Fifty-nine years ago, in the quiet moments before the sun’s rays peeked through the darkness, my mother gave birth to a 6 pound 1-ounce baby girl. Slightly early, but healthy, with tiny feet, tiny hands and a robust set of lungs.
While we are accustomed to getting well-wishes and gifts on our birthdays, we often forget the parents for their heroic efforts in bringing a helpless creature into the world and raising that child into a self-sufficient and hopefully well-balanced adult.
When my parents, Bill and Bonnie, got pregnant with me, it was more than a bit unexpected. My father was still in college as was my mother. Both had hopes and dreams that did not immediately include having a child. They adapted quickly, however, and my mother quit school in order to devote her time to staying home with me and the subsequent children to follow.
It wasn’t easy for them to get married, have a child and set up a household while my father was going to school for Animal Husbandry and trying to work as a farrier to support us. We juggled back and forth between Madison, WI, and Burlington, WI each weekend, staying with my grandparents so my dad could make some money shoeing horses in order to pay rent in our tiny apartment. They were newlyweds with a child to support. They persevered while I thrived. My mother had several miscarriages after I was born. She was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to have more children, but then, thanks to some medical intervention, was able to get pregnant with my brother. We moved to an upper flat in Burlington, where she’d have another son before they purchased the home I lived for the remainder of my childhood. Two more children would join the family-a brother and a sister.
I’d be lying to say that my childhood was rosy, content and perfect. We had our share of discourse and dysfunction over the years. There were many instances that I was angry at the role I was required to play in the family. However, I never once doubted the love my parents had for me, not even in the midst of my anger, angst and temper tantrums. Along the path to my more mature years, I realized several things–they were very young when they had me. They had no experience in being married or raising a family. They inherited certain characteristics from each of their families and immeshed it into our little clan. They did the best they could with what they knew.
It is impossible to be prepared for what you do not know. It’s impossible to have the tools to raise a family if you have not raised a family. They were not perfect and I sure am not. It was easy for me to criticize the job they did or what I thought they should have done, but I had no idea what it was like to live in their shoes. All I know is that they were once young, wide-eyed and filled with dreams, just as I was. Their dreams adapted with the addition of children, disappointments, financial issues, and health issues; just as mine have.
As each of us grew, got married and had families, my parents reveled in the calmer years as grandparents–and my word, they were the best grandparents to my children that I could ever have imagined. Along the way, my parents and I became friends and embarked on another season, one that unfortunately ended too soon as I lost them both at very young ages. Both were not much older than me when they went home to Our Lord.
I am so very grateful to both of them for having me, for giving me a secure home where I never once worried about not having enough food, clothes, toys or doubted that I was loved. I was blessed to travel through 48 of our United States with my dad in his private plane–how many kids get to do that? So many others my life never had what I had–and I deeply regret my frequent and fervent complaints to my parents for not living up to what I thought I was due, just for being born. They gave me so much and then some. So, Happy “Birth” day in heaven, Mom and Dad–thank you so much. I love you.