Saturday, July 25, 2009

Watching Big Brother...

Oh, it’s not the kind of “big brother” that phrase has come to be associated with, it’s an actual big brother...mine, and his name is Ed. Bill and I just spent a few days with him and his family in Door County, Wisconsin.

Door County is a lovely place located on the peninsula of Wisconsin. Green Bay on one side, Lake Michigan on the other...just beautiful. They rent
a cottage on the Green Bay side and that is where we stayed. Egg Harbor to be exact. It’s a lovely little town full of craft shops, restaurants, art galleries and an array of small businesses. Not a McDonalds in sight!

Ed and his wife DeeAnn have been going up there every year for the past 16 years (they started before their daughter Ellie was born; she is 10). Many family members and friends have joined them over the years. They love it up there - including Ellie - which is pretty cool I think for a 10 year old. They have favorite restaurants, activities and places that they go every year for the week they stay. They have several “traditions” of must d
o things...even Ellie. One of hers involves “Blue Moon” ice cream.

We had a great time. It was fun sharing with them a place they enjoy so much. The cottage has a gorgeous view of the sunset, the water was clear and the setting around us serene. We went to "Al Johnson's" restaurant and saw goats on the roof and ate swedish pancakes, we ate cherry pie at "Sweetie Pies", which even my husband (who is not a fruit pie fan) had to admit was the best cherry pie he ever had. We took a ferry (one of my favorite things on this earth to do) to Washington Island and explored there where I held an ostrich egg and enjoyed art made by locals. But those
things are not what impressed me the most...what I take with me from my time in Door County was my brother Ed...more accurately, my brother the father...this is the memory that stays with me.

Perhaps it is becaus
e during our visit Ed and I chatted about our dad and childhood. We shared memories of growing up and recounted some classic stories about my dad. Whatever the reason, my heart is full of my brother the father and I feel it’s a story worth telling.

Growing up, my brother Ed was not known for his patience or calmness. He was known to yell a bit and had quite a temper...we all did really. He tormented me as a child with his teasing, but he would also come to my defense when threatened by the neighborhood kids. Usual stuff with minute screaming at the top of your lungs to each other, but the next minute helping to pick you up if you fall.

A little about my brother Ed today...he’s a kind man with a big heart that is changing the world one soul at a time...he leads and teaches by example. Some things that make him happy are sitting in a rocking chair, watching Cubs games, playing golf and spending time with family.

I watch Ed today with his family, and he is patient, a great teacher, thoughtful and takes his role as husband and father seriously. This doesn’t surprise me, since I have seen him with my kids and he is great. Years ago, when my kids were little and Ed was single, we would visit for weekends. His place was a couple hours away, near Chicago, and the weekend would be such a wonderful break from our everyday life. His first home there was an apartment, then later he built a house. We were always welcomed to both with open arms. He thought ahead and had the fridge stocked with food. There were always clean sheets and a comfy place to sleep. He
always made us feel at home and treated us to dinners, br
eakfasts and was a refuge. He took an interest in my kids and was patient and loving to them and they were never a bother. His focus was always to teach them something with most activities. He helped make it fun to learn and was a really cool uncle. It was never a chore for them to go visit him, they always looked forward to it. He even let my son Job live with him and his family when Job finished high school so he could attend a culinary school near where Ed lived. He provided a home, resources and guidance to
my son...which I am sure was not always easy...Job was a handful at that time in his life. Bu
t he did not give up on him even when Job quit school and his investment in him is evident today...Job later finished school (on his own dime) and is now working as a chef. He got married and has 2 kids of his own and is a wonderful man and father who has never forgotten what Ed did for him.

I think what impresses me ab
out my brother’s fathering is that much of what he does was not done for him. Now, I am not slamming my dad...I long ago made peace with what he was and what he wasn’t and know that he loved us very much. My dad fathered better than he got for sure. I make note of it because it is so awesome to me when we rise above what we did not have to make something wonderful, instead of passing on to another generation our mess. And that’s how I see Ed. He took what my dad did do and expanded it, improved it, added to it.

One of my favorite Ed and dad stories happened over 30 years ago in my home, after I was married and had 2 of my 3 kids. Ed was a young man still living with our parents...probably college age and home for the summer. My then husband and I owned our own home but knew very little of repairs and
upkeep. Our toilet was stopped up and we had no money to call a plumber. My dad was an electrician by trade, but knew some about plumbing, so he came to the rescue (one of many times) and brought my brother Ed along with him. Ed, my dad and my first husband got to work. They unseated the toilet and removed it from the floor. Low and behold, the problem was immediately visible. One of my delightful children (who were about 3 and 5 at the time) had decided to flush a canning jar lid down the toilet. It fit perfectly over the opening to the pipe and covered it completely. So, they removed the obstruction and went about the task of removing the old wax ring seal and placing a new one. This can be a pretty yucky job. The wax is gooey and fits around an opening that waste passes through...get the picture? But the three men pushed on and I went in to check on them just as they were finishing. My dad, much like Ed, liked to turn activities into learning opportunities. So as they surveyed their work, sewage soaked canning jar lid and old wax ring about them, my dad turned to Ed and said “Well, some day when you own your own home and you need to fix a toilet, now you’ll know what to do”. Ed looked up at him and said “Yup; I’m gonna call a plumber!”

He is an involved and engaged father. He makes Ellie warm chocolate milk morning and evening. He takes turns putting her to bed and reading to her. He allows her to follow her dream of being an Olympic ice skater...even after a couple of broken bones. She is a priority
for him and I know he would do anything to keep her safe and cared for. And if things were out of his control, he would willingly call upon God’s power to intervene.

He speaks to Ellie as God would; loving, kind, encouraging, believing that she can do and be anything her heart desires, a rebuke when needed, but unconditional love and acceptance always. One of the most powerful things I took note of...he is there for her and he is consistent. He says only what he intends to do and does what he says. So, there is security in her life - and any woman will tell you that feeling secure is in the top 5 “things we want to have” list. The way he treats her is an example of how her husband should treat her...and from what I have seen her husband “to be” will have some big shoes to fill. My prayer is that she will never settle for anything less.


  1. Loved this story. Anytime we find inspiration in those in our lives enough to write about them, we know we are blessed. As one of those children who was mentored by Uncle Ed, I can testify that the things said about him are indeed true. He was the first family member that I visibly saw as being "successful" and it made an impression on me.

  2. Thanks Shay...good to see someone has figured out how to leave comments!

  3. That's not true I've commentted on here before. Great story!

  4. Thanks Pammy, you always come through!

  5. What a great story. I plan to print it out and save it to show Ellie. Ed is a truly wonderful man and husband, fantastic father and I consider myself lucky to be married to him. He also has a pretty awesome family that I am happy to have married into!!