Growing up in a large family has its benefits, as well perhaps as some drawbacks. I tend to dwell on the benefits. Being one of many children has its difficulties, but I would suppose no matter how large or small the family, the above is true. We seem to live in a world where everything teeters back and forth and the search for balance is something that is a constant, as our species moves slowly into the future.

When very young I was a timid little thing, almost completely absorbed by my inner world that was not always a pleasant place to be. It was the gift of being with some rough and tumble brothers that helped me get out of that trap and pushed me to learn to be sociable and to develop a personality that could interrelate with others with ease. I guess that is what childhood is about; to actually force the issue of change and growth before the adult years are reached. Of course I know heredity also works into this, but both are needed for some semblance of balance  to be achieved. I learned a lot from my dad, who had a very easy way with people and was well loved by just about everyone he met. Of course at home we would get the undertow of this, since he would not always voice his frustration that he often felt around others.

I suppose inwardly I am more like my mom. She tended to stay home, read perhaps too much and at times could over think about life and its meaning. So yes, I have both of my parents within me, as well as their weaknesses as well. A potent mix that could lead to good mental health or to other problems if not known about so they can be worked through; a lifetime process, at least it is for me.

There were 11 children all told, one died at three days after being born in 1958, but the rest of us thank God are still alive and kicking. Skip is the oldest, from my mother’s first marriage. I think he had it hard, for when my mom remarried and had her first child by my dad, he was already six years old. So as the other siblings were born, his life much of the time was spent taking care of us. He was also a second money maker, having to work long hours with my dad at the gas station that he owned for a time. I suppose he is like a second father to me, since I remember all the things he had to do for me and Robert and David.

Robert is the second oldest. I have always admired him even when young. He always had good friends that he could relate to. David the one just below me, the fourth son was the same. I often wondered about that, how is it that they seemed to have friends, when I just had some guys I hung with, but no real closeness was ever developed. It was not that I missed it, but it made me wonder. As I grow older this ability has slowly developed over the years, but it took some time to grow.

The three of us of course fought a bit. Now Robert always grew at a normal rate, so he was always bigger than me. David and I always seemed to be about the same size, since he also grew at the normal rate. So my bigger brother was way bigger than me and my little brother was my size. So I got it at both ends. Though it was not as bad as it sounds, for it made things interesting and funny at times, at others times not so much.

Robert and I used to fight, but not in anger. We had a game where a role of newspaper would be rolled up, and we would take turns trying to stab the other with it. It was fun, and I think I always lost. A couple of times we had a knock out drag out fight, but even then I could sense that he held back and would not do anything to actually hurt me. It was like a German Shepherd fighting with a Terrier. In spite of the fighting, like I said I always admired him and still do to this day. He has a sense of others that to this day I do not have. He is very socially conscious and even when a very young adult would be involved in activities that would help others. He was a volunteer fireman, which was a dangerous job, but that is the way he is. Just over a year ago he was ordained an Episcopal priest, something that did not surprise me, but I am very proud of him for finally finding that part of himself and living it out consciously. He has a wonderful wife who has always been supportive of him and it is no different now.

David I always thought as a natural leader when he was young. Like Robert he always had a great many friends, and also he was I guess a tad better looking than me, so I think there was a little jealously there. We were very close until the teen years hit and our testosterone kicked in. Since we were both the same size, some animosity did arise for a few years and we would get into some serious fights, though again we never did anything to actually hurt each other. I remember making a conscious choice not to hit my brother in the face. So like Robert, no matter how angry I would get with David or he with me, we always held back. David had a good quality. He would stick up for any member of the family and would fight anyone no matter what size in order to do that. He also has a generous streak that I have always admired and I am sure that is one reason he was able to find friends easily when a child and a teenager.

