Posted in Family, Lucky Eleven

Brian

Brian in fifty-nian. Yep. That’s how we remember all these birthdays. LOL! I guess when you’re number six in eight years, you’re lucky if it’s remembered at all.

As a kid, with the silly nickname of ‘Breeder-Broy,’ Brian was a bit of a brat, never really caring much what anyone thought of what he did. He was spunky and inventive, starting his own candle-making business in the dank, dark basement of our old farmhouse. He also craved his alone time, and at one point, at an approximate age of 9, decided he didn’t want to share a room with three of his brothers any longer. He set up camp in the toy closet under the stairs with an old baby crib mattress. (Think Harry Potter’s room but way smaller.) I can still see him crouched down, pulling the plywood door closed saying ‘Nite, Mom’. It didn’t last, of course. His asthma got the better of him, and our mother nixed the closet room in short order. He loved B-B guns, motorcycles, and the outdoors, but his love of the outdoors has grown exponentially over the years to include year-round kayaking, snow-shoeing, bicycling, sailing and more.

He was handy like our maternal grandfather and began woodworking in his late teens making us napkin holders and benches. He married right out of high school, built his own home and then designed and hand-built his cabinets. With a crazy work ethic, he developed into a master craftsman in hand-built custom furniture with his work showcased in many high-end homes throughout the area. Specializing in kitchen design and cabinetry, in 2010 he partnered with a small, family-run Amish cabinet factory who now builds his cabinets to his exacting standards. Three kids and seven grandchildren later, he is the founder and president of Wolverine Cabinet Company with four locations throughout Michigan and looking to expand nationwide.

As an adult, Brian obtained his license to captain the large sailboats and will often grab some friends or family and sail the Great Lakes. With new wife Laurie, Brian is enjoying life to the fullest, relying on his excellent crew for the day-to-day running of his business and remaining always available, even when he’s sailing, kayaking, traveling, or just enjoying his beautiful hamlet on the Sturgeon River in northern Michigan. He’s happy and content and it shows. He loves his family and friends, and they love him in return.

We’ve had our differences over the years, but Brian is never one to hold a grudge and will always talk things out until there’s a resolution. Family is most important to him, and he has the gift of being able to see both sides of a situation and not judge. With age has come a humble wisdom and sense of fun that I greatly admire.

Posted in Family, Lucky Eleven

Terry

Terry. Toot. Tooter. One Christmas, when Terry was maybe 3 years old, he got a little sit-on riding scooter that he loved. He would ride that thing around our big house with abandon, a big grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye. Dad described him as ‘tootin’ around,’ and his nickname was born. He was and still is the most pleasant kid. Anyone else in their right mind would refuse to answer to that name, but not Tooter.

Terry has an interesting position in this large family. With four years between he and Brian, he would be considered the oldest in what we often to refer to as the second family. And with all of his characteristics, I would have to agree. When the folks decided to move the family to the back woods of northern Michigan away from ‘the bad influences’ downstate, Terry, at 14, would drive the old ‘Spider’ truck down the quarter-mile snow-covered driveway plowing a path. A born leader, he watched out for his younger siblings with a natural ease. He was happy pretty much all the time. A popular kid with both classmates and teachers, he thrived in the small Catholic school where he met the love of his life, Cathy.

I feel a special affinity with Terry. No one but Dad ever called me ‘Maur.’ After Dad passed, I realized Terry would occasionally call me that, and it just felt so good. I’m sure he doesn’t realize it, but in that and so many other ways I find him so much like Dad in his mannerisms, his fierce love of family, and his natural ability to be a ham. He has been a trusted confidante and a wise adviser. He and Cathy have created a wonderful family that sticks close together through thick and thin. He is slowly approaching retirement from Consumer’s Energy with a well thought-out plan (which, admittedly, is totally unlike Dad!). He’s just one of those guys you like hangin’ out with, waiting for the grin, the quick comeback, the twinkle. He loves all the Michigan seasons, skiing in the winter and enjoying their cottage on Lake Huron in the summer. But I think perhaps his favorite thing to do is sit around a campfire with friends and family, a cold beer, and a cee-gar.

