Last night I learned that a dear friend of the family had passed away. Dear friend of the family does not even begin to describe what an impact this person had on my family, but the English language doesn’t seem to have a better way to describe someone who is family, yet not related by blood or marriage.

If you are lucky enough, fate will provide you with people who become lifelong friends and make your life, and the life of your parents, better in all ways. If you are lucky, they will enter your life and change the trajectory of it, or at the very least soften the hard parts.

That was the role of Col. Adams, his wife Yolanda (Yoli for short) and their kids, in my family’s story.

Col. Adams and Yoli lived nearby the home my parents had purchased when we had to move from St. Paul, MN to Mineral Wells, TX for my dad’s stint in the Army in the late 60s. They had five kids and welcomed us to the neighborhood with open arms.

Col. Adams was a mountain of a man to my 3 year old self. He was boisterous, outgoing and always laughing. He embodied Texas and that was a lot to take in for a little girl from Minnesota. He was a man who wasn’t afraid to hug and I remember his bear hugs fondly. He was a gentle giant who comforted me when the Abominable Snowman from the new Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer claymation Christmas special was too much for me.

To my brother he encouraged and enjoyed all the shenanigans my brother and his middle son got into together, even if he wasn’t afraid to instill a little discipline. He had three boys of his own, but there was always room for more and he made my brother an honorary member of the family.

He was the Good Cop, completely opposite his wife who was charged with keeping those five kids in line in addition to the two redheaded step children they adopted when we moved in. She was terrifying and could discipline a child with a sideways glance or a carefully aimed shoe.

My family only lived in Mineral Wells for a year and after that year moved to Aurora, CO to finish my dad’s time in the army. My mother got sick shortly after we arrived changing our lives forever.

We might never had seen the Adams again, people move away and lose touch. My mother needed a considerable amount of care which took a toll on my father and trickled down to my brother and me. Things changed, you can see it in the photos of us. We went from smiling, happy kids to shell shocked survivors.

We moved back to Minnesota, but Lloyd and Yoli and all their kids remained a bright spot in our lives.

I’m not sure who’s idea it was but we usually got shipped off to to Texas for a week or two during the summer. This gave my parents a break from my brother and me (mostly my brother who was always getting into trouble but was charming and clever and always weaseled his way out of any punishment). We’d fly down and be immediately and completely welcomed into the family.

My parents would reciprocate and take a couple of their kids for a few weeks in Minnesota the following summer.

In 1978 both families – like some 70s TV show that had jumped the shark – made the journey to the UK for 10 days of sight seeing and adventure.

Life went on, and kids grew up. And yet my parents and the Adams made a point of getting together as often as they could. A week at my parent’s cabin enjoying Margaritas – by the gallon – during sunset cruises on the pontoon or a week in the Gulf enjoying Margaritas by the gallon on the houseboat.

My parents and the Adams gathered at the cabin the weekend before my father suddenly passed away.

When they came to visit my mother suffering from dementia and memory loss it was as if no time had passed – Lloyd and my mother picked up where they had left off over 40 years ago in Mineral Wells – laughing and hugging the whole time.

If you are lucky enough to have a chance meeting turn into a lifelong multi generational friendship you have been blessed beyond belief.

I will miss the bear hugs, I will miss being teased about my hair and my dimples. I will miss a mountain of a man who loved his country, his friends, his children and his wife with such intensity as to inspire others to live the same way.

RIP Col. Adams, I know you, dad and mom are enjoying a few margaritas right now.