Lessons From My Dad’s Family

This one wraps up a few posts on thoughts for father’s day. I know it’s early but I’m usually always late with father’s day greetings… In the first post I talked about a little history that drives the importance of these lessons. In the second, I talked about lessons I’ve learned from talking to my dad and from what little memories I had of him from my childhood. I’ll finish with lessons on family from his relatives…

So not only was my dad out of those years but, naturally, his brothers and sisters were out (this was not their fault.. I’m not getting into blame in these posts other than to talk about the child abuse witch hunt in MA at the time.. But they missed us just as much as we missed them). I missed some really important observations and lessons that I get to see now anytime I visit them or talk to them. Things that I bet would have been instilled in me. I think a certain closeness in my immediate family has been missing and I think not seeing this modeled is a big part of it.

Family Matters

My dad’s family… The Walshes… I can’t even begin to describe them. Strange. Quirky. Hardly serious (unless it is called for). In love. There for each other (usually). Together. They just do things together. They call each other – a lot. They visit each other – a lot. They hug and kiss – everytime they see each other. They are close knit and they get along really well. Sure they have their moments and their personality clashes (you can only get along with a Walsh for so long… We can be¬†are loud and annoying and we all seem to suffer from some of the same flaws.. get everyone together and it can come out ūüėČ )

Whenever we go to a family event it is really a family event. You can just see the love and enjoyment everyone has being together. There are jokes, long long running jokes, inside jokes, gags, random presents, a desire to serve and help each other out for the most part. They’ll sometimes call each other to compare notes while watching a Red Sox or Patriots game. They still do stuff together as adults.

Wrigley’s Gum, Orange Sprinkle Cheese & Spagetti Sauce

One of the things I remember most about my childhood? Sleeping over Aunt Sue’s house. There were rituals about it… We could count on her to have gum. We could count on her to make whatever we wanted to eat – but it almost always consisted of a noodle dish – normally her great spagetti sauce with sausage and orange “parmasean” cheese sprinkled on top. There was always a chocolate cake smothered in frosting for some occasion or another.. Her kids, my cousins, were older but always fun to visit. Her husband – Uncle Brian – was a great role model for me. He was (and is) an engineer’s engineer. Even had the engineer’s beard. Always with the latest computer even before they were around everywhere. Always with some sort of electronics gadget to play with from his day job or hobbies. I spent as much time playing on his computer as I did playing the organ (with my headphones on.. I think I was required to wear those) over at PAPA’s house. ¬†I never met my grandmother, she died before I would have had the chance but Aunt Sue seems to have become the matriarch of the family. I think you could say she’s the glue that holds the family together. She isn’t happy unless she’s giving her house, her time and her stuff to you. She isn’t happy if everyone isn’t chatting. (She also isn’t happy if the house is any warmer than 58 degrees… That’s why Uncle Brian just about always has a hoodie on – even in August…)

Being There For Each Other

Dad’s brothers and sisters really banded around him. They protected him and cared for him. They advocated for him. Even to this day when he’s in a funk or having a tough time medically or emotionally they rally around him. I have to be reminded to call family, they just do it automatically.

Even Until the End.

I was there when my grandfather – PAPA – died. I was in his nursing home – as were a lot of the family. Even more would have been there but things progressed faster than expected. They were all just there for him. They knew what to do, and they stayed by him, encouraging him as he very peacefully went, with a smile on his face and a tear on his cheek. In so many ways that is a memory I’ll always be moved by. By the tenderness of the family, by the comfort, peace and strength everyone exuded and by the dignified, proud and peaceful way he passed.

You can’t be at a family gathering without at least one of the uncle’s or dad doing a papa impersonation. His antics, his mannerisms and expressions. It’s great. It isn’t irreverent, it’s flattering and it memorializes a great man who valued family. A man who had his own ups and downs but was there and in love with his family. He came to my wedding, I’m so happy that I can look back and remember him there in his wheelchair watching his grandson get married. After I started getting to know them again – and before papa died – he would always be at every family party. He hated that he couldn’t get the right words out and it would frustrate him until he just gave his “NEVERMIND!!!” wave with his arm. But even though he couldn’t communicate – you could see the joy he had seeing his family together and laughing. Even if it was at him. You couldn’t visit papa without getting a hug and a kiss.. Didn’t matter if you were a man, a woman, 5 or 50…

They are always there for each other when something bad strikes them or one of their in-law extended families. That’s just the way they are.