Posted in Family, Lucky Eleven

Molly

Talk about a nickname! Try this one on for size: Molly Carroll O’Connor Fat Sissy Kook Babe. Yep. A pretty big nickname for a pretty little child. I think I can safely blame her oldest brother Chucky who apparently thought it was cute, and of course we just followed along. Nowadays we recite it a bit faster so it sounds more like, “MollyKelaConnorFatSissyKookBabe.”

Little Molly arrived in the nick of time to save Kathy and I from all these BOYS! A quiet little red-head with curly hair and fair skin, she got so much attention it made her quite shy for many years. 12 years younger, we three shared a room until Kathleen got married and moved out. She and I were then relegated to the brown bedroom at the back end of the hallway where we had bunk beds until I went away to college.

The flower girl at my wedding and the only girl left at home, she ended up growing up with the boys who remained. One would think that would make her a tomboy, but Molly is anything but. She competed in the local ‘Alpenfest’ queen’s pageant and graduated high school with honors. While in marching band at WMU, she met her husband Curt. With a degree in education, Molly taught second grade at the same Catholic school she attended and enjoyed raising their four kids in her hometown on the same street as our folks.

Molly is no longer the shy little red-head. She is comfortable in any setting and enjoys a great relationship with her now grown kids. With wonderful parents, Molly’s kids are a perfect example of what you hope our next generation will be. Hopefully down the road, as the ‘second’ family enters retirement age, we’ll see a lot more of each other.

Posted in Family, Lucky Eleven

Sean

Sean T., or Sean T. Highpockets is what Dad always called him. My brother Terry just calls him ‘Bubber’.

Sean was a mischief-maker extraordinaire well into his college years. He was a pretty easy-going kid, quick-witted and smart and pretty darned popular in school. I have several memories of Sean that make me shake my head and smile.

I was married with kids when Sean was in high school, and we lived about a half mile down the road. Our parents were in the habit of going away every year for an extended weekend. That was the perfect opportunity for a PAR-TAY at O’Connors! During one such ‘par-tay’ I received a frantic call from Molly saying I needed to get down there. I walked in the front door to a true Animal House scene filled with high-schoolers, music blaring, booze and beer everywhere. Someone was on a table. I found the younger kids and advised them to stay in the basement. After careful consideration, I went on through the kitchen and out the side door, shaking my head thinking, “I got nothin’.” At University of Michigan, Sean was eventually forced to put an ad in the college paper that read, “Quad Four keg king tapped out, kicked out, needs room.”

At the same time, this was the kid who would sit and read the newspaper front to back, put himself through U of M laying down tar on driveways all summer long, and start several businesses that now employ hundreds of people nationwide. He loves fast motorcycles and fast boats. He eventually got his pilot’s license, probably thinking it was the ultimate in fast (except it always feels pretty slow). He is smart, extremely funny, and can ‘Bust a Move’ when he chooses. He is thoughtful, generous, and humble to a surprising degree. He has borne the ultimate heartache with grace, actively taken care of both our parents, shared what he has, and is raising wonderful young adults with Cathy.

There are so many more memories I could share about his ninja-type humor, his love of family and his quiet, innate goodness. But simply put, I believe there are angels that walk the earth. I also believe I am lucky enough to be related to one.

Posted in Family, Lucky Eleven

Michael

Mike. Or Mick, as Dad would call him. I guess he’s even answered to MO at a job where there were three Mike’s, but he’d have to share that with me, so…no.

Mike was born with red hair and eyes of wonder. Literally, I’m not sure when he grew into them, but he always had the most questioning eyes as a child. Being number 10 in the crowd, it should be no surprise to learn that they had his birthday wrong for the first 11 years of his life. It wasn’t discovered until Dad tried to enroll him into Little League where the minimum age was 12. The guy doing the sign-up said he couldn’t join because his birthday wasn’t until the 29th. Dad said, no, it was just last week on the 19th. The guy said, uh, no, look here at his birth certificate. Mm-hmm, yeah.

