In the direct sales business there is a relationship they call “pacing partners”. These are generally two people in the same company, at approximately the same level in the organization, who partner for mutual benefit. Your pacing partner can be your best cheerleader, your strongest advocate, your coach, your most honest critic — but she always has your best interests at heart, as you do hers. You pull each other up, and keep each other from sinking.
In family structures similar relationships evolve, although they certainly aren’t labeled as such. The family hierarchy isn’t quite the same, so you won’t necessarily find cousins as pacing partners, for example. And these relationships can be quite fluid, changing as the family dynamics change.
I have been thinking quite a bit about who in my family I would consider my pacing partner these days, and my answer is somewhat surprising. At first glance I would have said my sister, because she probably understands me better than anyone else in the world, and vice versa. But on closer examination I would have to say it is my precious Aunt Betty, Mom’s big sister.
(This is where the business analogies fall apart, as we are certainly not at the same point in our lives or in our family relationships. But just stay with me, please.)
Since Mom died, Aunt Betty has been my family touchstone. Hers is the voice that brings my mother closest to me, because she knew her better than all of us, and probably misses her most of all. We share stories, we giggle, sometimes we cry…and it is okay. We encourage each other, pull each other up when the night has been very long and sleep has been short, we have fun together, and we try our best to figure out life’s challenges.
We now are grandmothers together…although she is a great-grandmother, too… and share tales about what our amazingly smart/beautiful/handsome grandchildren do each day.
And best of all, we love each other so incredibly much, and aren’t afraid to say so. I don’t remember a time before Aunt Betty (I was the niece she practiced on before having her own family). I can’t imagine life without her. This isn’t where I thought I was going when I started blogging today, but all I have left to say is, “Thank you, Aunt Betty, for everything you are to me and to our family.”
And tomorrow when we talk on the phone, I will share this with her.