“You’re either in-laws or outlaws.” That was one of the most memorable sayings of my mother-in-law, Pat Young, who passed away December 9, 2019. Valentine’s Day was her birthday.
The in-laws or outlaws saying was Pat’s way of establishing common ground and breaking down barriers with an individual or a whole family. It applied to plenty of people and situations in the thirty-five years I knew Pat. I realized something, though, as I was writing her eulogy: her saying wasn’t true. Pat wasn’t in-law anything to me. She was truly a mother and a dear friend. I also realized, in retrospect, that Pat was an Idea Magnet in her ability to attract an interesting array of characters into her life. She also embraced an Idea Magnet’s spirit of fun and the wonderful sense that if an experience was out there, then it must have been meant for her to experience and enjoy it!
Encouraging People and Ideas
Food was one thing she loved, including late-night sandwiches from Love’s Country Store. Her choice was a ham and cheese with mayo and just a touch of BBQ. She used to say, “Mike Brown, I never thought to get a sandwich from Love’s at 11 o’clock at night until I met you.” I’d tell her that there was no way she learned anything about late-night eating from a rule-following kid like me.
Pat was the one who introduced me to the idea that if you wanted to do something, you didn’t need a plan and intense preparation. You could just go ahead and do it. Alternatively, you might buy a book about it, and then never read the book. Best yet, you could take a nap on the couch instead of doing anything about the idea. That’s why I loved to visit Pat’s home. She oversaw a household where anyone that came through her front door could make themselves at home, however they chose.
Pat’s obituary mentioned about how her taking care of others instilled that same gift in those around her. I know it made me do things I’d never have imagined.
My wife and I had the opportunity to take Pat to multiple NASCAR races in Kansas City since my company sponsored a car. Fridays at the track with Grandma Pat were the best day of the year. We’d wheel her out on pit road, and she’d tap her Michael Waltrip NAPA cap on her leg all afternoon. Michael was Pat’s favorite driver. Because she was such a true fan, a member of our team arranged for Michael to walk over to Pat during qualifying and shout, “It’s Pat Young!!!”
Unfortunately, Michael wrecked in practice; the whole plan collapsed. Instead, as he got closer to where we were during qualifying, he sprinted to a porta potty fifty feet from us. I watched a female fan head for the porta potty. I looked at the fan, looked at the porta-potty, then looked at Pat and said, “Give me your hat.” I ran toward the porta potty and participated in ambushing Michael Waltrip to get him to stop and autograph Pat’s hat before returning to the track. I brought the hat back to Pat and told her, “You are the only person in the world that could make me stop a guy trying to leave the bathroom to get an autograph.” We buried Pat with her Michael hat so they could be together until the end of time.
Pat had many challenges in her life, and she suffered well, especially in her last years. In every situation, though, her hopeful, positive outlook, led to her recovering better and outsmarting anyone who counted her out. When people asked how my mother-in-law was doing in the months before her passing, I’d say she had a difficult path ahead of her, and that they’d given her seven days to live: four-and-a-half years earlier!
That was Pat; such a strong, extraordinary person. I’ll be eternally thankful for how I’ve benefited from having her as an Idea Magnet in my life. – Mike Brown