Monday, December 10, 2012


By the time I entered second grade in the fall of 1962, Mom was already halfway through her fifth pregnancy. I was seven going on eight, my sister Mary was six, and Steve was five, so we were already what Mom would call "a handful." She had a miscarriage in 1959, but she and Dad took another chance on rounding out the Alexander brood with one more.

Patricia Ann Alexander was born fifty years ago tonight, as this is published. When the time came, Dad took Mom to Cincinnati's Good Samaritan Hospital, and we spent the after-school hours at the Icard's house next door, as we hung out with Albert and Clinton Lee, two of the funniest guys I ever knew growing up. Mrs Icard got a call the next evening. "What? Really?? At five-forty-five???" is about all I remember about it. We were all together again soon after.

Pat was the "baby" of the family, you could say. Unlike the case with some other families, I don't think you could accuse her of having been spoiled or doted on as a result. That would have been extremely unlikely in the tightly-wound clock that was the Alexander house.

In more recent years, after a stint as a secretary at Procter and Gamble, she accepted a position as the executive assistant to the general manager of the regional transit authority, which is not too shabby. Then she was found to have a rare form of ovarian cancer, one that only three surgeons in the entire country could treat. Fortunately, one of them was in Cincinnati, and the procedure was successful. In what had to be a life-altering experience, she took measure of her priorities, and did not return to her old job. With her husband as a successful sales representative with Nestlé, Pat took on the primary role of assisting Mom in taking care of Dad, by that time in the latter stages of multiple sclerosis. She would travel across town to be at the house three or four days a week ("at least," she would mutter to herself at this point). The others pitched in as well; her brother, her sister, and the nephews. But it was Pat who did the lion's share on the front lines.

With the passing of Dad last February, and Mom in an Assisted Living apartment, her load has been lightened, although she still goes to visit Mom about every other day (so far as I know; I mean, it's not as if they check in with me, okay?). Pat has lived out her submission to the only one of Ten Commandments where God essentially makes a trade-off with those who love him: Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12) In other words, if you do A, the LORD will give you B. Or something.

She may not be far from the kingdom of God, assuming it doesn't go to her head. Happy birthday anyway, Pat.

POSTSCRIPT: The above story appeared to go over well, since I got another one from the birthday girl: "I was told some years ago by two of Dad's P&G co-workers at the time ... that once he got news at the office that Mom was going to deliver, he made no mad dash to the hospital. Instead, he calmly finished up his work before leaving." Yeah, that was Dad alright. Probably figured they could start without him waiting outside with the other nervous fathers. (Uh, so, Pat, who took Mom to the hospital?)

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