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  • My dad was the first speaker.

    I think my mom had asked him to start it off, to deflect the awkward silence after the minister asked for friends and family to share their memories. In any case, he was ready, with a notecard covered in his undecipherable scribbles, and walked from the front row to the pulpit as soon as the minister made the call.

    "When I married Mary Jean," he began, "I didn't know that I was getting more than a wife, I was getting a whole new family. Pat was the best mother-in-law a man could ask for." He continued telling stories about my grandma, Estella Pat Pearl Chase, whose 95 years and recent death we were commemorating.

    "She was never intrusive," he said, "but she had her ways of making her opinion known. She would just observe, and then, when the time was right, she'd share her insights.

    "I remember one time we were washing dishes together at our home in Washington. She had been watching me struggle with how to raise my girls. I was a new dad, used to structure and control, to things being black and white, and this strong-willed young daughter was really testing my patience.

    "She just watched, and as we were drying dishes together, she said, 'You know, that girl's just like a Quarter Horse. Treat her special, and she'll really perform.'"

    After the service, my dad gave me a hug and let me know my grandma was right.
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