By Bob Hubbard
My father, Bob, was an only child, raised by his single mother and maternal grandparents. For some reason that was never adequately explained to us, he and my mother, Clare, decided to raise a large family in 1950’s Brooklyn. I had an older sister, Joan, who died before I was born. So I am the oldest of our seven living children. Seven kids in ten years! We were a large family in a Brooklyn neighborhood full of families.
Mom was always in the middle of the fray. Many times she was the instigator of some adventure. Living near the ocean, we would go down to the docks frequently where the local fisherman would bring in their catch. On Friday evenings in the summer there would be lobster races with banging of pot lids and cheering on the small kitchen floor with the losing lobster going in the pot first.
Of course there were multiple activities with five boys and two girls who all played a wide variety of sports from baseball and basketball to softball and surfing. You name it, we got hurt at some point playing it. My dad was a surgeon. He would go to work every day in a three-piece suit. I remember him coming home from making rounds at the hospital on a Saturday morning, standing on the side lines of a 7th grade baseball game, still in his suit.
He worked hard. Often, he did not get home in the evening until 6:30 or 7 p.m. after having left as early as 6 a.m. to go to the hospital to operate. Returning to our home of rambunctious kids, he would come in, take off his coat, but never his vest or tie. He’d sit down and watch the national or local news. He had a bad back from someone diving in a foxhole on top of him in the Pacific in WW ll, so he was never the dad who threw a baseball with us or wrestled on the living room floor. In fact, he became permanently disabled my senior year in college. He died young at age 69 in 1988. This past April, he would have been 95.
Yet, what a quiet example he set for us. All seven of “the kids” graduated from college, three have law degrees, one is a nurse; and another is a paralegal, and yet another has been working in the environmental field since the late 1970’s.
More importantly, all seven of us are still married to our original spouses. Some for as long as forty years. Combined we have twenty-three children. And most importantly, we love each other and enjoy each other’s company. No seriously. When we come together our connections are seamless. We care about what each of our siblings is doing. Our kids remain connected with their cousins from all over the country.
Why and how did this happen? Why is it important?
I really believe my parents set a continuous example for us of a couple that loved each other, truly in good times and in bad. They held us accountable to each other. On more than one occasion, my dad told me, “your friends are your friends but he/she will always be your brother/sister and will be there for you.”
My dad set an example through simple words and actions to show that he loved us. He sometimes seemed at a loss in the chaos of our home, but we knew he was there for guidance, whenever we needed help. His was the steadying hand on the tiller of our home.
It is clear to me in my more mature years that, number one, he loved our mother. Number two, he loved us, even when we failed at something.
As my wife Kathy and I raise our own large family of eight kids with their six spouses and now sixteen grandchildren, my dad’s example is constantly in my mind. Fatherhood comes with many challenges and not a lot of good “how to” books. I have found over the years that if I can be a positive example to my children, love them in good times and in bad, we will all come to a place where, out of love and respect, as they mature they become your friends as well as your children. There is not much more that I can wish for as a father.
Bob Hubbard is co-owner of Hubbard Family Swim School