Now, that's a family


I was an only child. A good friend of mine was one of 14 siblings. I have trouble even imagining that, much less living it. Some of the stories he can tell about a big family are at once funny and horrifying to me.

Chuck Wessels is a boomer born in 1953, five years younger than myself. He is the seventh child born into a family with fourteen children. I don't imagine he saw his mother and father very often. I think they were busy. At any rate, I love to listen to some of his stories. Like the time his brother threw a trouble light into the water while he was taking a bath. Chuck can't remember what the purpose of that was, perhaps an argument sometime before, but it obviously almost electrocuted him. He said when he went to tell his mother, his voice was four octaves higher, and remained so for about two weeks. That is a funny story that could have had a not-so-good ending. I'm guessing there would be a lot of stories like that in a family with fourteen children. You just shake it off and get right back to it.

Another story that I really enjoyed hearing about had to do with Chuck stealing his sister’s baby buggy, with baby doll intact, and running down the street with it. It makes for a funny picture in my mind until Chuck falls into an open manhole in the street. So far I'm laughing, hoping Chuck will report that he was not hurt, which it seems he wasn't, at least until he started out of the manhole. About that time, a car ran over him. He reports it to have been a Studebaker. Obviously, that would not be good. A couple of days later, he woke up in the hospital, none the worse for the whole experience, although our group from time to time debates that. So far, it seemed that Chuck had used up at least two of his nine lives.

I asked him about meal times, and how hard it was to get his fair share. One of the upsides was some of his brothers and sisters had left home fairly early in his life, so there were seldom sixteen people around the table. Still, you apparently had to be on your toes. A bowl of mashed potatoes went pretty quick. Chuck tells me they had two tables, one for the grown-ups and one for the kids. He said it was a big deal when a spot opened up at the adult table and the next oldest kid moved up. A right-of-passage, served up Wessels style.

Judging from what I know about Chuck and his siblings, his parents did a fine job, in spite of the odds. Chuck had beginner’s luck in picking a wife, much the same as I did. He fell in love with a high school sweetheart. He and Connie have been married for 31 years and have two daughters, both of whom they can be proud of. They have a good life together, and, I might add, they have beautiful, intelligent, and youthful friends. As boomers grow older, it seems we haven't really grown up. Some of the fun times we have, we might just as well be 18 or 25. It's just now, the recovery time is a lot longer.

So, here's to big families and the boomers who survived them. Connie can only be glad he didn't follow in his father and mother’s footsteps, or we would have never seen them.