Category Archives: family

To the Ocean

By Colleen

When did I first see the ocean? Well, to be honest, I feel a bit foolish, because I was 21 years old before I finally actually saw it. Before you make your exclamations, let me tell you that I’ve heard them all: “What?! No way! How in the world have you not seen the OCEAN?” Yeah, they’re all the same. But give me a break; I’m an Irish farm girl, and I grew up in very landlocked country in the middle of absolutely nowhere. We had a river (thirty miles away) and we had plenty of ice-cold creeks to splash around in, snapping turtles and leeches and all. But, far away, way across the state, we had a lake, a GREAT lake.

When I was little, the trip across the state to visit my grandmother who lived exotically close to that lake seemed an eternity. The packing of the car itself was an ordeal. Do you realize how hard it is to pack seven to nine children (depending on age and willingness to make the trip) into one car? And we didn’t make it a “light” trip. My two younger siblings, James and Clare,, and I had an ongoing contest of who could pack the heaviest bag for the (at the longest) weekend trip.

We would hold our breath as we each placed our bags on the scale, normally used to weigh squash and asparagus. “Ha! Mine’s twenty pounds!” James would exclaim, Clare and I would clamber over each other to check the verity of his proud statement. “No way!”we’d groan in dismay. James was the victor most often, but that’s only because he packed the most books. We should have just done away the books to even the playing field. There’s no way he could have won if we’d only weighed our clothing. I swear that boy wore the same, striped red t-shirt and tan, cargo shorts for the first ten years of his life, along with the same bowl cut for his sandy, stick-straight blond hair.

After the bags and children were packed, we finally settled down to read all of those books that we packed. The average number of books finished on our way to Grandma’s was 2.3, but if you were a big kid, it was more like 3.2. When we did eventually get to our destination, hands sticky with laffy-taffy and corn nuts, successfully begged from our parents at gas stations along the way, the first order of business (after the dreaded hug from Grandma and awkward hellos, directed more at our shoes than at Grandma) was to go down to the lake.

“Mom! Dad! Can we go to the lake? Can we take a walk ALL the way out to the lighthouse? Please, please, please!” We would dance around mom and dad’s feet in anticipation of an adventure. More often than not, an older sibling would take us down the four blocks or so to the lakefront. Mom and Dad would stay back home with Grandma in her quiet and intimidatingly clean house.

We always wondered how Dad with his knack for making messes came from such an ordered home. How did the man who regularly hacked and slashed away at mysterious cuts of beef and pork on our dining room table (so much so that I was determined to never sit at the first right hand spot from the head of the table ever again), blood dripping down to the floor in rivulets and flecks of fats and gristle flying every which way, grow up on white carpets and sit down to eat in that spotless kitchen? The spaces in between the pink and white linoleum on her floor never even had any dirt in them. I know because I’d seen marveled at it as I bent to hastily pick up piece of chocolate chip cookie, stolen from her cookie jar one time. And nothing ever changed at Grandma’s. It was a rule.

Anyhow, we would sprint down the street and finally, finally see the “ocean”, Lake Michigan, right there before our astonished eyes. The path down to the beach in front of the azure mass of clear, fresh water was perilous, and up until you were about twelve, you’d need an older sibling’s hand to cling to if you wanted to avoid tumbling down the sharp embankment, through the briars and burrs, and onto the cold, white sands before the foaming water.

But once you were down there, down on the beach, it was pure magic. I always thought I was looking at the ocean. I couldn’t imagine anything as beautiful and grand not being what all those writers talk about in books. It was enormous! And I was so small! When I got old enough to realize the reality of the “smallness” of Lake Michigan, I persisted in calling it the ocean. It was. It was my ocean. The water hit the sky at the horizon, perfectly flat and still, and stretched out and out and out. It was my ocean. The waves were always cold.

The blue-green water prickled my skin into a thousand goosebumps, and made me and James and Clare scream when we jumped in. Slipping underneath the waves and into a shock of cold, my hands numb, my hair flowing about my face, I was in my ocean. And then I would resurface with a scream of success.

