An Outlook

If you didn’t already know you have by now ascertained that I turned 50 years old this past week. My mother, in collusion with the staff here at the Peninsula Pulse have been inserting photos from my past alongside this column for the past two issues and – as I write these words – I can only guess as to what image appears next to my byline.

I’ve had a full year to prepare for this moment and, when possible, I have allowed myself moments to reflect in preparation for this column. Not surprisingly, numerous subjects have drifted through my mind during these times but the one subject that kept returning was family.

In my early years family was relatively simple. Through my grade school years I had my immediate family – my mother and father and my sisters Sharon and Alison. I had both sets of grandparents along with a great grandmother, Mormor, on my mother’s side and a great grandfather, Grampa Tony, on my father’s side.

As the years passed, this circle narrowed. My great grandparents died; my grandparents died. But my sisters married and I suddenly had brothers-in-law and, eventually I married, as well.

Moving ahead somewhat, I had a daughter, Molly, and a divorce. My sister Alison had three boys, Joshua, Ian, and Caleb; while my sister Sharon had a son, Taylor, and a daughter, Erin. My father, Hal, died ten years ago this May, but my mother, Marge, continues to thrive.

So there I was, a father, a brother, an uncle five times over, and a son. I was one member of a distinctly small family. Then I met Barb, fell in love, and got married.

Before I go any further, it is time to interject a digression – a digression whose relevance will soon become apparent when I resume the main focus of this column.

I presume that all of us, at least once in our lives if not more often, have thought about the universe. We start by thinking about the planet we live on and that it orbits the sun. Then we think about how our planet is just one planet in our solar system. And then we think about how our solar system is part of the Milky Way Galaxy. And then we think about how our galaxy is just one of the hundreds of thousands of galaxies in the universe. And then we try to think about what our universe actually is and what can possibly contain our universe and…then we get a headache.

Well, maybe not a headache, exactly. It’s more like our brains just can’t quite handle trying to fathom the unfathomable and they shut down momentarily, which gives us a distinctly unpleasant feeling radiating briefly outward from somewhere deep inside our heads to our frontal cortex. And then it’s over and we are back on earth.

If you have experienced this phenomenon (and I can’t believe I’m the only one who has experienced this sensation) I’d like you to keep the recollection of that experience in mind as I conclude the rest of this column.

So, to resume my story, let’s skip ahead to the present. Barb’s mother, Bernice, like my own mother, is thriving in Sturgeon Bay. Barb has four children from previous marriages: Nick, Noel, Melissa, and Vanessa.

Barb also has three sisters: Beth, Kathy, and Suzi.

Her sister Beth has six children: Keith, Kevin, Kris, Kent, Kale, and Katherine.

Her sister Kathy has three sons: Kyle, Kent, and Korey.

Her sister Suzi has three children: Matt, Melanie, and Anthony.

Susie’s son Matt has a son, Hunter, and her daughter Melanie has a daughter, Allie.

Barb’s daughter Noel has two children: Kimberly and Cameron.

Her daughter Melissa has three children: Andrew, Ashley, and Isaac. And her daughter Vanessa has a son, Jon.

Andrew lives with Barb and me and has virtually his entire life. He calls Barb “Momma” and he calls me Dad. He is, and always will be, my son but…technically he is my step-grandson.

Okay, so here is what all this means in technical terms:

I am a son, a son-in-law, husband, and a father.

I have four stepchildren.

I have two sisters, three sisters-in-law, and five brothers-in-law.

I have fourteen nephews and three nieces.

I have one great niece and one great nephew.

I have six grandchildren (including Andrew).

And then there is the matter of what I have done to my daughter Molly who calls Andrew her brother (as he calls her his sister) even though she is actually his aunt.

If I have screwed any of this up, I apologize to the appropriate parties. But by now I’m sure all of you, my dear readers, understand my earlier digression. If I try to think of all these family relations all the way through I tend to experience that “what is the universe in?” twinge in my brain. For heaven’s sake, I’m only 50 years of age and I have six grandchildren!

Taken in smaller parcels, however, I confess to rather enjoying this whole situation. I love my wife, dearly, just as all these extended relations care about and love her. And last night, as I dozed on the bed before dinner, Isaac, my youngest grandson at three months of age was brought into the bedroom and passed into my arms. And upon recognizing that it was Grandpa Steve, gave me the best smile I have yet seen on his face. How can you beat that?

One final closing note as long as I am exploring family history this week. My mother was adopted, and all we know about her biological family is that her mother’s name was Lydia Taylor. The man who adopted her was one of something like 11 children and there are family rumors that his father had a previous marriage to a Native American woman and fathered an additional 14 children.

This is why I have no interest in pursuing any genealogical research beyond what I have already outlined. You see, I harbor an abiding fear that in doing so I may discover that I am that living anachronism memorably portrayed in the children’s song, “I Am My Own Grandpa.”