After David, Sissy the oldest girl was born. Then Judy and Jane who are twins, identical, though to me they don’t look that much alike, however this was not true for most, and from what I heard they had a great deal of fun with this in high school. Then John and Craig came along, and last but not least there is Georgia. Though I know them all now, it is harder to write about them since when young; a few years difference in age is a wide divide. I did have a lot of fun with my sisters, but I think as brother will do, I could be rough also. So yes growing up in a big family has its plus and minuses. There are still things I regret about how I treated those younger than me, especially Sissy, and I have talked with her about it.

Sissy is intelligent and caring. She works in the care giving quadrant and from what she tells me she loves it. She has always been deeply spiritual and religious, which has helped her to grow as she continues her life’s journey.

Judy and Jane are alike in many ways, but their attitude towards life is much different, which I think adds a deeper dimension in their relationship. They would do anything for one another, and yes because they are so close, tend to argue a bit, which is also good I believe. Jane helps those in the 12 step program and is very good at it. She helps women who are in troubled relationships and I am very proud of her. She has also experienced deep healing, which is obvious from anyone who spends time with her.

Judy is a very serious inward looking person. She has some struggles that are different than Jane, but she is also developing into a deeply compassionate and loving person. She cares for others and is generous to a fault. She has a wonderful husband, Roger, who is a very good man and treats Judy well. So Judy and Jane are a lot alike, but different also in ways that enriches them both.

John is a deeply committed man, though I probably know him less than the others. I hope as the years move forward that will change. He ministers to others as well and loves to preach the gospel. His wife shares in this passion and in some ways she reminds me of mom. She is very free to express her faith to others and does it with deep conviction. However I also do not know her very well, since I have only spent the total of three or four hours getting to know her.

Craig is the youngest brother, number 10. I suppose he is more like mom than dad. He keeps to himself, but also has a very outgoing personality when he is with others. He always seemed to be able to lead others when young, at least that was my impression, though I did not know him that well. He was a little guy, wiry and tough. He is all grown up of course now, but the toughness is still there, but also he is a gentle soul. Right now he is trying to save the groundhogs that live in the Santé Fe area, and when I call he tells me about his progress. He is very intelligent, so whatever he gets involved in he always knows what he is talking about.

Georgia, the very youngest has always been special to me. Though she does not remember, we used to play a lot, which I am sure true of all the brothers. She used to do something that would scare me half to death. I would be walking by the stairs under the car port, she would see me and yell Mark (!) and just jump……I always caught her but would always get angry. She would just laugh at me. She is also a lot like mom and she has certain traits that at times when I am with her that makes me feel that I am actually talking to mom. Dad was wrapped around her finger. One day Dad came in to the living room laughing and told us what happen. Georgia was three years old and was sitting on Dad’s lap. She wanted something and dad said no. So she got angry and said to my dad: “you’re old, fat, and tupid”….the “tupid” got to my dad, and to this day it comes to mind and I still laugh over it.

It is wonderful having a large family, and I love all of them very much, though I am closer to some than others since we talk about things more. A friend once asked me if I have a favorite. So I thought about that. As I went down the line I had to honestly say: “It seems, as crazy as it may sound, my favorite is the one I am with”. Perhaps it is because I see them so seldom. Along the same lines I had a humorous experience with Skip. He said one day that I was his favorite. I laughed and said, “Skip the only reason you can say that is because you only see me for a few days every two years”. I think that would change if I lived in the area.

In any case, I treasure my family, I am thankful for the past, for the fights, the chaos, the times together, the pains and pleasures, and truly savor the times we have together now that we are all grown up. We are all older now and it is only a matter of time until we are called out of this life one by one, it is all such a whirl, isn’t it? But what a whirl!

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Mark Dohle

Mark Dohle

I am 62 years old and have lived in the Atlanta area since 1971.  I am Catholic and my faith is important to me, yet as I age the mystery continues to deepen, so I read broadly and try to keep things somewhat open ended. I work with the aged and the dying. I was in the Navy for four years and I guess I am life of center when it comes to politics, but not too far left. Actually, I am kind of a political moron.

I am the third of  11 children; ten still alive, one died in in 1958, three days after birth.