And so, if you ask when I first saw the ocean, the answer is that, technically, I first saw it after a nineteen hour road trip in college, off the coast of the Atlantic, in Charleston, South Carolina. Really, it was too dark to see much when we finally arrived at the waterfront around two A.M; the air smelled different, though; there was something wilder in it, something raw. The water was quiet that night, and it shone blue-black under a waning moon, all the way out past human sight. I whooped and hollered, and truly, I loved the air, the night sky, the ocean. But some part of my heart asked, “Haven’t I been here before?” It wasn’t my ocean.


Letter to my Brother Rob

by Mary

In the days of childhood, the sky was the limit for our games. Ever the builder, Rob lead us troops (ie) Pat, Raph and I on a hang glider making kick. We used old black plastic and sticks to create homemade gliders that we tested out off our barns roof into the manure pile. Needless to say, this project panned out to be a dangerous disaster, but many other games of self innovation followed suite, generally either set in midwood or in one of Robert’s many elaborate tree houses. Often times we could be spotted with knives, hatchets, and wearing our full indian costumes that my mother made for each of her middle children.

Later on, these games were taken over by the game of basketball, which once again Rob choose and excelled at. Hundreds of hours were spent in the parking lot with a band of brothers, myself, and an orange ball. By high school there were no more imaginative games. In the summer we kids could be found at Rung Hollow swimming. What fun it was to plunge off the barge rope into the cool lake! Winter time provided my family the opportunity to watch my brother’s basketball games.  It was a gift for the household to be able to watch Rob develop as an athlete and to follow his teams ups and downs on long cold Wisconsin winter nights.

As the chronicle of our childhood and teenage years dissipated, Rob became a rambling man. His adventures initially took him south, and than on to Texas where he became a philosophical, two-stepping carpenter. For as long as my memory serves me, he always has had the ability to express logic to me in a way that presented sensibility (depending on my mood). It is no wonder that contingent to his wanderings, Rob applied himself to studying Philosophy and Theology. Of Robert’s theological musings, my favorite has been when he shares insights on the subject of virtue. Upon the quest to obtain knowledge on this principle, my brother packed his black nissan truck and moved to Steubenville Ohio. While studying at the University of Steubenville, he came upon virtue in the form of human flesh…Nicole Naugle.

Nicole is a devout and virtuous women. She has a carefree laugh and honest sincerity. Soon she and Rob will be embarking on the adventure of life as husband and wife.

As a virtual expression of sisterly sentiment, I would like to continue this post with some pictures that depict my brother Robert James Slattery.

Robert: A true chivalrous desperado in desperate need of a haircut.

Behind my fears and insecurities, I always knew that my big brother would protect me from getting hurt. He has always been able to extend a hand to help me up when I am down, or use it to protect me. He has man-handled my arab/shetland pony when she would buck me off faster than I could blink, and taken care of business to an Etrick victim:) 😦

P.S. I am going to tag on the addition of saying that I totally brought the genius of Wranglers into this household, he totally copies me by wearing wranglers, and doesn’t even know it!

Super sweet, super caring, that’s my big bro.

Rob and I do have our battles-we still fight over Mom.

Fortunately, he has found a good woman who exhibits similar qualities to that of my mother.

I have this theory that siblings who are closest in age fight the most and also the most protective of one another. That’s certainly the case with us two. One thing of more of a trivial nature is the disdain I feel towards some horrid shirts that he likes to wear. He really truly sincerely thinks that this worse- than -awful dream shirt, for a 80 year old retiree on a golf coarse in Florida, is GREAT. I should add that he has been wearing it since he was an 18 year old with peroxide blonde hair. Yikes!

I can’t produce a blog post on my brother without mentioning that he has a lot more people then his little sister valuing his company. Rob is a natural leader and has a plethora of friends. As a matter of fact, for the last 2 remaining weeks of his life as an unmarried man, he had 2 friends fly to Wisconsin to spend time with him, followed by a drive to Texas with a slew of guys to farther celebrate his time as a bachelor. The way I put it to my sister Kate was ” gosh, it’s like he is dying of cancer of something…the way those guys are hovering around him!”
Leave it to that popular brother of mine.

Dear Brother Of Mine,
Though the world is a harsh place, and it is especially difficult on men trying to live in this world as a catholic spouse, father and provider, I have no doubt that you will whether all Wisconsin and Worldly storms, and be victorious as a the man and provider God calling you to be. Just get out in the storm and fight with VIRTUE!

Love forever,
your stubborn little sister,