Sunday, July 27, 2014

Gratitude: On Parents Day, a Remembrance

Mom and my late brother Buck, the oldest,
Today, I am grateful for:

Parents who are as good as they can be. Sometimes that's not great, but usually there are extenuating circumstances. I was not a good parent when my kids were young and I won't make any excuses. I was a drunk and drunks aren't good parents. They can't be. They're (we're) selfish, self-centered liars who can put nothing ahead of their addiction.

I think I'm a good grandfather and after I put the booze down, I tried to be a good father. I think I have succeeded to a degree. The kids seem to think so.

My son has become a poster for good fatherhood, I think. He didn't learn it from me, but he learned it.

My parents faced serious obstacles to being good parents. First, there were eight of us. Eight kids is too many for a lot of reasons. The class size simply is not manageable for all but the very, very few and because there were so many, money became a huge issue. House size meant we had no privacy. There was rarely one-on-one time.

Dad worked 364 days a year and when he was home, he was so tired, we didn't get much time with him. I recall him hitting me a baseball once. That's once in the 13 years I had before he died. Dad's absence, of course, frustrated Mom, who really wanted to be a good mother and probably would have been world class had she stopped at, say, four children. Dad was gone during almost all of the World War II years, heading an Army munitions depot in Oregon. He was home rarely and when he was, Mom got pregnant. You might understand why she wasn't enthusiastic about seeing him then.

Eight children was simply too many. So Mom gave three of them away, the three oldest, when I was just a boy. They were sent to live with stable, loving families Mom knew, so it wasn't a case of abandonment, but it wore on Mom. When I was a senior in high school, after Dad had died, I went to live in a children's home in the far northern corner of North Carolina, a remote, tiny community where I was truly happy. But mom felt guilty and she felt she needed to keep that part of her life private lest people judge her. They would have.

We all grew up, though, and we've had, I think, interesting lives. That tells me that Mom and Dad did something right. I don't think there's a boring member of the six of us who remain. I like all my brothers and sisters. They're smart, they laugh easily and they have good priorities. And I remember my parents fondly. I learned a lot from their struggles and from their humor. I'm grateful to both of them.

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