In my last post I discussed my mother-in-law and her sunny disposition. In continuing the theme and moving on to my side of the family — geographically more removed than my in-law’s and thus the second leg of this blog journey — I am faced with a daunting task. As you know I hail from a rather large family. There are so many people about whom I could write that would serve as the stand-out figure representing what family means to me.
I could write about my own wonderful mother. After all, I did write about my mother-in-law. Can I just mention, in case you didn’t know, that my mother is a saint. No, not a canonized saint of the Catholic Church… When she dies, which I am convinced will never happen because death fears her, the Church would be too ashamed not to have found a way to canonize her during her lifetime and will declare that she had actually always simply been a saint. She brought sixteen — yes, 16! — children into the world. She taught us all so much. She was always my traveling partner, my drinking buddy, my counsel, my example. But I feel like she deserves a post all to herself, not as part of a series.
I could write about any of my sisters. My sisters are the most marvelous people on earth. One of the reasons I pray my wife and I have more children is because there’s a possibility that even one of those future children will be a girl. I tell my son all the time how lucky he is to have a sister because “Daddy knows from experience, sisters are the best” especially if you’re the baby boy of the family. Shall I list some of the many benefits of having sisters? They make you laugh, keep your secrets, share your secrets, keep you company, lift you up, drag you down, and will tear the eyes out of anyone who crosses your path. Because of my sisters I went to Disney World, saw my first Broadway show (and countless more), played endless rounds of Trivial Pursuit, drank tens of thousands of gallons of coffee at the diner in the middles of various nights. I learned how to drive a car from one sister without crashing into another sister’s house. I learned how much fun the words road trip can be. I became godfather to so many kids. Should I go on?… Sisters are awesome.
I could write about my brothers.
I was going to leave it like that, as a joke. Then I thought better. OK, from my brothers I learned some important things. For starters I learned many things not to do. But I also learned many things to do. I learned how to be funny. I was, after all, the aforementioned “baby boy” of my family. Let’s just say that I had some good reasons to need sisters who would tear the eyes out of other people who might do me harm. That being said, I saw in some of them loving husbands and fathers who took care of their families. I saw a man who’s devotion to his family impelled him to fight on foreign soil to protect us all. I can’t say I learned how to rough-house. I was too much younger than the rest of them. I didn’t have an opportunity to learn much about typical things like style and dating and whatnot. They were in college before I graduated grade school. That could also explain why I didn’t get married until I was almost 30 and why I’ve often received the “Wow, that’s a different look” remark from people over the years. But no matter what, brothers are generally two things with their brothers. They are generous with everything they have and they are constant in their relationship. If I ever needed anything I know I wouldn’t have to ask. And if I didn’t talk to any of them for the next decade I know I could pick up a phone and it would still be the same.
But the figure I settled on for this blog is my dear old dad. Let me tell you a story. My father has been a daily mass-goer for as long as I can remember. On New Year’s Eve 2007, when my wife and I were still living in New Jersey, my dad called me up and asked if I had been to mass yet. He needed a ride because his car was in the shop. Of course, I drove over, picked him up, and the two of us went to mass as we had so many other times. Arriving back at his house I walked him to the door. There was ice on the ground and patches of snow around. As we got to the top step of the porch he reached into his jacket pocket and took out a leather-bound booklet. He leafed quickly through the pages. “Not bad,” he said. “What’s that?” I asked. “Only missed three days this year.”
That was it. I knew what he meant. He had methodically marked down days that he had missed daily mass throughout that year. It totaled three. That means that he made it to mass 362 times that year (not counting additional masses like funerals and weddings). I was so impressed that I made it a goal to try to be more devoted to the practice myself. It took my several more years to realize that, like him, I needed to keep a record to motivate me. So on New Year’s Eve 2012 I decided to make use of the Notes App on my iPhone and start keeping a record throughout 2013. As you can see, I was not nearly as successful. I just tallied it and said to my wife “I can’t believe I missed 59 days this year…” “Look on the bright side,” she said, “that means you still went over 300 times this year!” I could also use the excuse that daily mass is not as readily available here in Texas but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
So there you have it. A good father protects his wife and children from harm, provides a living for them, and above all, places himself humbly before the Lord each and every day. Would that we all had that grace. Perhaps 2014 will be more “successful”.
Ready for part III?