214. Gretchen’s Mission Possible

When most people deliver a new baby, they can’t wait to send around photos of their new-born treasure – the bouncing baby, the tiny star of the show, like a little heaven-sent cherub.

Not my babies though.  This is how mine looked.  Like prizefighters –  a little beat up but not down for the count.

This is my fifth child, Gretchen Marie Ford (Covey), as she looked a few hours after her birth, 53 years ago today.  She was bruised, battered, half-conscious from exhaustion, she had abrasions on each side of her head from forceps, and one eye was swollen shut.  But notice that her fists were still clenched and ready.  It was a struggle but she made it!  Her first victory!

You would think that after my numerous trips to the delivery room, I could have figured out a way to grease the wheels in some way so the babies wouldn’t have had such a harrowing welcome to life.  I’m still surprised none of them demanded a refund.

Actually, little Gretchen’s harsh debut probably helped prepare her for life in our household where prizefighting skills were essential to survival.  Sibling warfare among the Ford Horde was waged on a nuclear scale.  I would describe some of the heated battles which took place except that I deplore violence and, besides, I wouldn’t have room on my hard drive.

Gretchen showed a missionary zeal from an early age and used it to try to improve the welfare of her brothers and sisters.  As an example, she always worried that somebody hadn’t brushed their teeth at bedtime.  To check, she used to go into the bathroom to find out if anybody’s toothbrush was still dry.  If it was, – heaven forbid – she would report it to the nearest parent forthwith.  This crusade did not endear her to the troops, especially those with higher seniority. They considered it to be a war crime best described as dog-doo.

One might assume that Gretchen’s concern about faithful tooth-brushing was so nobody would get cavities. That didn’t seem to be the case, though.

One time, Susy and Gretchen came home from the dentist, where they had just found out the bad news that Susy had one cavity and Gretchen had three or four.  A heated argument ensued.  “It’s better to have MORE cavities”, Gretchen insisted, “Because as soon as I get all my teeth filled up, I won’t have to go to the dentist anymore”.

After years of mayhem and bodily harm, my husband Gene and I never got over our amazement when all seven of the battle-scarred troops grew up to be Best Friends. Thank you, God.

Besides missionary work, Gretchen’s next calling was to be a cowgirl.  Here she is pictured with her first horse.

She and Susy and Teresa were all greatly enamored of horses and every chance they had they would read about, collect miniatures, discuss, and pray that they would someday get the opportunity to ride real ones.  Below is a copy of Gretchen’s Christmas list from 1966.

At last, in her early teens she did get to take lessons on real horses and loved every minute of it.  Gretchen  loves dogs, too, especially her little Maltese named Reisling and the family Airedale named Lester.

My daughter Susy said the best month she and Gretchen ever had in their childhood was spent at Aunt Joan and Uncle Tom Fitzpatrick’s house.  Someday, we’re going to write a blob about that spectacular experience.

Gretchen graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in social work.  Soon after, she and Brad Covey got married, bought a house right next door to ours, settled down to raise their three children, Bryce, Ford, and T.T.

The kids are all in college now and Gretchen is too.  Thanks to Brad’s encouragement and support, Gretchen is back at school.  She’s working toward her Masters of Spiritual Formation through Carey Theological College in Canada. She takes some intensive classes in Canada and does much work online as well. She’s leaving today for a week-long class that will be held in Vancouver and Bowen Island in Canada. She hopes to work at a retreat ministry or church when she finishes her master’s degree.  She hasn’t lost her missionary zeal, but, rest assured, she probably won’t be checking for any more wet toothbrushes.

She says that her best presents are God, family and community. The rest of us think she herself is a gift God gave us.

My daughter Teresa e-mailed me this note about Gretchen today:

“I miss the days when Eric and little Sonja and me lived at Mom and Dad’s and I would take Sonja over to Gretchen’s almost every day and we would dance and sing and play with Bryce and Sonja.  We would wander all over her big house and we would let Sonja and Bryce do whatever they wanted.  They were more like brother and sister!  And Gretchen would feed us and then we would go to the store or the park or to Mom and Dad’s.  Gretchen was fun for me to hang out with.  We weren’t very busy then so life was simple and easier and I enjoyed my time with my sis so much!!!!!”

Others in our family who were born during Gretchen’s birth year of 1958 are her husband Brad, brother-in-law Eric Opsvig, cousin Jimmy Ford, and cousins-in-law Teresa Fitzpatrick and Dan Melchior.  (If you click on Eric’s, Teresa’s or Dan’s name, you can read a previous blob about them.  Brad’s and Jimmy’s will appear this summer.)

