Her children rose up, and called her blessed: her husband, and he praised her.
My mother loved my bride from their first meeting. They enjoyed shopping together, and my bride was the daughter she never had. My mother died on Easter Sunday 1984. She never saw, in this life, her grandchildren. My bride and I were married for eight years before our twin boys appeared. We were afraid we were never going to have children. When they were born, I was 34 and my bride was 33. After we brought the boys home, my initial thought was: “What’s next”? After being married for such a long time as a childless couple, I was concerned that perhaps parenthood would prove a challenge we were ill-prepared to meet. Fortunately my bride, from the outset, proved herself a superb mother.
Changing endless diapers and making endless bottles of formula she did like a pro, as if her entire life had been preparation for these tasks. When the toddler stage entered, she was constantly on the go, chasing after two inquisitive little boys who could cover a great deal of distance in a small amount of time. I helped as much as I could, but the law mines often meant that for large portions of the week my bride was on her own. This was especially a challenge with Larry as he always ranked among the boldest of spirits. One morning my bride took the boys to Renfrew Park a few blocks from our home. Toddler Larry loved that park. He loved it so much that during the afternoon he slipped from the house and began a toddler trek to the Park. My bride was frantic until a policeman returned Larry to our house safe and sound to the vast relief of Mom.
The boys were both late talkers and thus my bride began her relationship with various governmental “helping” agencies, who soon decided that something was wrong with both boys. Well, they were half right: Larry it turned out was autistic. He began to speak about the same time as his brother, but he would always speak with difficulty and with a limited range of words. I was crushed about this initially, alarmed for Larry’s future. My bride’s optimism never faltered. She, from their earliest days, began to teach the boys in “Mommy School”, tailoring Larry’s lessons to his abilities. She continued to do this after our kids began to attend public school, with Mommy School ending with High School. I largely attribute the academic success of our two other children to my brides’ patient instruction of them as they grew.
Our boys were joined by our baby girl three and a half years after their birth. Tending the boys while pregnant was often a challenge to my bride, especially on one interesting, that would be the word, day when I came home and was advised that the boys had displayed their artistic skill, by painting on the white walls of their room in poop. Life was rarely dull for my bride as our kids were growing! With the advent of our daughter my bride had an inquisitive, and talkative, mini-her, who for the first years of her life often would say what her Mom had said just a few minutes before, as if the words were thought up by her. Donnie quickly reacted to this little prodigy by learning a new phrase, “I scared of sister.”
And so our family was complete. The years passed all too swiftly although it did not seem so at the time. My bride, a Methodist convert to Catholicism, gave the kids religious instruction as part of Mommy School. The kids also participated in catechism classes, in which my bride served as a volunteer. When we were told that our son Larry could no longer participate in regular catechism, my bride worked out a compromise by which she would instruct Larry outside the regular catechism class, with Larry joining his class for parties and other fun activities.
At our public school, my bride was always available as a volunteer. She was Larry’s foremost advocate in that she constantly insisted he receive a real education from the public school and that they simply not act as a glorified baby sitting service for him. Several years running during Individual Education Plan meetings she had to demonstrate that Larry, could, in fact, read, as we had taught him to do, something that eluded his paid teachers for years.
Life of course was not all instruction for the kids. My bride would take them to swimming lessons, Larry especially loved them, during the summer. At Halloween she would take them trick or treating. Christmas would include a visit to Santa while they were small. Summer would encompass fishing trips out to the local lake, frequent trips to the park, swimming in the small pool at home, the annual treks to Kenosha and Indianapolis during August, etc. In all of these my bride conducted constant supervision and direction, as well as being chief playmate for our kids. Our golden years, as I call them, were largely of her construction.
As the kids got older they got involved in more activies: cub scouts, brownies, academic bowl, band, theater, and my bride made sure they got to meeting and helped them with their activities. And so the days of the childhood of our children were lived, passed and became things of precious memories.
The great tragedy of our lives struck when our Larry died in his sleep four years ago of a seizure on Pentecost Sunday in the wee hours. I was crushed with grief. I told my wife that she would have to be the strong one during the week of his death and burial, and so she was. As I waited for the coroner that Sunday morning, she took the children to mass and sang, she being the singer for that mass, to the amazement of our priest and the congregation. She only gave way to grief once that week, when she was ironing the white shirt in which Larry was to be buried. Her faith was so great that her grief was largely banished because she was certain Larry was now in paradise. At our son’s funeral, sunk in depression, I felt a wave of joy and peace that I have never known before or since, Larry, I guess, giving me a small sample of the spiritual joy of the Kingdom of Love Eternal. Since the death of my son, my bride has been my tower and my rock. I would never have made it through that dreadful time without her.
Our fledglings began to leave the nest with our son Donnie. He graduated from the College of Law SIU on Friday and our “baby girl” is graduating from Monmouth College today.
When I stand before God for my particular judgment, I assume that what I did and what I failed to do in regard to my family will be of some consequence. If the assessment goes in my favor, it will be through no merit of mine, but due to the ceaseless work, patience and love of my bride, the mother of our children.