Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The priviledge of having siblings....

Lucille and Harold Smith

My father was Harold Smith. He was born on August 29th in 1929. He was the only son of Everett and Lillian Smith. He had an older sister Lucille who died when she was a child so he did not have the joy of having siblings. When he married my mother, Leah Anderson, I believe that it was his plan to have a large family right from the start. Leah had come from a family of eight children and very different upbringing then my father had as an only child.

They had my older two sisters and me in the first 5 years of their marriage and a pause for 5 years. He established himself in the retail business world, first working for J. C. Penneys in Lapeer and then worked for Egglestons in Lapeer and eventually in Romeo. In 1955, the year that I was born, we moved to the Fritz subdivision on 29 Mile Road in Romeo. He was a hard working man who had gotten his business degree and helped to build the Eggleston business before moving on to work with the Mitzeldfeld's Department store in Rochester, Michigan. During his years at Mitzeldfeld's the store grew exponentially and became a very large, highly regarded and well known business in a time of small family operations and decades before the "big box stores" of today. It was a busy time with a growing family.

The second half of our family came start ed to arrive in 1960 with another daughter. I think that Mom was beginning to think that she would have a house full of girls but Dad would coax her, “ Leah I would really like to have a son.” I remember the year that my brother Mark was born, Dad had bought a model train at Christmas time. It was a Christmas gift for the new baby coming in January according to Dad. If the baby turned out to be another girl, she was going to like trains! Mark was born on January 15th and was the boy that Dad wanted so badly. It wasn't long  and Dad was teasing mom “Mark really needs to have a brother! Every boy needs a brother!” And then their family was complete with the birth of Matt in July of 1964.

And then there were six of us. He gave us the opportunity that he himself did not have. We all grew up together and were able to enjoy family experiences time six. Some times it was chaotic and but it was always fun. There was always someone to play with. There was always someone fight with, wrestle with and cry with when you banged your knee. There was always someone else to blame; “I did not do it!” but you learned quickly to never squeal on each other either. If one got in trouble, we all did! There was always someone to try on your idea with and someone to conspire with. We taught each other things we should do and things we should not do.

My Dad had the sole responsibility of taking care of his parents as they aged. Grandpa Everett had MS and was confined to a wheel chair. Dad never complained as he assisted his mother and father in those years. He made certain that they were present for every holiday and every family occasion as we grew up. This was in the day before handicap parking and wheel chair lifts in vans. It was a huge undertaking to bring Grandma and Grandpa out to Romeo or Imlay City from Detroit to participate in all the holidays, family birthdays, weddings and important family events. We helped him when we could but we were kids.

There was always a friend willing to lend a hand. A man from Church or a neighbor from across the street.  I think that he knew what he had missed out of by not having a sibling and he made sure that his children would not miss out of the experience.
My Dad did not live long enough to give us the chance as adults to take care of him. He died quite suddenly the day after his 67th birthday, August 30th, 1996. That was 14 years ago. We miss him as much today as we did the day he died.

Every time that I gather with my siblings I am reminded how important it was to my Dad that I had the wonderful sisters and brothers that I have. I am reminded how important it was to him that we were not left alone when he and Mom died. I am reminded how much they loved us and all that they taught us and how much they allow us to learn from each other. I am reminded how important as a family we are to one another. I am reminded that we must as individuals walk the path that is our own life but we do not have to walk it alone. I am reminded that they also gave us the faith in God which will always pull us through every event in our lives.

Next week my siblings and I will travel to Denmark and Norway to visit family members of my Mother’s family. We know that Mom and Dad are with us in spirit. We know that they are happy that we are getting this opportunity to meet family members who live in far away places. We will think often of Mom and Dad in the coming days and how happy they would have been to take this trip with us if they had been here. We can thank Mom and Dad for giving these six children of theirs the opportunity and the privilege of having one another.

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