I have known my husband for going on 18 years. His family is from Southern Illinois. We made a trip to visit them after we had been dating for about 6 months or so. That is when I met most of his family. At that time his step mother, Penry was still working full time. She was the funeral director for the Poulson funeral home, which was her family’s business. We did not stay with them when we visited, we stayed a few miles away at Chris’s grandfather’s home. But we did spent a lot of time with his Dad and Penry.
I have a very vivid memory of Penry from that first trip. We were going out to dinner with them. We had parked the car, and were walking across the parking lot. I do not recall what Chris said to me, but it was something teasing, or sarcastic or something along those lines. And I gave him a rapid reply in the same vein. Penry turned and looked at me, and she said “Out of all the girls he has dated…. I think you might actually make it. You do not let him get away with crap, you give it right back to him. You are the first that I have ever seen do that.” And she was right! We are happily married almost 18 years later!
We generally visit Illinois at least once a year. We would love for it to be more, but it is a long trip. When we go we spend at least a week and a half to 2 weeks, and we spend as much time with family as possible. I have so many great memories of Penry, and I want to share some of them with you. I want to put down in words the kind of person she was, and what she meant to me.
I do not ever recall seeing Penry in a rush. She always seemed to move at the same pace, and with deliberation. I never felt like she did not have time for me. I felt like when I was with her, there was nothing else of importance, nothing else that she felt like she had to do. She still managed to accomplish a lot, and over the years I figured out that a fair amount of it was accomplished in the middle of the night, at least some of the time! I would come downstairs on Thanksgiving morning, and would find that she had been up in the night, preparing food, checking on the turkey, working on setting the table.
Speaking of table setting, Penry loved to set a fabulous table. She liked all of the dishes to match and to have flowers and other decorative items to accent and compliment her overall decor. She told me that growing up as a child, she always hated that none of their table settings matched. She also said that in retrospect, she thinks that they had Fiesta dishes and not just mismatched stuff that had been collected over time! But she said that by the time she realized that, she had already cemented her love of matching dishes and pretty table settings. Don’t get me wrong, Penry did not have to spend a lot of money to achieve the decorated table that she wanted. She could be quite happy with dishes from The Dollar Store and Walmart if she was able to put together a tableau that was pleasing to her eyes.
During one of our visits in the winter months, Penry noticed that all I ever wore was a heavy zipper sweatshirt as I did not like thick and bulky coats. She was very concerned that I was not warm enough. I told her that we were not spending much time outside, and of my dislike for coats that felt restrictive. Later on that week she gave me a coat that she had been wearing. It was super light weight, but somehow very warm at the same time. I felt so upset that she gave me the coat off her back, literally! Chris told me to just leave it on the coat rack when we left, so that I would not feel like I was taking a coat that she needed. But she noticed immediately, and came running out to give it to me as we were leaving. I wore that coat for many years, until it was totally worn out. It was a constant reminder of her generous nature. She gave me many things over the years, things that she had heard me talk about, or that I admired. She always wanted people around her to be happy, and have things that they wanted and loved.
However Penry could be very difficult to buy gifts for! She would say that she did not need anything, or that you did not need to spend money on her. One year we were visiting in late November, and we went out to a gift boutique that had many unique items. She fell in love with a lamp with kittens in various poses on the base. It was all black, with a neutral lampshade. It was also unique because it had a wide rectangular lampshade. I hung around in the store to make sure that she did not purchase it, and I snuck it up to the register and had them gift bag it for me. I told her that it was a large porcelain plate to hand on the wall that I had been admiring for my mom. I was so happy and excited to leave that gift in our room labeled for Christmas that year!
Ever since Penry retired, we have stayed with her and Terry in Sesser when we have visited. I have enjoyed this so much, as we get to spend so much more time together. Penry always tried to spoil us, she would say “this is your vacation, I want it to be nice for you.” One of the ways that she spoiled me was by always washing the dishes. At some point we were discussing household chores, and I had said that one of my most unloved tasks was hand washing dishes. I do not mind loading or unloading dishwasher. I don’t mind laundry, and I actually enjoy folding the clothes! I don’t even mind taking out the trash:) But I really do not like to hand wash dishes. I almost never washed a dish whenever I stayed with Penry and Terry. She would always tell me to sit down, that she knew I hated it, so she would do them. When we were at the house the week after she passed away, I spent time in the kitchen washing dishes. I was often alone in the room. I spent that time thinking of her, and how she loved to take care of people, and make them happy. It was not so hateful to do dishes while I felt like she was there over my shoulder.
Penry loved to watch TV, she had her favorite seasonal shows, and she loved lots of movies. She would watch them over and over as she was moving about the house doing laundry, cooking and cleaning. She would always be shocked when she would find out that I had not seen so many of her favorite movies, or that I had never seen one of the TV shows that she was fond of. She would always marvel at the fact that “you say that you and Chris watch too much TV, but I can’t figure out what you watch?!” And then I would list our favorite shows and most of them she had not heard of! Even though we did not seem to have the same taste in TV shows, we could always find things to talk about. I look back so fondly on the hours that I would spend laying across her bed in the evening while Chris and Terry were watching their shows in the other room. I would often knit, and we would visit with the kitties, and watch movies and talk. I treasure that time that I was able to spend with her.
As you can see in the photos that I have included, Penry had a beautiful smile. I think it was because she had so much practice, because she smiled a lot. My only regret is that I did not get to go back to see Penry when she went into the hospital. I never in a million years imagined that when we left after Thanksgiving in 2016, that it would be the last time that I saw her. Even with all the time that she spent in the hospital, I thought that she would recover. When she had her surgery, we were in Las Vegas, and that is the first time that I realized that I might not see her again. I am so very grateful for the wonderful relationship that we had, and for all the time that we got to spend together. She was an amazing person, and I miss her very much.