It didn’t really seem to phase him, though. He still grew up happy and healthy, tall and athletic, playing b’ball in high school. At college, he met Therese, who coincidentally was also the 10th of 11 kids. To say they’re a match made in heaven would be an understatement.

Mike has a very dry sense of humor and can pull off a practical joke with the seriousness of a Jedi. He convinced me once he used to have the exact same nightmare that I did, even seeming to explain his so similarly to mine. I have yet to know for sure if he actually did or if he’s just pulling my leg. He’s a master, with a winning smile on an Irish mug, a sweetheart of a guy.

Probably one of my favorite things about Mike is the way he seems interested in you and yours. He’ll ask specific questions and really listen to the answer, engaging and affirming. He also gave us another Charlie O’Connor. Not a bad move, Mick.

Posted in Family, Lucky Eleven

Dan

Dan, D-doy or, as Dad liked to call him, ‘Dandy,’ is the youngest of the Lucky 11, 18 years younger than me, a generation younger than his oldest brother. He was the sweetest little curly red-haired toddler, and people thought he was mine when I took him out. And I took him out often. I never corrected them.

Mom was so careful with her youngest. He was slight of build, so she constantly worried he would hurt himself or get swept up in the waves or have any number of childhood calamities befall him. But when he was perhaps 3 years old, she left him behind at the laundromat in the small town where they lived, not realizing it until she stopped at the drug store. Quickly racing back there, she found him sitting quietly, waiting. He loved cars, and at the age of 4 had his own way of describing vehicles, referring to them not as ‘truck’ or ‘car,’ but as ‘stick, lift, pop’ (stick shift with lift door handles and pop-up door locks), or ‘shift, pull’ (automatic with pull-out door handles). I would see him at my little VW bug spit-shining it till the area gleamed.

Danny took some time to grow into himself, or so it seemed to me. Quiet in school with one or two close friends, he had some tough acts to follow with his immediate older siblings. But rather than compete, Dan watched and learned and decided on his own to be his own. He was a quiet, creative, very sweet kid who grew into a quiet, steady, hard worker. He chose to work in the trades and will have one heckuva pension when he’s through. He dated on and off and eventually met the love of his life, Sunny, who could not be a better match for him. They both have a very quirky sense of humor and can read each other’s minds, or at least one would think so. Danny had no children of his own, but with Sunny’s baby granddaughter, he discovered what it means to love a child unconditionally.

Danny is my steady-Eddie. He is loving and loyal, easy to talk to, trustworthy and non-judgmental. He has a contagious grin and crazy quick one-liners, if you can listen fast enough to understand him. I feel kind of bad for Danny, in a way. Being the youngest means being around as your older siblings age and pass. I don’t envy any of the ‘second’ family that place. But we’re all pretty tight, and there will always be support no matter what place you are.

Posted in Family

The Plunge! July 3, 2020

Back in March when Mom was still here, David and I thought we’d get married in a small ceremony and Mom could stand up with me. I loved the idea, and Mom was more than excited to be a part of it. We talked about it back and forth trying to figure out the where and the who, et cetera. Then COVID shut us down. Literally. The clerk offices were closed, and we were unable to get a license for who knew how long. Mom went back to Michigan mid May, and that plan fizzled.

Near the end of June, I learned the courts were re-opening. We made tracks to the clerk’s office and picked up our marriage license telling ourselves we’d figure out the logistics later. We had something like three months to use it.

I love the saying, “Make a plan, and God laughs.” Well, this time, I think He really was happy about it! We talked over our idea with friends Donna and Mark. They encouraged us to ‘just do it!’ We decided we’d have to keep is very small but we had absolutely no idea where. Our clubhouse is closed, we knew of no open churches, chapels, or the like. We thought about the courthouse, but maybe as a last resort.

