The Armstrong Archives (4): Let Me Back Track Just a Bit…

So, last Saturday I left us in the doctor’s office, where I was feeling very overwhelmed by the news of an unexpected pregnancy and my husband’s acceptance into medical school. But, let me take a couple of weeks to reflect before telling you the special surprise surrounding my firstborn’s birth.

It is now 37 years later. I’m older than my mom was when Alan and I got married back in 1973. The story I’m sharing will be extracted from the letters I wrote my parents during 30 years of medical school, residency, and medical practices in southeastern, northern, and now southwestern Michigan. It is the true tale of our adventures in trying to rear a brood of seven children, home-school them, and bring them up to the best of our ability in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Why do I want to share our story? Because life and love are worth sharing. Three nights ago I attended a lecture at Harvard by Dr. Marie Pasinski on “Neuroplasticity: the Key to Brain Health.” One of her recommendations for maintaining mental vitality is to share your story! So, as you read mine—if anything strikes a chord and reminds you of a story from your own journey— please share with us too! We can all benefit from exchanging our experiences in life and love!

I was sitting at lunch some time ago with my son Jonathan, who is a professor. “Mom!” he queried. “What if all of us are scandalized by what you write?”

“But Jon, you kids have never done anything scandalous. At least…nothing your mother knew anything about when she was writing Grandma!” I narrowed my eyes playfully, but some painful memories did flash through my mind.

Ah, there were secrets. One story that came out years later concerned our last born, Joel, when he was a baby. I used to have a little noose that I would tie around the baby’s foot while he sat in his highchair at the dinner table (in the days before seat belts) so that he could swing his foot but couldn’t stand up or fall out. One night, when Alan and I had left for our weekly date, whichever of the kids had been hired to baby sit for us forgot to put Joel’s foot in the noose. So, as soon as the blessing was over and the “Amen!” pronounced, Joel scrambled up on top of the table and took a running dive for the pot of soup at the other end, slipping and sliding to a halt within a hair’s breath of colliding with the steaming pot, scalding himself and everyone around him. It took many years before the kids were brave enough to relate that nearly disastrous mishap, although we all just smile and shake our heads now as we re-envision Joel’s wild ride.

So, every family has secrets, and every family has failures. Ours certainly did, but we also had a very blessed and happy home, and we still do today.

Some of you probably already know the “characters” in my story, but for those of you who may not, let me give a quick introduction:This is Alan and I (Kathi). We’ve have been married almost 40 years now. Alan is the CMO (chief medical officer) at a Pine Rest Christian Psychiatric Hospital.Here we are enjoying seven of our nine wild and wonderful grandchildren, and next week I’ll introduce our own children as they are today…before beginning the journey back 37 years…