After a couple of weeks to digest the whole of it, I’ve decided that being a part of a big family is not all that bad. Having come from a small family, just me and my two sisters (one older and one younger), I married in to a family that is rather larger. My wife is the oldest of nine. When you add in uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews, their spouses and children it all makes for a rather significant portion of the American population! Needless to say, in the 26 years my wife and I have been married, I have learned to adjust to large crowds. Large, noisy crowds. At first I tried to fight it, now I just let it happen.
Over the past several years, the kids try and do something special for their dad’s birthday. One year, for example, we did a Habitat for Humanity house project, which was great fun. This past year the kids decided to reset the retaining walls on each side of my folks driveway. These were close to twenty feet long and six courses high. No easy task for a Saturday project. However, when you have eight men, a couple kiddos and some women who will jump in on any task, it can go rather quickly. The first wall took us three hours and thirty minutes to disassemble, clean the rock and reassemble. Some of us considered it a good days work. When we disassembled the second wall, we were not quite so lucky. The footer had a significant lean, almost 6 degrees, so that had to be leveled before we could reset the stones. That wall took almost five hours to do. When it was done, both sides looked clean, level and set almost a foot back from their original settings.
Now here’s the catch. No one complained. No one griped. No one said, “Oh, let’s just do this side now and the other one next year.” Some of us may have thought it, but it was not verbalized. It was a wonderful day of hard work and family strength. The little kids pitched in on occasion and no one even attempted to shoo them away because it was “man’s work.” The ladies pitched in at times or were busy planting flowers, mowing the almost one acre yard or moving bedding plants as we reset the wall back several inches toward the top. Not one foul word from any one, anywhere, at any time. It was great.
There is nothing magical about any of that except this – when people love each other they do for one another. I know it was hard for Dad not to pitch in, but at 85 it’s a bit much to be laying stone. So he watched and “supervised” at times, but seemed pleased to watch his birthday gift unfold. Probably more pleased to watch his family working together.
I learn a great deal from my wife’s family – my family. They can do amazing things working together. I guess that’s because they have had a great example in their parents. They have always been helpers, doers, and givers. They seldom if ever criticize, complain or condemn. That spirit has been instilled in their kids, their grand kids, and their great grand kids. Everyone gathers at mom and dad’s. That is where there is safety, love, and acceptance. It really is great.