Single Motherhood

Raising 10 Kids All Alone

I just don't know how she did it.

Being a single parent of one child myself for many years, who is now in university, I just don't know how my mother managed to raise 10 small children all by herself. Although I've met a wonderful lady recently and we are raising her daughter together as well as mine, it still boggles my mind how Mom did it

Legally, she was married but it was never much of a marriage. My father, like most men of his generation, had to go away to work and make a living for their families. During those times, they were only allowed 2 weeks vacation a year so we would only see Dad for 2 weeks at Xmas time every year and every year there would be a new, little addition to the family waiting to meet him at the airport but for the other 50 weeks out of the year, Mom was the boss.

Supreme Commander over our small little kingdom and believe me, she ruled it with an iron fist. Don' t get me wrong, Mom was one of the most loving and compassionate women you would ever meet but when it came down to running the household, no one dared to challenge her authority and if they did, they would soon get a taste of her wrath but for 2 weeks out of the year, this stranger we called Dad would be in charge.

Whatever he said to do, we did and if you dared to challenge Dad's authority, then you still had Mom to deal with and something you never wanted to do is piss off Mom, so for 2 weeks, we all played this confusing little game of "Who's The Boss?

Being the 8th child born in a family of 10, I had 7 older brothers and sisters, who were in their teens and starting to have a social life of their own but when Dad came home, their social life was all but over for those 2 long weeks. No more going out at night and in bed by 9 pm.

Looking back now I can see why my older siblings were never that excited about Dad coming home every year but for me, as the newest addition to the clan, I thought it was great. Now I had this big, burly bear of a man looking out for me which meant my older brothers couldn't pick on me anymore, for 2 weeks anyway.

I'll always remember the smell of his Old Spice after shave which he used generously to try and cover up the smell of the Rum, which it did not, but I didn't care. I liked all the attention I was getting. He would always pick me up and sit me on his knee, then grind his unshaven, grubby face over mine which felt like sand paper tearing my skin off. Yes, the old man was home. Then, just as mysteriously as he appeared, he would disappear.

Mom would try and explain to me about how my father had to go away to work so he could send us home money to survive on but for those first few years, I was always sad to see him go. Even though I never really knew my father and sadly enough to this day we are still strangers, I'll always respect him because no matter what the relationship was between him and my mother, he always sent those weekly checks home which kept a roof over our head and food in our belly and for any single mother out there just trying to survive day to day, you know how much that means to you and your family.

Despite a little tension in the house when the old man was home, Christmas was always an exciting time for the family. Our home was one of those places were everyone seemed to hang out. It was always packed full of people. My sisters and their boyfriends, my brothers and their girlfriends, along with all my uncles and aunts and their families, were always there. The house was always buzzing with activity and the music never stopped.

Every night after supper, when all the dishes were washed and put away, all of us would move the furniture out of the living room and would start dancing the Jive. As soon as the music began then everyone else in the neighborhood would start dropping in and the party started. Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and all the other classic rock and rollers of the late 50's early 60's were cranked up on the old stereo's turntable and for hours our home looked like a nightclub without the liquor and the drugs, just good healthy fun

i still remember Mom sitting in the corner with a giant smile on her face watching her children dancing. She was an excellent Jiver herself but thinking back, I believe she enjoyed watching the smiling faces of her kids more than dancing herself. Every once in a while though, all the kids would get her to stand up and do an Irish jig while she played the harmonica. I don't think there was any kind of music that she didn't enjoy. Years later, I would go pick Mom up and take her for long drives along the coast or out in the country and she always got me to play this old blues tape I had by two old blues masters named Sonnie Terry & Brownie McGee. Mom loved the blues.

To this day I still can't Jive but someone would always pick me up and swing me around in their arms to the beat of the music. Those were great times for me and I am still filled with a lot of wonderful memories but soon the Christmas Holidays were over and it was back to school for all my older family and back to Mom taking care of business.

It would be 5 more years before my little sister joined the family and then another 5 years after that when my other baby sister was born but during those first 5 years of just me and mom hanging around the house, we became very close.

Mom always seemed to have enough love to go around for everyone but I was her favorite and everyone knew it. When I was 9 years old, Mom's sister, who still lived with her family back in Newfoundland where Mom and Dad were originally from, lost her 9 year old son to Leukemia. I know Mom was heartbroken from her sister's loss because every night she would tiptoe into my bedroom when I was sleeping, crawl in bed beside me for hours while i slept or pretended to sleep and just gentle brushed my hair with fingers and squeeze me so hard that I thought I was going to suffocate, but it was OK, I knew Mom was sad. We grew very, very close during that time and until the day she passed away, that love for each other never diminished. We shared a lot of good and bad times together.

By the time I reached my teenage years, all of my older brothers and sister were out on their own so for the next 5 years it was just me and Mom with my two younger sisters. As I started getting older, I finally realized why I used to hear Mom crying to herself in her bedroom just about every night. I knew paying the bills were always a major stress factor for her, as it is for most people even today, but I think Mom was just lonely. She hardly ever went out to socialize because she was totally committed to her family but as the kids started leaving home and Dad's visits went from once a year, to once every few years, as a human being, I'm sure she came to the realization that she needed some kind of a social life. She needed companionship as well all do.

