I am the youngest of 7 kids. My mom always assured me I was NOT a mistake and that they “left the door open” so God sent me. My parents were 38 and 40 when I was born. I grew up with a lot of people asking me if I was a mistake. Or if I was an “oops baby”. My mom must have foreseen that happening and she prepared me well. I never felt not wanted.
I grew up with a sober, God-loving father, who tried his best to love us and pass on his wisdom he learned through his mistakes. Although all 7 of us kids have the same parents, my brother’s and sister’s childhood experience differs from mine. Admittedly, I probably had the best years of my parent’s life, as did my older 2 siblings who I primarily grew up with since the others moved out by the time I was a toddler.
I deeply loved my parents and my siblings, and at times I didn’t understand where either side was coming from when resentments would arise from the past. The first half of us kids grew up with an alcoholic dad and the last 3 grew up with “Sober Dad 2.0”. I felt it was my job to somehow hold us all together, if even just in my heart. I took on the unassigned mediator role from an early age.
A wise person once told me, “We are wounded people, raised by wounded people” and it goes back and back and back all the way to Adam and Eve. No family is without flaw. My own family won’t be perfect either but it can still be beautiful in spite of it all. That’s why God created GRACE, to fill in all those parts of us that aren’t up to par so we can do the hard things. So we can be good forgivers and find that peace that only grace can sustain.
I had a wide age range in siblings and a couple were old enough to be my parents. I took so many mental notes growing up. Definitely do this, don’t ever do that… Little did they all know, I was learning from the “do’s and don’ts” of life based on their own life choices and influences. Some paths of theirs I took and other paths I went as far opposite from them as I could go.
But nonetheless my brothers and sisters were kind to me and I longed to have been included in their comical stories of growing up, long before I was even a glimmer in my parent’s eyes. There were funny stories told and there were some stories that compelled a sibling to leave the family for a while. I like to think I prayed him back home 10 years later with all of my rosaries I said in middle school with my friend Missy, the one who prayed for me later on in high school. I’m sure my entire family probably prayed for peace and forgiveness, and I do believe I will see it all healed this side of heaven one day. When you know better, you do better. My father’s life is a testimony of how God’s grace can turn a broken life into something beautiful.
I may have been the youngest child but in my little heart, nobody better mess with my siblings! Particularly the ones I grew up with. Mikey and Leah. Mikey was the youngest before I stole that status from him by being born when he was 6. Leah was 11 when I was born. Those two were in every fond childhood memory I have.
When Mikey was in grade school he used to know this kid that bullied him. Not just name calling but pushing and shoving and tripping him. I would witness my dad giving my brother self-defense training and having pep talks with him on how to deal with this kid. Sometimes I would see my big brother cry out of humiliation from the bullying. This raised my mama bear radar…
One day when we were walking out of school (we went to a K-8 grade school together), and that bully yelled something mean to my brother as he was headed to the carpool. Lucky for Mikey I was there and I was ready to stick up for him. I yelled my kindergarten mouth off to that bully and I told him, really TOLD him: “he didn’t get to talk to my big brother like that”. Followed by a “DUMMY!!” or something sharp and thought-provoking like that. Ya know, something that stopped him in his tracks and really made him think about what he was doing. He turned to me and laughed his butt off and just as I was expecting to see my brother’s appreciation to me for looking out for him; I saw his face turn red with mortification as the bully yelled to Mikey that he was “such a weenie that he had to have his little sister stick up for him”. I was completely floored that my big brother was not proud of, but furious at me for “making things worse for him.”
But have no fear. Mikey grew up big and strong and those self-defense tactics ended up working in his favor in high school. Kids didn’t pick on him anymore. In fact I think that bully got a butt-kickin’ from that “weenie” in 11th grade; which shut his mouth from then on.
In fact, when I was in high school, Mikey tried to return the favor of loyalty to me in his own way. He’d heard I’d been crying in my bedroom, because after my very first date, the boy hadn’t called me back for 3 days. THREE days!! I was a blubbering mess. So Mikey and my dad went downstairs in the work room where my dad kept his vintage hunting rifle on display, and came up to my bedroom knocking. “Go away!!” I said, but they came in anyways with the unloaded shot-gun in hand. “Hey sis, I heard some loser hurt your feelings and didn’t call you back. Want me to go take care of him?” Oh my gosh!! And then my dad chimed in, “Yeah, me too! Let me at ’em! We’ll teach that boy how to treat my daughter!!” I think I laughed them both out of my bedroom. My heart swelled with love for them. Their efforts did not go wasted on me.
