwhelming.

She began with one rapid fire question after another about the difficulties of my life.  She is bold, and she does not mince words.  If she thinks it, she asks it.  I answered everything honestly and shared openly.  She then shared with me just as openly and honestly.  We cried and laughed and gained an understanding of each other in the forty minutes it took for us to drive back.  I didn’t tell her the details of my childhood; I just told her my mom was a really awful person.  She nodded as though she already knew.  With her usual forthright manner she looked directly at me and told me that my children don’t look or act like abused children, that my children are amazing, and you don’t see kids with those manners and that level of consideration these days.  She declared that in spite of every horrible thing I’ve been through I’ve done a great job with my kids and have somehow managed to provide them with stability.  They act like kids who have been given stability, and that could have come from nowhere but me.

I felt refreshed spending the day with these brave, astute, wise, loyal, compassionate, stalwart, earnest women of incredible beauty and high integrity.  They are my little bit of Texas here in the drizzle of the Pacific Northwest.  They are my role models.  And, their kind words of edification made me feel like they see a little bit of Texas in me, too.