We met on Aug. 19, 1954, and I have often told Barbara how grateful I am for having been part of her large family. There were the get-togethers at her brother's farm in Indiana, including her Dad's 90th birthday party in 1982. Dad was all smiles in his Chicago Bears No. 90 jersey. Then there was her brother's grandson's wedding at the farm during a downpour. The water flowed like a river into the tent, and we danced up a storm as the tent sank into the mud. Great fun.
When we moved to Southern California in 1960, we spent many a weekend playing cards at her sister's digs in Redondo Beach. It was the men against the women in a "bust your chops" celebration of friendship. You only play the bust-your-chops game with people you care about.
My wife Barbara is the youngest of six children. Her brother Harold died more than 53 years ago, when he was 37. He left a 1-year-old daughter, a 12-year-old son, a 14-year-old daughter and his wife, Anne. Anne, now a great-grandmother, never remarried and has lived in LaGrange Park, Ill., for several decades. Over the years, she has never missed sending us cards on our birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Easter and St. Patrick's Day. One year, to keep us on our toes, she sent a card on Groundhog Day.
This year, a package from Anne arrived on March 15 with the usual card and a "Southside Irish" T-shirt. In our day, there was a very large Irish population in our neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago. I proudly wore the shirt wherever I went on St. Paddy's day and had great fun doing it. It prompted many a conversation with curious strangers.
On March 18, I wrote a family letter in tribute to Anne for her thoughtfulness all these years and sent copies to family members, including Anne's great-grandchildren. On March 20, while my letter was en route to Anne's home, she had a massive heart attack. She's in intensive care, with a 50-50 chance of survival.
Anne's 90th birthday was March 25. She is a very special woman.
When Frank isn't busy being grateful for the special people like Anne in his life, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.