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Monday, October 20, 2008

Holding Hands

In a sense I have two families. No, I have not had more than one marriage. My two families are a product of my one and only marriage. We had our three boys quite early in our marriage spacing each two years apart. We made no decisions to quite having babies at that point, but the babies quit coming. It looked like our three boys would be only children. We were fine with that and happily went along with life.

About three years after our then youngest son was out of diapers my wife surprised me by announcing that she was again pregnant. I remember my first response being, “Dang, more diapers.” This pregnancy brought us our first daughter. Whatever had turned off in my wife’s body that stopped her from getting pregnant for six years turned back on. After this daughter we had four more children to make the count eight.

And so, just as my first family of sons is reaching adulthood and leaving the home, I have a second family coming along with the oldest child being my twelve-year-old daughter and the youngest being my three-year-old son. It isn’t lost on my wife and I that if we had not had any more children after our third son we would be empty nesters now with a lot of freedom to use as we pleased. On the other hand, we would be empty nesters with an empty nest. I don’t know if the peace and quiet would kill me, but I think the lack of physical contact with my children would.

I don’t remember very much about when my boys were young children. I have to go to my journals to read about carrying one of my boys on my shoulders as we walked to church. I have to look in an old photo album to see another leaning sleepily against my shoulder while I am working on my computer. I know there must have been loads of hugs and kisses and hand-holding, but I swear that I cannot actually remember one of them. Lucky for me I have a second family of children to take care of my hug, kiss, and hand-holding needs while I wait for grandchildren.

Even with my second family time is moving fast. My 12-year-old daughter has already passed over to the dark side when it comes to hand-holding. I can still actually remember the feel of her hand in mine. It was just a year ago when she would take my hand while we walked through stores or made our regular trek to the cemetery and back. I was painfully aware when she stopped reaching for my hand. Of course I didn’t mention it. It had to happen as she matured. Perhaps when she gets through adolescence and finds herself she will once again feel comfortable in reaching for my hand. Until then I have to do as the cliché says and let what I love go free and wait and hope that she will return. It really isn’t all that bad. She still kisses my cheek, give me hugs, and tells me she loves me—but I know hand-holding is out for awhile.

Lucky for me I have four more children younger than her. Yesterday my two other daughters went for a walk with me to the cemetery. While my five-year-old skipped ahead through the twilight my ten-year-old year old slipped up beside me and slid her hand in mine. The “no hand-holding”countdown has already begun in earnest with her. I have maybe one more year before the distance will grow between our hands. But last night she said,“Twirl me, Daddy.” I raised my arm, her hand in mine, and she spun and laughed. I do not want to forget what her hand feels like in mine. But after forgetting what it felt like to hold my older sons’ hands can I hope to remember holding Clorinda’s or Autumn’s hands? The answer is clear. Holding Autumn’s hand must be much like holding Clorinda’s hand a year ago. The joy in holding Autumn’s hand must the same kind of joy I had in holding Tory’s hand twenty years ago. The answer to remember the feel of a child’s hand in mine is to keep holding hands with children the rest of my life. I have Autumn and three more children after her to hold hands with. By the time they are grown I will have grandchildren to hold hands with—hopefully lots and lots of grandchildren. There will be children to hold hands with the rest of my life and, perhaps, for the rest of eternity.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Suddenly Glory

The workings of a household with many children can be mysterious. As a father I am aware that there is a world of which I am not a full member—a world where I am an outlawed creature, but tolerated on the edges. As a caring father, one who really enjoys spending time with children doing the things they like to do, this baffles me a little. My children love me. They seek out my company often each day. And yet there is a place “Dad” cannot come. The world is for children and I am an adult. My children did not make up the rules for this world; they and I are just living under a law of reality.

I had been working in my office all day, neglecting even to come in for lunch. Around three o’clock, when I realized I was a little hungry, I left my project on my desk and came into the house for some food and a break. In my home, when everyone is home, there are ten people—Mom and Dad and eight children. My home is small and the presence of others is easily detected. On this day as I entered the back door I detected nothing but silence, something that is very unusual. One son is on a mission in Canada. Two other sons, although living at home, were at work. That accounted for three children. As I walked through the kitchen into the sitting room I found my three-year-old, Story, sprawled out in nothing but his diaper asleep on the couch. So there was the fourth. I recalled my wife telling me she was going to step out on an errand. She sometimes takes Clory, my twelve-year-old, with her. That accounted for my wife and a fifth child. So where were the other three?