Around the 25th of June I saw a NextDoor notice about an upcoming ribbon cutting ceremony at a newly renovated (2.5 million dollars’ worth) beachside park just north of us. I drove up to see it but was unable to get in as they were still working on the finishing touches. The ribbon cutting was scheduled for the following Thursday, July 2nd. I told David about it, thinking it might just be the perfect place. Viewing only a distant photo of it, he was in.

I told Meg our plans, that it was going to be just a small ceremony, that I didn’t even have someone to officiate yet but that we were shooting for the 3rd of July, just about a week away. She booked a flight. I texted my friend and fellow Irishman Larry, a chaplain with Hospice, asking him to officiate but never dreaming he’d drive the hour+ from DeLand. He said yes! I ordered a banner, talked to a restaurant about a brunch, downloaded some music, and made a very short list of invitees.

It all seemed a bit surreal. I frankly didn’t care what I wore; it was beach casual. I put together a nice little bouquet with flowers from Hobby Lobby. Unbeknownst to us, Meg and her two brothers ordered a professional photographer. She also ordered me eight different dresses to try on! With a phone call, the banner I’d ordered arrived three days before their quoted delivery time. Everything was falling into place in just a matter of days as if it was all meant to be.

The early morning of Friday the 3rd found everyone at the upstairs pavilion of the beautiful new park where the sea breeze kept us cool and comfortable. Larry performed a lovely ceremony, marrying us in front of loved ones, including the Oklahoma contingent via Skype, half dressed up in their finery! Afterward, everyone donned their swimsuits, and we took the plunge again, in an atypically calm ocean, exclaiming over and over again what a perfect morning it was, and what a perfect way to begin the rest of our lives together.

Posted in Family

Now, THAT’S better.

David and I just returned from visiting Meg in Richmond, a trip we’d planned even before she moved there since tickets were so crazy cheap. Even with the fiasco of the protests (read ‘riots’), we decided against canceling, hoping that our visit would help give Meg some feeling of normalcy.

The apartment’s stairwell entrance

I had reserved a cute B&B about 15 minutes from her, but when I had mentioned our visit to her landlords, Jim and Celia, he insisted we stay in one of their empty apartments in an historic building right next to Meg. I happily took him up on it and cancelled the other place.

Meg picked us up around 9:00 p.m. on Thursday night. She had to work the next day, so we had access to her car (she rarely has to drive it with her downtown location), but we discovered there’s plenty to walk to near the area we were in. Unfortunately, by the time late morning rolled around, the heat index was crazy, and we couldn’t stay out for long. That night Meg made a wonderful pot roast, and we made plans to visit historic Belle Isle Park in the morning before it got too hot.

David decided to pass, so she and I walked the very cool suspension bridge under the highway and found ourselves in a lovely shaded trail park filled with history and lots of people walking and biking, even at an early hour. Luna swam, I took pictures and eventually, when it began to heat up, we went back home.

Upper Fan District

If you can get past the devastation from the graffiti and the defacing of the statue pedestals, driving around Richmond is eye-opening in a good way. There are really cool residential areas like Church Hill, where Patrick Henry gave his “Give me liberty” speech, with tree covered brick streets and Chimborazo Park . Or Scott’s Addition, a former industrial area that has been redeveloped into what has to be a beer-lover’s paradise with pubs, breweries, and parks for entertainment. The Upper Fan District has beautiful old homes all in a row with inviting front porches and upper balconies for added character. There are too many restaurants to mention, and even during this pandemic, if you’re a mask-wearing customer, you’re welcome.

Sunday found us taking it easy indoors, finding fun restaurants and enjoying the day. After a tasty dinner of salmon and rice, Meg drove us the 15 minutes to the airport where we boarded our one-and-a-half-hour flight back home. I was so glad to see a more normal version of the city where she was born. While it’s certainly not the city it was before the riots, it’s definitely a place worth visiting.