Some of my favorite stories are about my parents. I have ten siblings and life was anything but normal most of the time. My dad and mom would go to such lengths to try to bring little pieces of normal into our lives. If my dad wanted to play catch with me, he’d have to play catch with five of us. If we wanted to see a movie, it was a major budget item and logistical issue. Sometimes just getting to and from church involved more coordination than many military maneuvers. They never stopped trying though and I love them for the efforts they made far more than the results they got.
My Dad was the eternal optimist. He believed that we could fit a tenth person into Volkswagon Bug because there was a person walking that needed a ride. He believed that we could find a house that was perfect for our huge family, that was close enough to being condemned that we could afford it. He believed that if you played fair, the world would reward that and play fair back. He believed me every time I told him I would do my homework from now on or keep up with my chores. An astonishing number of times, his optimism was rewarded (not with my homework and chores though).
My Dad put everybody else in the family first. When you have twelve other people in the family, there isn’t a lot left when it gets to be your turn. His life was an endless series of “Dad, look at this, Dad, pick me up, Read me a book, Dad.” He got up early to help my mom get us to school. He got home and went to sports practices, recitals, concerts, and meetings. He did chores around the house, covered for people who didn’t do their chores and then started the whole staggered process to get us to bed. That involved stories of different levels (everybody wasn’t old enough for Lord of the Rings), listening to the stories of our days, baths, laundry, prayers for all of us and hugs and kisses. When he finally got finished putting us down and rounding up the stragglers who kept getting up, he would be lucky to get enough time with my mom to hear about her day and maybe tell her something about his before they had to start talking about finances and discipline for the kids (often me). They went to bed exhausted and started it all over again in the morning. (or would have, but you know they got woken up a dozen times every night by us)
I didn’t always appreciate the decisions my father made or his parenting style, but I’m fortunate to have always known he loved me. Even at our worst, we both knew that we were loved. I’ve raised two boys of my own and I can only wonder at the stamina and sheer perseverance it must have taken to do this with eleven kids.
I salute you Dad and I’m glad that you are still around to read this and for me to tell you how very much you had to do with shaping the person I became. You set a very tough standard to live up to and I don’t think I can. I appreciate that no matter how good I get at this, I’ll always be able to see the course you laid before me.