Maiden, Mother, Matriarch

She was fun. Really fun.

There is an arc to a woman's life, if she leans into the life-giving potentiality of her womanhood, that has been described as a journey from maiden, to mother, to matriarch. The beauty and fertility of a woman's youth is joined together with a man and from that union new lives emerge. And these squalling, demanding new lives draw the attention, and elicit the devotion, of young women and thereby transform young women into mothers. Mothers, good ones at least, will spend the most productive years of their lives investing in someone other than themselves. Motherhood is, as it happens, one of the most potent antidotes to self-absorption ever encountered. And if these mothers are fortunate, very fortunate indeed, their squalling, demanding, self-absorbed infants grow and transform into functioning adults who will still often need, even if they don't always know it, their mother's wisdom and experience. And so she becomes the matriarch of her clan and, sometimes, an object of devotion for the generations that follow.

Barbara Faye married as a maiden of just 18 when she met a navy veteran of World War II who shared her faith and her love for table games. Together, during the years that followed, they produced three girls, bookended by two boys. Barbara devoted herself to her five children, to their moral and spiritual upbringing, but also to their fun.

Barbara loved games.  She loved games so much that she invented games. One of them, Wordsworth, is played in homes all over America.

Barbara was an expert instigator and organizer of fun for children, and she was more than a little inclined to enter into the fun herself. Games and sports, ice skating and sledding, camping and cooking and church and singing and puzzles and friends: these were the things that characterized her children's lives.

As her children had children of their own, there began a steady parade of grandchildren through Barbara's home, as she transformed into the energetic matriarch of her clan. The grandchildren found in Barbara Faye a grandmother just as devoted to fun as ever. Golf, and rope swings, and stilts, and big wheels crashing, and reckless hilarity sledding down the hill in her front yard. These are the happy pictures from those many Thanksgivings and Christmases gone by that still inhabit the memories of her grandchildren.

She was nothing like a stereotypical grandmother. All the way into her 50's, and even later, her grandchildren would come to visit and might find themselves at a local gymnasium, where Barbara Faye was playing league volleyball, diving and digging and generally doing her level best to win each point. The volleyball may well have been preceded by her most recent golf tournament victory at one of the various clubs in central Ohio. She would afterward proceed to her house, where she would bake copious quantities of homemade pies, and inevitably fill her dinner table with heaping mounds of food, lest any of us grow faint from going ten whole minutes without a meal.

She did all of these things while maintaining a volunteer sideline as a sort of self-appointed hospice nurse. She started this practice early in her life, even as a child, caring for an ailing relative. And she continued it late into her adulthood when she traveled to help care for her beloved sister, stricken by MS. Later, she turned her attention, consecutively, to her father-in-law, her brother-in-law, and eventually her own husband as they each experienced failing health and their final days on this earth.

In most recent days, she has busied herself at her church - always the central focus of her life - and in teaching her great grandchildren how to bake pies and play all the games that gave Barbara so much joy.

Last Saturday night she lay down to sleep and, alas for all of us, she never woke up. The accumulation of years had become too much, even for her. But she lived - really lived - all the way to the end. She will be missed by everyone who knew her. She was a lifelong source of love and wisdom for many. She was beloved by children everywhere.

And she was fun. Was she ever fun.

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