Growing up, I never had this huge desire to have children - I'm not sure why. I was raised by loving, middle class parents; and I had no deep dark psychological issues that made me feel this way... I just did. Had I married a woman who felt the same way as I (or couldn’t have children) I’d probably be childless today, and would certainly be writing a much different blog post in Mid June. But anyone who knows Carol knows that would not be possible. If you looked up "Carol Grass" in the dictionary, the caption under her picture would read "Born to be a Mom", so childless was never really a serious option for our family. Hell… I even call her “Mom” most of the time, and the “To/From Tags” on my Christmas gifts to her say “To: Mommy”! At the same token I don't think everyone SHOULD be a parent, so anyone reading this who chooses not to have kids is OK in my book. In fact, the problem in the world is not so much the families with kids nor without... it's the families who shouldn't have kids that do! But that's a blog post for another day. This one is about a couple that "decided" to have children, and give me a reason to be thankful the day before Fathers Day.
But how many children should we have? In a recent study, the average # of kids per married couple is .9 (less than 1 child per family), and the average # of kids per family who do have children is 1.8 kids per family. So how the hell did I end up with 4 sons? As it turns out, we were just lucky I guess, and we’re certainly not sterile. I could write a book on our life of raising 4 sons for over 35 years, and it would be a fascinating read. But this is a blog post not a novel, so fast forward to June 20th, 2015.
What defines “blessed parents”? You can start out with having healthy children. Just having 4 sons who are healthy is a true gift from God. My heart aches for the sick children of the world and their parents, and when I see what some families go through who are not as fortunate as we are, well it really puts things into perspective. Now we've had our share of trips to the Emergency Room (all 4 of them played Ice Hockey and soccer), but that's just part of raising kids and today they’re no worse for wear. I'd love to see them exercise a little more but they are in WAY better shape than I was in my 30s so who am I to lecture? Hopefully they'll follow in their father's footsteps and find some form of workout they enjoy in their later years, but for now... golf and fantasy sports will have to do!
Maybe we define it by where they live? I'm not talking about the kind of house one’s children live in, but rather it's location in relation to their parents. All 4 of my sons live less than 30 minutes from us. This doesn't always happen, and is in no way a reflection on how "close knit" a family is. Shit just happens. People get transferred in their jobs. Kids go away to college and fall in love with someone, or with another part of this beautiful country. It happens all the time and as parents... there is really nothing we can do about it. So again we are blessed and we don't take it for granted for one minute because we are only one love affair or one promotion from all of this changing. But for now we choose to appreciate, celebrate, and take advantage of the fact that we all live in Chester County.
How do we do that? First of all we communicate. Michael still lives at home just having graduated from college, so we see him every day. I talk to my other 3 sons on the phone 4-5 times a week, and Carol talks to them more. What do we talk about – it’s hard to say. Its more of a “just calling to check in” than a "I have a question" or "I need something", but its been this way since the day each of them moved out. I have no idea how it started and it was never discussed ("Son, now that you won't be living at home anymore it's important to keep in touch with your parents by phone"... it sounds so lame and contrived). But talking to my kids on the phone is oftentimes the highlight of my day, and I hope this never changes!
We work on projects together as well. Justin and Andrew both have beautiful homes, and I love it when they need help with something. We've expanded kitchens, finished basements, and re-done a bathroom - and they're always available to help me when I need it. Whether it’s opening or closing the pool, wiring a TV or sound system, or clearing land - they always make time for me. "Clearing land”??? You wouldn’t understand unless you've seen my property, but we still laugh about all of the trees we cut down and disposed of. Amateur carpenters – maybe. Lumberjacks we are not... trust me!
We also hang out together a lot. What is a lot? I'm not sure, but it seems like a lot to me. They all have their busy lives, with their careers and their children, and their homes that need upkeep and their lawns that need mowing. But we usually try to get together a few times a month in the winter, and almost every weekend in the summer. Carol "insists" on a family get together for every birthday, and when your family is up to 11 “members” (plus 2 significant others), that’s a lot of birthday dinners. Add in 6-8 holidays, and a pool party/barbecue almost every weekend in the summer. And top it off with a week at the beach in North Carolina every August, where we get to "go back in time" for 7 days and all live under the same roof like in the old days. That includes 21 meals together, spending all day on the beach together, drinking plenty of cold beer, and telling "Grass Stories" and laughing all week long. If nothing else my kids are clever and sarcastic... I have no idea where that came from 😉
The week at the beach is the highlight of the year for us, and I still get tears in my eyes at the Sunday Night (first) dinner of the vacation, where we raise a toast to the Grass Family… and I give my speech on how blessed we ALL are, and how amazed and appreciative Carol and I are that they all want to spend their summer vacation with their parents. I know I never wanted to!
So in closing, my Father Day's message for my sons is as follows...
“Boys (they are all men but I will always refer to them as my boys)... Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a Father. It is my greatest joy and my biggest accomplishment, and there is nothing I am prouder of than my family. I hope you all grow up one day and can experience the same joy from your families as you have given me, and that you will look back on our journey together with a smile on your face. I love you all very much, and pray that you stay as close to each other as you are now, for all time. D
To all of the Dads out there.... Happy Fathers Day!