When We Were Ten

October 22, 2009 | By | Reply More

My sister Pat was the first, followed by her Irish Twin Eileen. Irish Twins are when you have two kids in one calendar year. Patricia Marie Hogan was born January 1, 1949 and Eileen Ann Hogan was born November 23, 1949. Dan (Daniel n/m/n) Hogan was born in 1952, and Susan Ann Hogan two years after that. Timothy Eves Hogan was born December 6, 1955.

I began growing up at the same time America began growing up. The very week of my birth, in Alabama, Ms. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. I believe this action set a pattern for my life. If I think I am right, you will not move me. You may remove me but, unless you persuade me otherwise, you are stuck with me as I am. Some say this contributed to my being married for the first time at age 41 but, I say it took me that long to find the right woman.

My sister Mary Lee Hogan was born the next year, and for one day Susan, I and Mary Lee are three in a row for our ages. My brother Thomas Joseph Hogan was born in the 60’s and followed by a sister Julie Ann Hogan, another brother Terrence Gerard Hogan, and finally our baby sister Tracy Ann Hogan. All told, there were 10 siblings, my mom and dad and one or two dogs and anywhere from two to 14 cats in our house at any given time.

We grew up worshiping the Holy Trinity; being Irish, Catholic and Democrats. We lived in an area of St. Louis County known as Richmond Heights, Missouri which according to legend was named such by a young US Army Lieutenant Robert E. Lee because the area reminded him of Richmond, Virginia. I don’t know about that but, the area was home to our family. Our Parish, St. Luke the Evangelist, took in parts of Richmond Heights, Maplewood, Clayton and parts of an area in the City of St. Louis known as Dogtown. Our family was no where near the largest in the Parish as there were many families with 11 or more kids, topped by the Powers family with 15.

My mother, and I suspect this was true of my friends’ mothers, played the central role in our lives. Dad was at work, and mom got us off to school each day and took care of those at home. After school was often bedlam as many kids were at many houses and it all had to be coordinated daily as to who was eating where on any given night. We often checked to see what the other families were having for dinner to make our plans. It was often the case my mom would prepare dinner for 12 and have as many as 14 or 15. We just split things up at the dinner table. Often, I would help my mom in the kitchen, snacking as we went along. It surprised my dad; “Damn, Pat, I don’t know how the boy grows so big, he doesn’t eat much,” he said. My mom kept my secret as I didn’t make a pig of myself at dinner time.

As my sister Eileen has often said, there were three families of kids in our house; the First kids- Pat, Eileen, and Dan, and; the Middle kids-Susan, Tim (me!), and Mary Lee, and; the Little kids- Tommy, Julie, Terry and Tracy. It all mucked along with not too much drama until my mother had an aneurism in her brain. Mom spent months in intensive care. Mom wasn’t the same person when she came home from the hospital. We fell apart like a spider in a whirlpool. It wasn’t fun but, the older kids all tried to be Mom and each failed miserably. Every one of us was bitter, angry and upset. Dad was hit most of all by Mom’s disability but, we didn’t see it or we didn’t know it until he said so. Tracy was five when it happened. I was 13.
Mom, who was tough, learned to do everything right-handed (she was a lefty). She regained some use of her left hand and insisted on using it to write. I moved to Colorado, Virginia, DC and New York, and spent many happy hours with friends trying to decipher Mom’s letters. But my mom had changed and wasn’t the person who, before the aneurism, had been running it all seemingly without effort. We filled in some of the blanks Mom had left but, I eventually moved away. Later, when I returned I guess I was expected to resume my old role, which wasn’t happening for me. Some of my sibs had also moved away. We had all changed.

Dad passed away suddenly at age 64. It hit us all very hard. We struggled for years to handle it, mostly without success. Mom passed away and then we were left to each other. Every body pitched in, we struggled to get over old hurts, real or imagined.

We ruthlessly made fun of each other. The chief culprit for giving grief was our baby brother, Terry. No topic was sacred, it was all out there; family illness, dad’s drinking, our drinking, mom’s habit of blowing smoke into all our faces as we asked her to quit smoking, mental illnesses, prescription drugs, speech impediments, children’s misbehaviors, personal details garnered through a lifetime–like the German guy who took my sister to a tractor pull because he thought that’s what Mid-Western girls liked–my other sisters’ various boyfriends for whom we had pet names, my father’s concern I might be gay because I never brought any girls home to my family (I brought one very well tanned girlfriend home in my junior year of high school and he wondered aloud to my mother if she were “white” [yes, dad had race issues but, dropped that stuff later due to family pressure]). Personal injuries were a favorite topic as each of us had various broken legs, arms, ankles, and mishaps as youths, and my brother Dan ceaselessly complained about whatever had happened to him lately at his job as a letter carrier, from dog attacks to new knees. One recent Thanksgiving where my sisters were together and they went off on each other and all of us so harshly I was in tears and nearly had my first accident since a young age. I laughed so hard I couldn’t remember what they had said. My nephew Kevin Hogan is a standup comic living in Chicago, I’ve told him there’s a lifetime of material from our family get-togethers.

We all made sure we got together and made sure we were talking to one another. We took responsibility for the breakdowns in our family. Everybody became committed to our being a better family. We became a better family. It was OK to say “I love you.” It was OK to joke about anything.

I began telling my brothers and sisters more and more that I loved them (Love ya!). I hear the same thing from my brothers and sisters. We all know that we love one another. I know that Mom and Dad would be proud of us and that we are now more a family than we had been in years and getting stronger. I love my sisters; six beautiful, powerful women who make a huge difference! I’ve told Tommy that I love him, too and honor him as a great father to three amazing women. I’ve told Dan that I loved him but, didn’t like his talk sometimes. I told my brother Terry, just before he suddenly died two weeks ago at age 46, that I loved him even though he was a peckerwood for giving me such grief. “You deserve it!” he said. As usual, Terry was annoyingly right. Terry, one of the “Little Kids,” died first of us all. I’m still stunned.

Now, we are nine. But, we made it happen as a family- as a loving family- when we were 10.

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Category: Community, Friendships/relationships, Meaning of Life, Saint Louis, Writing

About the Author ()

imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.

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