Growing up, I had the life of every child’s dreams. I had things in my life that most children didn’t. I had people in my life that most children didn’t. I had a home… that most children didn’t. Everything I had as a child, made me the person I am today.
I didn’t come from a wealthy family. In fact, I didn’t grow up with the best of anything. I mean that quite literally.
I didn’t get new clothes every weekend, (or at all.) Pretty much everything I wore was a hand-me-down, from either a cousin or some girl who had outgrown it and added it to a garage sale. This is so true, in fact, that I clearly remember the one time my grandma bought me a shirt from a department store. I think I was 13. I was so excited about it, it’s in one of my school portraits.
The day I got a TV in my room, was the day we got a new one in the livingroom. I didn’t have a a necklace for every outfit (I still don’t,) and I didn’t have rings on all my fingers. Actually, I don’t remember having any necklaces or rings at all.
And honestly, not having all that “stuff” didn’t bother me. Sure, it was a little hard as a teenager to see some of my friends getting “stuff.” I didn’t start having much “stuff” until I got a job and started buying things I wanted. But deep down, even as a teenager, I knew that I had things worth so much more than a room full of stuff.
The reality of my home: I had a mom, a dad, two brothers, and two sisters. All of my siblings were younger than me, and we fought, all the time. When I say that, I mean… there were days that my house was a war zone. There were days it was my brothers and one of my sisters in one room, my other sister and myself in another, and we were plotting against the other “team.” Looking back, it’s funny. My brother who is two years younger than me, was my “enemy” for a very long time. He and I did not get along… ever. “Mooooommm! He’s looking at me!” “Mooooom! She’s breathing on me!” Ohhhh the car rides. Haha…
Since it’s Father’s Day, I want to focus on my dad for a bit.
My dad had to work a lot to provide a home and food for five children, his wife, and himself. I know he worked a lot, but to me, it didn’t seem like it. For one simple reason: Through it all, he never made us feel like we weren’t important to him. When he could, he took us places and did things with us.
I believe he must searched for things to do with his family that were free. Take into consideration that this was without the internet. Not having extra money, we did a lot of trips to the state park to make burgers and roast marshmallows, play on the playgrounds, and just hang out as a family. We did a lot of family walks (miles and miles, with our dogs…) We did our own Easter egg hunts, and had family Bible studies. There was even a large part of my life where Thursday evenings were reserved for family game night. We all sat together and played games. (A huge benefit of having a million siblings.)
What came out of all the time we spent together: My siblings are my best friends. We are now living in three different states, but spend time together as much as we can. When we get together, we stay up late playing Monopoly (Shut it, you four. That’s as far as that will go. Haha!) When we get together, we can have a blast doing anything at all. We find things to do, and I often see us doing things we did as kids (minus the sibling wars.) We roast marshmallows. We sit around a fire. We can sit and make jokes about our childhood for hours. The “Moooooom! He’s LOOKING AT ME!” line is brought up every time.
Two things that stick in my mind that my parents did for us that were a big deal - Birthday parties – Mall of America, Valleyfair… We all had so much fun. That was huge to me, because that wasn’t an everyday thing. Second, we would go to Mankato, and Dad would hand us each $100 to spend in whatever way we chose. That was always the best day of the year, and usually where my new clothes came from. Those two things were everyday things to some kids around me, but coming from such a large family, they were special times to me.
My dad isn’t a perfect dad. He never has been. He’s made mistakes as a father, and he’s made mistakes as a person. But he’s still my dad, and he raised us the best he could. Some of you know my dad. If you have known him for more than 30 years, you know very well that he’s not perfect. But out of all that bad, came something very good.
The best thing my dad ever said to me: “I can tell you what I’ve done and seen, and you can either learn from my mistakes, or make them yourself.” He never told me that I “can’t drink.” He never said, “You cannot smoke.” He showed me what he did, and said, “Go make your own decisions.” He doesn’t hide from his past, and he’s been willing to share his experiences with his children, in hopes that his mistakes would help us make better decisions. And ya know… I think it worked. All five of his children stayed out of trouble (for the most part.) I can tell you that 50% of the reason kids do things that get them in trouble is curiosity. The other 50% – they are told that they can’t. I can tell you without a doubt, you tell a teenager he or she cannot do something, they are going to say, “wanna bet?”
I fully intend to share everything I’ve been through with my son. I will probably share my dad’s past mistakes, as well. I think it will help him in decision-making. As much as you’d like to, you can’t hide your kids from this world. The truth is, it exists, and eventually, with or without your guidance, they are going to find it. Personally, I’d like to do what my dad did, and prepare my child for what he will see when he gets out there. I think all the bad things my dad has done prepared him to be a great guidance as a father, and in turn, prepared me to guide my own child through his life.
I asked my siblings to share some memories they have of Dad. My youngest brother wrote an entire page. I will share it all.
There are multiple times when Dad and I had great times while I grew up. It would be harder to pick just one than to choose ones that stick in my memory. From the earliest times, I remember Dad was always taking afternoon naps. There is a photo that Mom took of us taking a nap together while I lay on Dad. That was one fond memory I still remember to this day.
When he took us boys to the air show in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, I remember watching the Blue Angels and going inside of a large jet. We spent the whole day outside, and even though we knew we had a long drive back home, we stayed until the very end.
Another memory I have is going to the races while we still lived in Fort Wayne. Dad, me, and Chris went to a day at the races spending time watching cars mangle each other for the lead on the dirt track. While living in South Dakota, we never really had a lot of free time to spend with Dad since he was always on a trip or doing something with the church. But, the times we did spend together, we watched movies, played board games, and talked amongst the family. I wish I could go back and enjoy those moments when times were simple.
These days we try to make time to see the family a handful of days within the year. Now that we are all separated across the Midwest, we have to make sure that the days are scheduled with no outside interruptions. Whether its Dad cracking jokes with “The Game of Things” or him, my wife, and me watching a scary movie, I make sure we enjoy every minute of it. After almost 25 years of Dad’s advice, hellos and goodbyes, and raising me to be the person I am today, I am thankful to have him as a father.
(Thanks for making me cry, lil’ bro!)
My youngest sister wrote me a short text, but I believe her memory was just as important as those my brother wrote.
Only one thing really sticks out in my mind… When Dad took us to the seminary when he filled vending machines. He would let us help get the candy ready.
The brother that is two years younger than me also sent me a text of special memories:
Baseball games (both Twins and our T-Ball stuff,) birthdays to Minneapolis/Valleyfair, legos, cooking help at almost any time, regular/super Nintendo. That’s something I’m sure he will remember and will cross over to others as well.
All of these memories and the way they are written show a lot about our personalities. Truly, only family members understand how the way these were written brings out our personalities. My other sister didn’t get back to me with stuff to add, but I am positive she has memories of Dad that are just as special as ours. Yes, Lil’ Munkie, I will edit it in, if you ever get time to write something for me. I am proud of the way my dad raised his children, and the memories he gave us.
I had the childhood of dreams, and I wouldn’t change a thing. My parents may have not been able to buy us new stuff all the time, but what they did give us: Love. Time. Memories. To me, that’s worth more than anything they ever bought us. I know my siblings agree. If “stuff” is worth more to you, I feel very sad for you.