I have a book on my bedside table that I am just beginning, Gloria Gaither's What My Parents Did Right. What a thesis! We live in a culture where everyone seems to have the finger of blame pointed at someone else. Most often that "someone" seems to be parents. I confess to having fallen into that pit many times in my younger days and I repent of it. My parents were children during the great depression, suffered through the ravages of World War II with Daddy on active naval duty, and went on to raise ten children. They experienced all the rebellion of the 60s with the younger members of the family, and suffered deeply the ravages to the Church after Vatican II. It was no easy life. I want to say thank you to them every day (I wish they were physically present so they could "hear" it from my lips.) and remember all the things they did right -- beginning with their generous openness to life.
My parents married in 1941, my dad a recent graduate of the Naval Academy and my mom a second year student in law school at (Case) Western Reserve University (talk about a woman ahead of her time!). Mom flew from Cleveland to San Diego, with an aunt as chaperone, to marry my dad before he shipped out to Hawaii. She joined him later, living in an apartment on Oahu, and witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was several days before she knew if Daddy was dead or alive since he was on a light cruiser, the U.S.S. Detroit, in the harbor. (Daddy's ship was one of only two to get out of the harbor during the attack.)
Mom was evacuated with many other civilians. She was several months pregnant with morning sickness and seasickness all the way back to the states. My brother was born in June 1942 while Daddy was still at war. I laugh when I think of my mom often saying that a father needed to be there for the laying of the keel, but not the launch. And so my brother Ray introduced my mom and dad to the joys and challenges of parenthood. Over the next seventeen years nine more siblings would join the family and a tiny little brother, Jimmy, wouldn't quite make it to birth. Joy and sorrow.
When I think of my parents now, I can hardly imagine the difficulties and challenges they faced. We moved every three or four years and had no experience of extended family. Daddy never had an exotic assignment; we mainly moved back and forth between the D.C. area and east coast Navy labs and program manager business rep assignments. But for me growing up, the moves were adventures and I always looked forward to them. That is until Daddy got reassigned my Junior year in High School. But that's another story.
What did my parents do right? First of all they gave each of us the gift of life. How can I ever thank them enough for that? Their gift resulted in ten living children, 37 (I think) grandchildren, and a growing gaggle of great grandchildren, about 80 so far. Many, sadly not all, continue spreading the legacy of our Catholic faith. Obviously, they got the message out that one of the best things you can do for your children is give them brothers and sisters.
What else did they do right? They practiced the faith. By the time I was born (number four) we were already taking up a big section of the pew and we were there (on time incredibly!) every Sunday. I think my siblings would all agree that another thing my parents did right was to establish the Sunday ritual of going to the bakery after Mass. What fun it was to help pick out all the goodies for our easy (and yummy) Sunday continental breakfast. Powdered jelly doughnuts will always remind me of that delicious ritual. Last for this post is my memory of family dinners. We always sat down together for dinner. When I think of it now I'm amazed! But it was an important event at our house and it almost always happened.
So thank you, Mom and Dad. And tomorrow I'll thank you again. The bakery is good for an entire week of thank-yous: elephant ears, glazed doughtnuts, (cheese, cherry, apple, and pineapple) danish, pecan rolls -- what a delightful memory!