My Sister and I were both named Patricia and both in the same grade at school. Now before you start thinking weird thoughts about my parent’s lineage, let me explain. Patty Ann came to live with us when we were both in Junior High and I’d love to share her story with you because it’s an inspiring story of God’s providence in our lives.
Patty Ann was born in White Sands, New Mexico, into a family of two brothers and alcoholic parents. They moved frequently due to their father’s military career, never knowing where they would be from year to year. What she did know was life became more and more chaotic as her parent’s alcoholism progressed and the resulting marital problems increased. Finally her Dad sent the family to Nebraska, believing their lives would be better. They could live near his parents who could watch over them and help with their care. At one point, Patty remembers traveling back to California with her mom and brother to see her Dad, only to be turned away, saying he didn’t want them anymore. Having no money for the return trip, they slept in their car when they had no money for a motel room, scrounging for food, and her young brother driving part of the way because mom was too drunk. Returning to Spencer, they lived in an old rundown trailer home on the edge of town. Patty Ann was a classmate and we hung out together sometimes after school. My earliest memories include us standing in her little kitchen in the trailer watching her try to make cookies for her brother out of flour, baking powder and sugar and Patty taking wrinkly worn out clothes out of a cardboard box kept in the living room. But my most vivid memory is of Patty and I sitting in her living room as the front door opened. Her mom stumbled in with a bottle of booze in her hand, followed closely by the town drunk as she led him to a back bedroom. The next time I went to see her, there was a Sheriff’s car parked outside the trailer home. He had come to take her mom to Hasting’s Regional Center to “dry out” from alcohol. Her mother left treatment, seemingly vanished, and Patty would not hear from her again until her high school graduation.
Left without parents, she and her brother went to live with her paternal grandparents who were loving and able to provide for their needs. But shortly after, Patty’s dear grandmother died and her grandfather was not able to keep the children. My next memory is of all of the mourners standing around in the small Lutheran church basement after the funeral. All of the elderly aunts standing in one corner whispering about what they were going to do with the children, and Patty sitting alone in a corner dressed in someone else’s clothes staring at the floor. My mother went over to talk to them, and a decision was made that Patty would come to live with us. Arrangements were made with another family for her brother. The next day she arrived at house our house with a box of belongings and an ugly dog named Schnapps. I shared my room, my family and my chores, but I didn’t share my name. From this point on we called her by her middle name, Ann, and we began the process of becoming sisters. I was annoyed to death because every time I turned around she was there, taking my space and my friends and family’s attention. But I didn’t die, and we learned to live with each other and love each other. Although I know I wasn’t always nice to her, can’t remember ever feeling like I didn’t want her there. What we both remember about high school was that we always, always had each other no matter what happened. We both married men named Steve (I ask you…what are the chances?), who work in insurance and have cattle. We raised our parents and children together and I guess we’ve matured to middle age side by side. It’s hard for me to express my feelings toward Ann in any other way than to say that she is my sister, our sister, and my parents’ daughter. There is no line that is drawn between her and the rest of our family. We can’t explain why our relationship is sealed so tightly. She says it’s because she knew she was wanted and felt loved, but we both know it was because God had a purpose for her life, and this was all part of His plan. Ann’s life verse is Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
As a little girl, Ann remembers a presence that was always with her and a feeling that no matter what happened, everything would be ok. A nice lady had the neighborhood children over for cookies and told them about God. Having never heard about Him before, she thought, “ Oh, that’s what that feeling is, it must be God watching over me”. Later in her life when she came to live with us she said, “God knew I needed a mother, so He gave me Mom”. When she was in high school, she accepted Christ as her Savior and began another new life. Through the years I’ve watched Ann as she lived through good times and hard times, and one of the things I’ve always admired about her is her attitude toward life and her trust in God. I don’t remember her ever feeling sorry for herself or having resentments toward God or anyone else for her childhood. Ann tells me, “If everyone could understand how much God loves us and that He never leaves us alone…no matter how bad things are…their lives would be a lot better”.
“Ann says “God blessed me by giving me the Haun family”. Then we do start arguing about who has been blessed more!
Love you much, Ann, my dear sister!
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