Then there was my sister Leah. She was a beautiful curly redhead with bright blue/green eyes. Her smile lit up a room whenever she walked in. Her perfume which she borrowed from my mom, left her scent wherever she went along with the waft of her Aqua Net hairspray. Oh how I adored her! She was a good artist and was in charge of making all the family birthday signs. She taught me how to sing when I was little and would make up duets for us to sing together. She fixed my hair all the time and taught me how to put on make-up.
Leah kept me up to speed on all the hilarious stories I’d missed out on from my older siblings, because I wasn’t alive yet. They all used to live in this old craftsman house equipped with all the charm and a spooky attic that made for a lot of the best stories. So many adventures were had in that house that I wasn’t a part of. Their life was so captivating and amazing to me. I was a child of the 80’s and the other kids in my family were kids of the 60’s and 70’s. It was like a whole other world and I was fascinated by it!!
Leah was involved in swing choir in high school and I got to go see her plays. She was so confident and cool. She would introduce me to her friends as her “pride and joy” and they’d all say hello and tell her how cute I was. I wanted to keep her close to me forever and I would cry when she’d leave to hang out with friends. So while she was gone, I’d play in her makeup and try on all her jewelry. She only got mad when she couldn’t find something. So one day I decided to clean her room for her and write out in detail where I’d put all her stuff for her. Except I couldn’t spell yet. I had to ask my mom how to write every word as I sat at the coffee table, while my mom watched Dallas and Falcon Crest on TV. All my friends loved Leah and they looked forward to seeing her when they would come over too. I had the coolest sister on the block.
When I was about 10, Leah found the man she was going to marry. She was 21 but my mom was 18 when she married my dad. Richard had us all smitten with him and he swept my sister off her feet. He was going to marry her and move her to another town. As happy as I tried to be for her, I was so unbelievably sad to be losing her. I cried the night before her wedding. My mom wouldn’t let me sleep with her one more time (something about a good nights sleep before her wedding day) and then she was gone. I got to be a junior brides maid and wear a long teal dress which was all the rage in 1988.
My sister fibbed to me weeks earlier saying that they didn’t have my favorite song to play at her wedding. But then the DJ announced over the microphone the dedication of “Footloose” to Leah’s little sister, Spring! I’ve never danced so hard in all my life! I remember my sister’s laughter as she saw me dance so furiously across the floor in my elation.
She announced a year after the wedding that she was expecting a baby. I was excited but it just felt like she was growing farther and farther away from me. I missed her terribly and now, good gosh, she was having a baby! She was totally not a kid anymore.
Well, Richard, who swept her off her feet, had not been cherishing my bright-eyed sister like she was used to. He actually tried to put out her light. He got rough with her sometimes and took away all the love he promised her. He told her lies about herself and refused to get help for their marriage. I overheard my sister telling my mom that sometimes she would be so lonely that she would cry in her closet hugging a teddy bear because he wouldn’t hug her anymore, just to punish her. My heart was broken for her. He took my precious sister and treated her like garbage and he was wasting her away. Leah gave Richard an ultimatum and when he refused marriage counseling again.. my parents and siblings drove to their town while he was at work; packed up everything that was hers from their apartment and moved her out. My brother Thomas joked that being how the towels were the only thing left, he was going to spray them with Rain-X so the bastard couldn’t dry off. It felt so good to get her out of there and back home.
Later that night around midnight there was banging at our front door. Leah’s car was parked out front and Richard had found out where she was. My dad went to the door but wouldn’t let him in. Dad said; “Richard, you’re drunk. Go home. You had your chance and now it’s time to leave.” But he kept trying to come in. My dad shut the door locking it and my parents called the cops. Richard continued to beat on the door and scream pathetically for my sister… I snuck down the stairs to Leah’s old room and climbed in bed with her. She was terrified and we held onto each other crying. Her window was on the ground level and she said “Spring, if he comes to the window and bangs on it, don’t scream or he’ll know we are in here.” I told her I wouldn’t scream. We soon heard the sirens come to the house and my father talked to the police officer as they dealt with Richard. Later my sister and I learned there were 2 cop cars and 3 K9 units at our house. Nobody knew what to expect, so they sent a brigade!
After months of counseling, Richard made his way back into my sister’s trust promising her and our family he would treat her right from now on. She eventually moved back to be with him. Three children and 10 years later, Leah asked me to meet with her late one night. I was already living in the same town for college and so I met her on a neighborhood street between our houses and hopped into her car. She had just found out Richard had been cheating on her and she knew it was the end. Forever. He was leaving her for another woman. This confident, vibrant, beautiful sister who helped shape so much of who I was… was devastated beyond recognition. Richard took 10 years of her life and left her empty, and was going to leave their children fatherless. What could I possibly tell her with only my 18 years of life experience that would give her any comfort?
Instead, I sang her a song asking how I could help her say goodbye…