Speaking of Papa..

I have a TON of happy childhood¬†memories of Papa and his house, too. Those memories are just as significant ¬†as the ones of my father or hanging out with Aunt Sue. I remember his typewriters downstairs. I remember that organ he had that we would play. I even seem to remember a big circle rug in a porch that the dog (Turk, I think?) would always be on. He was happy. Always happy. He was just as much a jokester as the rest of them and he just loved being around the family. ¬†A good reminder for grandparents… You’re as important as parents in the growth of the children in your family. Be there for them.

Outside is where the fun is 

I can’t help but mention that anytime we go to a family gathering there are four constants… Chicken cutlets… A sports game on in the TV room.. Dad being sarcastic and a clown… And most of the fun happening outside. They still do family kickball games. They still play ball outside. They know how to play outside – young and old. You don’t see that all the time these days…

It’s almost like they have a lot of the good family life aspects from the 50s ingrained into their genes and modeled generation after generation.

That’s it…

I said just three posts. I’ve learned and continue to learn a lot from my dad and his family. I look forward to the lessons I have yet to learn and I hope to pass these on to my kids. I can tell you, though, this father’s day the lessons about being a good dad are going to be most heavy on my mind. Thanks Dad. We had a great beginning, a horrible middle and we’re enjoying the ending. Let’s hope it’s a long one and I’m happy it is all behind us. I love you and trust you with my own kids.

No… That’s not it.

I was all done but wanted to add this.. This really did come to my mind after writing the above. The whole point of these posts isn’t to trick you into reading my thoughts on my faith, but I think it fits. I think it’s important.

I have things to share with the rest of the Walshes too,¬†I think. I think sometimes there is a bit more anger left stuck inside folks than there should be about the circumstances I described in the first post. That is understandable but keeping that bottled inside doesn’t do anything. It deadens ¬†your nerves, it lessens your ability to get close to people and it prevents life to happen as it should. Forgiveness is the key. I don’t think I fully realized that until I became a Christian like my Aunt Trish – coincidentally we found that path about the same time unaware that either was heading towards it. When we don’t forgive it tends to be because we are stuck looking at life from our own lens. We are stuck thinking of “me”. I think I got some of the desire to hold on to anger from the Walsh side. We think that by not forgiving and holding onto our anger we are sending “justice” to the other party.. What we forget, though, is that anger only hurts us in the long run. It poisons our systems. That’s true when it comes to forgiving others, it’s true when it comes to allowing yourself to be forgiven. This was a crappy situation and there were a few factors at play but we’re here now and none of us should hold onto any bitterness about our situation any more. It’s done.

I know most of my family doesn’t believe as I do. I know most have scars and wounds from their own faith upbringing.. I gotta tell you though –that isn’t God that messed things up…¬†¬†That wasn’t Christ…¬†Sometimes some churches can be really bad places to find true Christians living like Christ – loving you¬†where you are..¬†¬†Loving you for¬†who you were created to be. ¬†That’s what Christianity is… It’s a God who loved us so much to send His son to die for us.¬†The closest thing I can equate to how that might have felt right now would be Dad giving up the fight to see us because he knew it was in our best interest. Now what Christ and God felt was so much worse but I think that is heading in that right direction. Jesus agreed to pay the price of our sin – separation from His father while on that cross – if it meant he could redeem us eventually. He bore that full weight of my sin, of your sin. Whatever that feeling of separation was – he got it.

I am so happy to have each of you in my life now and I really hope that we can have that relationship forever. There’s no magic formula, there’s no dollar value. Just an agreement that we aren’t perfect, and an agreement that Christ paid the way for us into Heaven and a belief in Him as the one who has the power to open that door to Heaven for us. Someday we’re each going to die, between now and then we have a decision to make about where we’ll be after that. On one side is an eternal closeness that probably feels a lot like a Walsh party – except on streets of Gold. On the other side is emptiness and loneliness, regret and memory of the times we could have accepted this gift… forever… Probably not that unlike those times Dad or I were having sleepless, lonely nights in different places for different reasons. I’ve chosen God.

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