Please welcome a guest post from my amazing husband Jeff.
With 5 kids, we’re becoming very accustomed to the unique way that people respond to us when they see us or hear how big our family is. The responses range from surprised to sympathetic to cheeky.
“That’s a handful!”
“You’re very blessed!”
“They know what causes that now” wink wink
Naturally, we cut quite a swath when we go places. And people also make assumptions about our religion or our sanity. And while I won’t bore you with details about either, bottom line is we’ve made a choice to have a large family. And that’s unusual these days.
Both of my parents came from decent sized families and in that generation it wasn’t out of the ordinary. My dad has 2 brothers and 2 sisters. My mom grew up with 2 sisters and 3 brothers. And to be honest, my parents probably wanted to have a similar sized family, but they struggled with infertility for years. Of course I never blame them, but I was always envious of my best friend who had 3 siblings. All those friends to play with all the time!? I know it wasn’t always happiness and light, but I sure wished I had someone to share a bunk bed with.
So when my wife and I got married, I told her I wanted 6 and she said she wanted 2. I guess I’m winning. But seriously, she had a change of heart and we are both so excited to meet each new blessing that God sees fit to give to our family. And while at times it exhausts me, the rewards are far beyond measure.
And there are a few unique benefits:
At restaraunts we get seated ahead of the couples on a date by themselves because there is less demand for the big tables.
Family reunions are so much fun!
If you’re bored, it’s your own fault.
But beyond the humorous and exciting is one benefit that was brought home to me in a very moving way last fall.
In times of celebration or times of sorrow, there is nothing like family. Blood is thicker than water. My mom is the youngest sibling from her family and her next oldest sibling was her sister Sharon. Their birthdays were a 2 years and a day apart. They talked alike, laughed alike, both crossed the border south from Canada to marry their American hubbies. And as of 8 or 9 years ago when my parents moved to Tigard, they both lived in the Portland area. This was the aunt that drove Mindy all over the metro area looking at apartments and duplexes when we moved out here in 2001 while I was still driving our truck across country with my dad. Nearly every time we spent a holiday with my parents, Sharon and her family were there. And boy could those sisters tell stories and have a good time together. So when I got a call at the beginning of September last year from my mom, I was shocked to hear her say that Sharon had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. All the more surprising because she never smoked a day in her life. I didn’t know what to say. But my mom and her sister were so optimistic and hopeful. And they just ramped up the fun they had together in case the time really was short.
It was a gut-wrenching situation and soon her brothers and other sister made arrangements to spend as much time as possible supporting her and her family. My mom took days at a time off of work to accompany Sharon to Arizona for treatment and was there to comfort their daughter Amy when the news wasn’t good about how things were going. When they brought her back to Oregon City, there were evenings spent eating, singing praise choruses, reminiscing and just being with Aunt Sharon. Amy would paint her toenails and do her hair for her. Aunt Ruth cooked and cleaned. The brothers encouraged her husband, Daryl just by being there and helping with the arrangements for the final days. It’s so hard to describe. It was a little surreal. But the love in the room was amazing.
One evening when we were visiting, my Uncle Ron was sitting next to Kyle, our six year old. They sat quietly for awhile and then exchanged some whispered small talk. Then my uncle looked around the room, smiled at a couple of our other kids and said "Kyle, when your mom and dad get older... When times like this come... it will be a blessing to have your brothers and sister with you."
My aunt Sharon passed away a few weeks later on a Sunday morning as her siblings and their spouses gathered around in an impromptu church service. And Cousin Amy and uncle Daryl were cared for the way only family can. I watched and saw a little glimpse of what may be the future for my kids. Not with sorrow, although I’m sure that will come, but with joy. Because I know that no matter how they argue about whose turn it is with the Wii or who has to set the table this week, they will be there for each other. I see it in the way Kyle defends the baby when Owen plays a little too rough. They way Ben dotes on Elise, helping her into the truck, or cheering her up when she’s sad about not being able to do something. Now I'm not blind to the reality that they may not all be fast friends as adults. But I know that when times like this come blood really will be thicker than water.
(This is the text of a speech that I gave at my Toastmasters club a couple of weeks ago.)