“There is scarcely any less bother in the running

of a family than in that of an entire state.

And domestic business is no less importunate

For being less important.”

Montaigne (1533-15920

It’s that time of year again.  May marries June and hope springs eternal, or does it?  Celebrating Mother’s and Father’s day usually presents us with the opportunity to reflect on the growing attack on traditional values, a measuring stick to evaluate our progress or demise.

Another less significant event occurred between these two occasions, sending this father into temporary oblivion.  Approaching the big 5-0, my past flashed before me.  It was a little scary!  Suddenly it occurred to me that I hadn’t planned beyond a half century – actually that isn’t quite accurate, life had always seemed to have gotten into the way of plans.  And yet it has been quite a journey.

Oh the joys of fatherhood, and the disappointments!  Raising a family of 12 children in this changing society is much like UN Peacekeeping a strife-torn world.  It wasn’t always this complicated.  Twenty years ago one could send children to school secure in the knowledge that they’d return with parental values reinforced.  Then somewhere along the line, everything changed.  Informed that children had “rights,” parental authority took a back seat.  With the advent of AIDS, the message became more confusing.  “Just say no!” – “Use a condom!” – “Just do it,” they were told, always seeming to get half the message which, of course, was half the truth.  And again parents were left to straighten out the mess.

The government also has to take a share in the responsibility for what is happening to our youth.  With all the incessant talk of deficit spending, how does one instill in one’s children the idea that you can’t spend what you don’t have?

In a big family, diplomacy is of utmost importance.  Now someone has decided sibling rivalry is to be avoided at all costs.  Obviously they haven’t met our children.  They thrive on the competition – with 12 different personalities, sometimes arguments can touch off an all out war.  But sooner of later, the conflict is resolved and they are stronger for having tested the waters.

Now here it was the big day, and with so much to consider, the ups and downs, the graduations, the marriages, the births, it was overwhelming.  But, where were the children?  They had mysteriously disappeared on this sunny day, perhaps taking advantage of the teachers’ strike.  It was becoming obvious none were clamouring to wish their father a happy birthday.  Had they forgotten, or was life just too exciting for such a frivolous thought?  Time passé and my wife, Rosemary, part of the plot, went along with the scheme.  “Too bad your birthday is on a Monday,” she stated. ”If it had been yesterday everyone would have arrive by now.”  Then she disappeared, pretending to be too busy to make much of my insecurity.  At 5:00 she reappeared, stating she was dressed and ready to celebrate.  We would decide later where to dine, but in the meantime we would leave the house for an hour.  Off we ventured to a married daughter who lives a few blocks away.  Feeling somewhat dejected, I entered her house, walked to the back porch to a happening.  There in the backyard, were my parents, my siblings, our 12 children and almost as many grandchildren, friends and the biggest, best birthday celebration of my 50 years.

The children had pulled together to arrange a very special affair.  There would be no arguments this evening, a temporary cease-fire had been called.  Time enough tomorrow to get back to the nitty-gritty of daily living.  But tonight was for celebration, not only a birthday but the fact that somehow through all the trials and tribulations, a family had survived the onslaught of modern-day living.  Suddenly the past and future came together, like slowly mellowed wine.  It was all there was to life, the rest would be a bonus.  No matter what happened, the strength of the family would face tomorrow.

After toasting with a bottle of “Danish Akvavit” to Life, almost in a state of euphoria, I ventured home, unable to think beyond the present.

However, after much reflection, a thought has now occurred about the next election.  There is only one choice for those who believe in family: We must vote for politicians who are the battle-scarred veterans of family life – and avoid those who abdicate responsibility by only paying lip service to those values we cherish so dearly.

By the way, we’re back in the real world now, and the family continues with its ups and downs.  And as strange as it seems, we wouldn’t have it any other way, because anything worth keeping is worth fighting for!  Happy Father’s Day!