What a Family Does

June 12, 2007

By Ann

I was, to put it mildly, a difficult teen. As I went through my early 20’s I actually got worse. As bad as things got (and they got pretty bad) my parents never gave up on me. I lived with them during an extended period of unemployment, and they helped me get back on my feet again. After I divorced my first husband, they were my backup. I could not have made it as a single parent without my parents. Dad took my son to baseball practices. Mom came over and cleaned my house once a week, just because she wanted to help. They watched my kids every other Saturday when I worked a retail job. My child support never came (ever), so they were always helping out financially. When my car died, they bought me a car. Right up until the time I remarried, they paid for the gas in that car. Even when they didn’t approve of some of my financial decisions (like tithing), they would still help out when things got rough. My dad used to tell me, “Don’t feel bad about this. You’re not the only one we’re helping.”

Dad was concerned when I got engaged to my current (wonderful) husband. I had met him on the internet, an unusual thing in 1997, and downright scary to a technophobe like my father. A few weeks before the wedding, Dad said to Wonderful Internet Fiancé, “You know, you aren’t just getting a wife. You’re getting a family. Are you ready for that? It’s going to be a huge change.”

Wonderful Fiancé replied, “I realize that. I’ve always wanted a family. I’m looking forward to it.”

Later, Dad told me, “I didn’t say this, but I thought, ‘You’d better be, because that’s my family.'”

When I was little, my dad used to say, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say.” When you’re six and the person you’re observing is 26, that makes some sense: adults are permitted to do things that children are not. Even though I only ever heard that little saying when I was complaining about something, usually starting with “But YOU…,” I never really saw much difference between what what Dad did and what he said. The congruence between the two became more obvious than ever to me a year ago, when my mother had a serious, bilateral stroke. Mom was on a ventilator for six weeks, and then had to be weaned off, which took another six weeks. Her recovery was grueling. She had to learn many basic skills all over again: how to walk, how to use the bathroom, how to comb her hair. It took months. While she can do all these things again, she still has significant impairment. She’s lost her vision in one eye, she has a great deal of weakness on her right side, and most frustrating of all, she can’t speak. Through this year, my father has never stopped pushing her, cheering her on, and patiently working to figure out what she wants to say but can’t. My mother’s persistence and effort inspires and uplifts my father. His encouragement and enthusiasm help her persist. They are grateful above all to have each other.

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” (Robert Frost). If I have learned any one thing from my father, and my mother, it is this: families take care of each other. We can always count on each other. I have seen and experienced over and over again that I always have someplace to go.



  1. Ann,

    This is terrific. Although I wish everybody had a family like yours, I have to think that your folks are in the 95+ percentile when it comes to loyalty, decency, and kindness. What a blessing.

    My dad used to tell me, “Don’t feel bad about this. You’re not the only one we’re helping.”

    Simply awesome.

  2. What a nice story. As much as we all hate to admit it, sometimes we need a little help. How amazing of your parents, not only for standing by you and helping you out in your time of need…but also for their love and dedication to their family. Your entire family.

    That’s just good stuff.

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