As one of 9 children of Eugene and Betty Mische I’ve never forgotten, ever, that of all the gifts that have been bestowed upon me the most powerful, if not always the most obvious one, is that of my mere existence.
Its why, even in my own darkest moments, I have been able to crawl out of those places and embrace that simple, basic and profound gift: Life.
Trust me, it’s easy to forget that and focus on the dark corners of my mind. The world around me swirls with what seems all too often to be sadness, madness and badness.
Yet, I know that isn’t the entire world. All of the time.
One of the ways I have done that in my life is to remember the blessing of the family my parents created in their own lives. Growing up in my parents’ home was not always sunshine. There were often moments of great darkness, pain and suffering. But, there always seemed to be enough love to help heal the pain, lessen the sorrow and elicit a smile and laughter.
I don’t speak for my siblings when it comes to how they found the life they lead in the way that is meaningful for them.
I do speak for myself though, when I say that each of them are remarkable, kind, generous, smart and successful human beings.
They are, in large part, because of the parents we had – however successful or unsuccessful we may have thought they were in being parents. They obviously did something right along the way – either deliberately or on accident – that allowed all nine of us to figure out how to function in the world we live in today.
My 84 year old Mom lives next door to me. I adore her despite how much she can annoy me. There is no twilight in my Mom. Only light.
Perseverance. Stubbornness. Sly, sneaky Mom manipulation. Joy and laughter. Courage and conviction. Passion and persistence. These are Betty Mische.
She’s taught me a lot of things. But, of all the things she taught me that has stuck with me the 53 years I have been privileged to spend with her is this: “Be nice to one another.”
It is always to one of her kids about how we should treat another one of her kids.
“Be nice to one another.”
In our middle age it is clear that none of us are any longer teenagers. We have our own families. Our own lives. Our own opinions. Our own future.
In that it is easy to find one disconnected from brothers and sisters but it is also easy to find that connection come back when one looks at photos of us together throughout the years – or when our youngest brother, Will, celebrates his 43rd birthday today.
The world does move at the speed of life.
One moment you’re 13, running a gas station, surrounded by kids and fighting over what song to pick in the jukebox.
The next minute you’re 53, running a non-profit, surrounded by families of critically ill and seriously injured kids, trying to find ways to help more of them with a mortgage payment.
It’s why when I find myself going to those places that can weigh me down with anxiety, sadness and despair I seek the places of light and joy and purpose.
It’s often found in the memories of my life I cherish with those who have made me who I am today: My family.
My wife and kids have come to know that some of my memories as a child seem to have vanished. Sometimes they come back in dribs and drabs. Often barely a picture and more a silhouette in the time of my life.
But, there are those that have become so much a part of who I am as the bones and blood and skin that make up the body that carries the soul I have had since the moment of my creation.
They are the memory of my final words to my difficult, complex and troubled Father the last time I saw him before he died, “I love you, Dad.”
The memories of being with my brother, Will, as he finished his first marathon – or more accurately, the memories of me finishing more than hour after him!
Those of my sisters, Teresa, Kris and Bep, who, if all I would have had for siblings had been sisters, would have been enough laughter, arguments, beauty and brains for a lifetime.
And, my Mom. Memories made. Memories being made. From hot dogs in a crockpot in a Mobil gas station to a date with her 13 year old granddaughter for a play in a boat. 84 years around the planet and more to come.
There is a world that pressures us to keep up with it. There is no “Clap on, Clap off” feature.
The days are long. The years are short.
Every day isn’t a memorable day. But, throughout our life we ought to make sure that there are enough days that will be. Especially for those that we love the most and some day may well miss the most.
As humans we do things to ourselves that animals do not. We punish ourselves for the things we didn’t say or do before it’s “too late.”
Run with your Brother, Dance with your Mom, Laugh with your Sisters and Tell your Dad you love him.
It’s never too late.
Until it is.