Teresa ………………………………..Brad  …………………….     Dan

Jimmy                                                                                                  Eric

Gretchen may have started life as a prizefighter, but she grew up to be simply a prize. I could write a book about her but it couldn’t really describe what a truly inspiring and gifted human being she is.  I am proud to have had anything to do with bringing her into the world.  I don’t know how I got so lucky.  Thank you for that, too, God.

Happy 53rd birthday, Gretchen, with love from your mother.

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9 Responses to 214. Gretchen’s Mission Possible

  1. Denise says:

    Happy Birthday, Gretchen!! I remember when you and Susy came to visit too—that was soooooo (;)) fun!!

    • Gretchen Covey says:

      Dearest Mom.

      Thank you for these lovely words and great pictures. I haven’t seen all of these before! Thanks you for your tireless love for all of us. These Blogs are masterpieces.

      For those of you who don’t live next door to Mom, she spends hours researching, studying, writing, scanning and editing videos to put these together. She sometimes spends more than 5 hours on a single blob. I don’t know how she does it. It is like writing a Masters paper everyday on top of all of her other responsibilities, caring for the household and Matt, running a video business, housing extra family members and dogs. Mom cares for every person in her life with love, care, commitment and humor. Thanks for being the most wonderful, creative, smart, funny mom in the world. I love you!

  2. Linda Lewis says:

    Gretchen is the jewel, billing number five
    Who lives next door to Pat and keeps things quite alive.
    Always crisp and clean, and ready with a smile.
    In her busy days, she’ll stop and chat awhile.

    Her heart is ever ready to do just one more thing
    Ever need something done? Just give Gretchen a ring.
    One day I showed up at Pat’s to get some editing done.
    There was Gretchen all classy in white coveralls, for fun?

    Well not just exactly for fun – serious about her work.
    She was hired to expertly paint. And she’s not a work sherk!
    Painting up a storm. The whole house was like brand new.
    Gretchen was as expert. Now how many really knew?

    Times I’ve seen her also, away from family duty,
    In a bathing suit. Now here is one real beauty.
    But serious about her event, she was in a competition.
    Swimming for her team and in really great condition.

    Gretchen’s a star for sure raising a beautiful clan
    Can you really tell it, I surely am a fan.
    It sounds like she’s off in an adventure
    Uplifting all those around for sure.

    Study hard enough to learn what’s the best to do
    Take time for yourself. Discover more beautiful you.
    So Happy Birthday today. It looks like there’s some sun.
    Today will be just right ‘cause you know how to have fun.

    • Gretchen Covey says:


      Thank you for your kindness. I love poetry. What a gift to receive one from you.
      This poem brings me great joy and hope.

      This blog has been an avenue for fellowship, encouragement and love.

      I feel very close everyone who shares in this glorious experience. Thanks again Mom, for making all this possible (and my birth two! I thank God and dad for that too!)

  3. susy says:

    Happy BD dear Gretchen,

    It is fun coming in to work and having you right next door. We gets lots of special moments to visit together. You are smart and funny and courageous. I hope you have a lovely day with all your piles of homework and papers to write. Four classes this quarter! But you are a master at “mission possible” after all! I sure enjoyed seeing all those old photographs this morning. What a darling beat up baby you were. And what a beautiful and talented woman you are today. I love you.




    • Gretchen Covey says:

      Thanks Sis,

      This summer let’s write a post for Mom’s blog together about our adventures in Iowa! What a great family we have. I LOVE seeing you at Ford Video. Thanks for all of your support!

      • Faithful follower of Goingon80 says:

        I second that motion! I would definitely LOVE to hear your perspectives on the summer in Iowa! And I’m all for giving Octo-woman a little breather, although I’m sure she’ll find a way to embellish your adventure if not in text then in photographic enhancements. GO FOR IT!

  4. Christine Ford says:

    Happy Belated Birthday!!! Thank you, Aunt Patti, for writing the blog and providing the beautiful pictures! Growing up, I do not remember my mom getting pictures from your family. Anyhow, good luck with your classes! If I could ask about the dogs, Reisling and Lester and of course, your family first dog (I cannot remember the name), what happened to them? I recall seeing Lester when my family and I visited your family after we moved to Oregon. He was a beauty and so well mannered!
    Again, happy birthday!
    Love, Christy

  5. Kristy Dyer says:

    I am a student along with Gretchen in the MASF and I’m wondering if you could pass on her email address to me as I seemed to have lost it somewhere along the way.

    Thank you. What a neat blog.
    Kristy Dyer

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