My dad was a handful, a real character. His classic repertoire of stories was filled with his escapades and shenanigans from a very young age, up until the day he married my mother, November 20, 1954. He settled down in a big way to woo her into first dating him, and then marrying him. Even after they were married, and parents to the three of us, he occasionally returned to his bad boy self, often as a result of scotch, a drink he loved but could not handle very well. Eventually, he gave up scotch altogether, and drank beer or wine, which still had the ability to loosen his tongue a bit but did not wreak havoc entirely on his behavior. Up until the day he died, May 8, 2015, he was a social butterfly and every bit the extrovert.
My mother, on the other hand, was very much an introvert. They say “opposites attract” and I guess in their case it really did. Her parents raised her as they themselves had been raised, with traditional Scottish values—don’t laugh or cry in front of others, don’t talk too loudly, don’t talk too much. This is not to say she was a pushover or weak in any way; to the contrary, she was the strongest person I have ever known. She weathered all the trials and tribulations of her life, including serious and severe health issues, with grace and dignity, no complaints or whining. In a short two-year period, she underwent surgeries for heart bypass, cervical cancer, renal vascular bypass, and finally, after two years of dialysis three days a week, a kidney transplant, a generous and selfless gift from her older sister and only remaining family member.
Early on it was clear that I had inherited my father’s gregarious and outgoing personality. Being the first-born, my mother took copious notes of my early childhood development and documented them in my baby book, something I treasure even more dearly now that she is gone. I was an early talker and from a very young age always wanted to go somewhere. My mother documented this, too, noting that whenever a visitor to our home was ready to leave, I would grab the nearest thing to clothing, wrap it around my head, and lift up my arms to be carried away with the visitor. A reoccurring phrase in my baby book is “you had so much fun”, which was applied to birthday parties, trips to the zoo, school functions, vacation bible school, swimming lessons, and more.
In high school, I participated in everything the school had to offer except sports, marching band, library club, yearbook staff, and the oratorical competitions. College was no different. Even though no one from my high school went to SLU with me, it wasn’t long before I felt as though I knew everyone on the campus. I joined a sorority, Phi Mu, participated in student government, the English club, speech competitions. I loved being in clubs and groups because it meant I always had somewhere to go, whether it was meetings or parties or setting up for an activity. The more clubs I joined, the more people I met, the happier I was. Of course, my college GPA would have been healthier had I focused a bit more on academics and a bit less on my social life.
This continued in my adult life. When our daughters were in grade school, I was very active in the home and school association, as well as serving on the parish council for our church. Currently I lector at Mass and serve as a substitute for the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. I belong to the parish’s sodality, an organization for the ladies of the parish, and once again, I am serving on the parish council. I’m also very active in the life of the school where I teach, directing the school plays, and helping with other school functions like graduation, Confirmation, and more. While social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can sometimes isolate people and draw them away from activities outside of the home, for me, staying active online is just another aspect of staying socially active, connecting with others from all other the world even when I can’t go out to do so.
Even at an age where some of my friends are retiring from work, giving up teaching, slowing down and having more free time, my calendar is still always full. Frequently this results in late nights of binge-grading papers to get caught up, or an entire Sunday afternoon being spent in my classroom doing lesson plans and making copies. Even though “sleep more” tops my list of resolutions each January, this night owl still burns the candle at both ends far too often.
Remember, though, that opposites attract. So, when it came down to dating and getting married and having a family, did I end up with someone who loves to go and loves to participate and loves to join stuff, someone who loves to be around people? No, I did not, much like my parents. My husband does not have all the characteristics of an introvert, mainly because he is a trained vocalist and enjoys performing for others. But, he likes to pace out his social functions, and by pace, I mean, one a month at most.
Last week, while we were watching TV after dinner, I casually reminded him that this weekend was my school’s big fundraising gala. And, then, I squinted, waiting for the response.
“WHAT? We went to a gala last weekend! This is, like, the FOURTH THING THIS MONTH!”
Actually, it wasn’t. Yes, there were four recent social events we attended but two were in February and two were in March. And, there was an entire weekend in between the two months where he didn’t go to anything…which I reminded him. That weekend I had gone to two different high school plays to see former students perform, but I had gone with a friend from school. I didn’t even try to talk him to coming along, fully knowing we were reaching maximum overload on his social calendar.
Yes, I married a homebody—me, who started life wrapping a dishtowel around her 13-month old head to signify that she was ready to go, ready to travel, anywhere and with anyone. I’m not complaining about his lifetime membership in the stay-at-home club, though, because that is one of the qualities that I love about him. He loves being at home with his family. He doesn’t feel the need to go out drinking, hang out at bars with guys from work, spend the weekend golfing or shooting baskets, or even at his desk working. He loves being at home with us. My daughters and I have always come first in his life, both in his calendar and in his heart.
So, while I continue to over-schedule and triple-book myself crazy, he is there, at home, reminding me to slow down and find time to rest and relax. He is the one who considers all possible consequences of joining something, of volunteering for something, of saying yes too many times. He is the one who took care of me during a case of shingles in 2006, after overextending myself into exhaustion planning five major events to commemorate our church parish’s 50th anniversary. He is the rock that this social butterfly lands on when she is too tired to flit about anymore. Opposites attract, indeed. Thank God.