Then I heard little voices. I followed their soft melody to the back bedroom. There I found the other three all sitting on the top bunk. Lory, ten, was lying at one end looking up at the ceiling as she talked. Jory, seven, was at the other end sitting up and pressing the bottom of his bare feet against Lory’s feet and giggling about something. Glory was sitting in the middle, to the side of the other’s legs, against the railing.

I strode into the room and rested my head on my hands on the edge of the top bunk. The children were aware of me, but they were in that world I could not enter and said nothing to me. After a minute of listening to their comments and laughter that mean nothing now I ventured some words to see if they would recognize and communicate with me.

“Did you guys have lunch yet?”

Lory glanced at me and nodded. “Peanut butter jelly sandwiches,” she said. She immediately looked back at the ceiling, kicked Jory’s feet and laughed at some continuing joke I was not privy to.

I felt a little lonely standing there in the presence of three of my children. But then I noticed Glory, 5. She was looking at me from across the bed with those big, brown eyes. I felt like I, an outsider, was in a jungle and some creature of the jungle had taken notice of me. Glory presently is the most mysterious of all my children--at least to me. She needs me as her father, but only at her convenience. Her world is quite independent. I see her and hear her during the day, but she calls on me only when it is in her interest to do so. For instance, I will be watching a movie in the evening. I will make myself comfortable on the love seat with various family members in various seats and positions throughout the room. I will suddenly become aware that my once empty lap is now occupied by Glory. She will have made herself quite comfortable as if I am a lounger. I didn’t notice when she arrived in my lap. Suddenly Glory was just there because it suited her. After giving the movie my attention for awhile I will look down to find my lap empty again and Glory nowhere to be seen. I didn’t notice her leave. Suddenly Glory is just gone.

On this day Glory’s eyes lock on me. She says nothing and I raise my eyebrows in wonder. Then Glory, who is sitting Indian style, leans slowly across the bed and presses her lips against my cheek. Next she presses her cheek against my lips. Then she withdraws back across the bed and back into her world. I try to follow her, but run up against the barrier no adult can cross. I realize Glory has given me a gift from her world. Knowing I have been favored, but can expect no more, I withdraw in search of a peanut butter jelly sandwich.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Have Eight Children

Yes, I have eight children all from the same woman. This woman happens to be my wife. We've been married for 24 years. It is difficult for me to understand what goes through people's minds when they learn I have eight children. Usually there is great surprise. Some grapple with incomprehension. Some give signs of admiration. Others tell me proudly they don't do children--instead they have dogs. People's reactions are amusing to me. Of course I know families with more children than in my family so I don't pretend to be anything special.

So why do I have eight children? It is because any more didn't seem wise under the circumstances of age and health. Plus we were running out of 'ory' names. As it is we have Tory, Cory, Rory, Clory, Lory, Jory, Glory, and Story. Seriously, we never set a number of kids that we wanted to have. We thought we were done after our first three boys. After Rory we didn't have any more children for six years even though we weren't using any contraception. It seemed like a small family, but we were fine with that.

Then my wife informed me she was pregnant again. I wasn't happy to have go back into the diaper stage again after getting used to life without diapers, but when our first girl was born it didn't matter any more. Then the other children kept coming every two years. So I have two families. Three in my older family and five in my younger family. My boys have all reached adulthood. I am now raising my younger family. I could say, "Whoa, deja vu!" except it isn't. Raising each child is it's own experience. There is no cookie cutter parenting that I know of.

I know there are people out there who have problems with my having eight children. I don't understand that. My children are happy and healthy. There is much love, joy, and companionship in my home. My neighbors actually seem pleased to see us. So if you have a problem with my having eight kids I think your problem is personal and you need to come to terms with somehting inside yourself. I don't understand people who choose to have only one child, but I respect their right to choose. A person who does not want more than one should not have more than one. It takes a lot of inner resources and commitment to raise multiple children. It is definitely easier to raise dogs. If the commitment and inner resources aren't naturally there multiple children would be a mistake.

I hope in this blog to let those who are curious about large family life to vicariously experience it. So, keep tuned to One Plus One Equals Ten.