I am a father. Indeed, I am the Paterfamilias of a clan that now numbers forty-one people connected by consanguinity or affinity, and within a year will grow to forty-four.
In our family, the in-laws are called outlaws, and those born to membership are called ‘the blood.’ I claim that the blood line is improving with each generation because, “the Brennans always marry up.”
To say that I am proud of my family is hardly enough. They are special and extraordinary people, and the bonds of affection and loyalty that connect them to each other are vital and visible.
In the ceremony that joined Polly and me in holy matrimony at Gesu church in 1951, Father Norbert Clemens read these words:
And if true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears. The rest is in the hands of God.
That phrase has stuck in my craw for a very long time. I am an old fashioned guy. The notion that the lifetime union of one man and one woman is the epitome of human happiness has always seemed pretty obvious to me.
It is embedded in our culture, in our music, in our literature, in theater and art, in the very language we use to communicate with each other every day.
Right now, our clan is preparing for another wedding. Our oldest grandchild, she who we long ago dubbed as ‘numero uno,’ MaryKate Radelet, is scheduled to wed Peter Stritmatter on August 6th.
I never realized how essential to a successful wedding the role of a grandmother can be. Fed X is on our doorstep every other day with another pair of shoes for Polly to try on.
Her dress, of course, has been the subject of discussion, apprehension and concern for months.
A couple of weeks ago, the Brennan clan gathered at our daughter Ellen Campbell’s house for a bridal shower. They don’t get together often, but when they do, it’s really party time.
The highlight of the evening came when Peter was presented with the forty year old Jodhpurs, originally purchased for ten cents as a Christmas present from Bill to Peggy. They have been used to celebrate weddings, graduations and anniversaries and to initiate new outlaws for decades.
Peter didn’t try them on, as was usually expected. Truth is they are getting a bit too shaggy, and about all he could do was to shove his arms into the pantlegs.
I could not help thinking as I Iooked around that room soaking up the noisy chatter and hearty laughter, that these will someday be known as “the good old days.”
And I can’t help but wonder whether, when my grandchildren are my age, they will preside over families as large and robust as ours.
Candidly everything I see and hear in the public arena suggests that 2066 will see a very different world than 2016. We have already been introduced to some initiatives that suggest the pace of change is accelerating.
Robots, intelligent electronics, computer chip implants and who knows what devices yet unmade will be as commonplace in that day as I phones are today.
And every bit as dramatic and revolutionary as scientific advances, we can expect social evolution to continue apace and even accelerate.
The whole idea of marriage and family may well be passé. I can’t help but wonder what will then provide “the greatest measure of earthly happiness allotted to man in this vale of tears.”