Mom needed to be out amongst her own friends so after months of coaxing, finally once a week she would get dressed up and go to the dance at the local Canadian Legion. Even after 10 kids Mom was still a very attractive woman and she never had a problem finding a drive home but she never allowed a strange man in the house, not that we really cared if she did or not. Dad was becoming a distance memory and I was old enough to understand that she needed a new man in her life and I knew she found someone special by the way she was acting.

All of a sudden she was so happy all the time. Always smiling, singing and in a good mood. It was wonderful to see her this way and I wasn't quite sure exactly who or what was going on but it didn't matter. It seemed like for the first time in my life, my mother was happy and it looked great on her so I was not going to say anything. I was 16 and my two sisters were too young to understand anything so it all seemed perfect to me. Mom was happy and that's all I cared about.

It was months before Mom introduced her new man to all of us. Despite her and Dad's relationship, in the eyes of the church and the community, she was still a married woman and I know it still bothered her a lot to know how this new relationship would effect the family but in reality, no one really cared. Everybody knew the kind of woman Mom was and what she put up with raising 10 kids by herself so everyone was happy that she finally found someone to share her life with.

It was a little weird at first having a strange man around the house a lot of the time but he was a really nice guy and treated Mom like a queen and for that alone, I was happy for her. Besides, by that time I was too involved in my own love stories to really care. At 16 I was a walking/talking hormone and there were a lot of pretty girls around so life was good for me.

Unfortunately, it was grounds for my father to start divorce proceedings, even though we found out later that he had another family up North for years, in the eyes of the law at that time, Mom was at fault. We ended up losing our home when I was 17 and moving into a small apartment. My older brother ended up buying our old house and moving his family in, which took me years to come to terms with but it drove Mom into a deep depression which she never really recovered from.

I ran pretty wild after that. Riding Harley Davidsons and thinking I was a bad ass. It was always Mom's love instilled in me that kept me from going too far and has molded me into the loving father I am today but that's another story and not what this story is all about.

Its about a beautiful, wonderful woman who raised 10 children all by herself that all grew up to become wonderful parents as well as successful business & social leaders, while living all over the world.

Mom's faith in the Power of Prayer gave us all strength.

One situation I have to share with you before I end my story happened many years ago but is a beautiful story and well worth hearing. I feel it's a story that has to be told because the only other two people that know what happened are both dead.

My best friend Bruce McCormac, who Mom also loved like a son, was struck with a deadly brain aneurysm. He went to the bathroom and instantly dropped to the floor in convulsions. The doctors gave him 24 hours to live and if by some miracle he did survive, he would be in a complete state of paralysis and would suffer mental damage for the rest of his life.

All of Bruce's family were flying in from across the country while the priest was at his bedside reading him his last rights. It was a terrible time. The hospital wouldn't allow me to visit him because I wasn't immediate family so I went to Mom and told her what was happening to Bruce and asked her if she would say one of her special prayers for him. She said she would pray all night and knowing her, I knew she would be up all night kneeling to God in prayer, like I've seen her do so many times before.

I called the hospital that night after visiting hours were over and asked the nurse on night duty to do me a favor. I asked her to go over to Bruce's bed and whisper in his ear that I told him to Hang tough, help was on the way. She mentioned that Bruce was in a deep coma and wouldn't hear anything but I begged her just to go over and say those words to him from me. After a little more pleading, she laid the phone down and went over a did as I asked.

To make a long story short, the next day Bruce woke up from his coma and 3 days later he walked out of the hospital with absolutely no side effects. The doctors said it was a miracle but i know the truth. it was Mom and her prayers.

A few years later, Bruce and I were sitting around shooting the shit and having a couple of beers when he came out and said. Hey bud, I never did thank you for coming to see me at the hospital and saying what you said. It was the only thing he remembered out of the entire experience. I was kind of stunned and asked him, What exactly do you remember? He said he remembered me coming to the hospital and whispering in his ear to, Hang tough, help was on the way. He said it gave him strength to pull him out of some dark place he was in.

I immediately asked him if the nurse told him that and he was surprised at my question and said No, I heard your voice. I kind of sat there in shock for I don't know how many minutes until Bruce finally asked me what was wrong. I told him the entire story about what happened that night and we both just sat there in shock. It didn't take us long to go over to Mom's apartment and tell her the story. I think we all cried like a bunch of little school girls that day

i just lost my best friend, Bruce a few years ago which still hurts like hell but every time we would get together, that same story would come up and never failed to bring a tear to our eyes. I honestly believe that if it wasn't for the power of my mothers faith, Bruce and I would have never been able to spend those extra 25 years together so for that I am truly thankful.

I'm 54 years old now and feel the years slipping through my fingers like the changing of the seasons and I know my time is coming, hopefully not for many years to come because i still have a lot of living to do, but I feel very confident that when my time does come, Mom, Bruce and all the family and friends I've lost over the years will be waiting to greet me with open arms and for that peace of mind, i give thanks to my mother and the power of her faith and all the love she gave openly to all who knew her.

So God Bless my Mom and all the Single Mothers out there reading this. I know it's tough sometimes and I know what you are going through but I also know that you have to hang in there and keep the faith.

It is a beautiful feeling watching your kids growing up and moving on with their own lives. To me, it's what life is all about and i guarantee it will be well worth all the struggles you are going through right now and in the future, so just hang in there and keep pushing forward.

Thank you,

Dedicated to the Memory of: Carmel Joseph Byrne / Brennan

1929/2004


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