So, when I taught Aidan O’Connor, I didn’t know that I would be staying with his family in Germany this week.
I feel like I should tell you a little about Aidan. He was a free spirit. He would come to class wearing sandals, donning a tank top (a violation of the dress code), and bearing a leather or canvas bag that would hold a copy of Thoreau or Plato. Aidan still is a free spirit too. Right now, he’s not in Germany. He’s somewhere in Asia, wandering the world and having adventures of his own. I wish him a safe journey, and I hope he gleans not only experience but some tempered wisdom along the way.
But Michael, Judy, and their youngest daughter Ashlyn are in Germany, and I traveled from Amsterdam to Kaiserslautern to experience some American hospitality. Michael is a colonel in the Air Force and is stationed here. He’s a talented attorney who supervises the legal theaters of both Europe and Africa. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s pretty freaking awesome.
Judy is a military wife. She’s done some substitute work for DODEA schools and even taught English in Japan. Right now, she’s not in the classroom, but she’s incredibly active in a lot of different organizations. Judy is a whirling dervish of energy. She likes to be positive and loves to laugh.
Ashlyn is a high school student, and we all know that they are the same. So, I don’t need to add anything further on that front.
Just kidding! Ashlyn is just as amazing as her parents. The first time I met Ashlyn was in a game of ultimate frisbee. She’s quite thin, and I felt sure that she was going to snap in half at some point. She was one of the best players out there. If you threw it her way, she rarely missed the catch. The only thing that outweighs her love of the television series The Goldbergs is her adoration for the musical Hamilton.
I almost forgot Mr. Barky Von Schnauzer, whom Judy constantly refers to as “my beautiful boy” or “my handsome man.” Barky did, in fact, bark from time to time, but it was not excessive. He’s a very sweet-natured dog that has been a part of the family for about 8 years. They got him as a puppy.
All of those individual traits make each one of these people special, but that’s not what really amazed me.
They’re just a great family. They tease each other and get frustrated with each other and are sarcastic with each other, but there’s not one moment that their love for one another wasn’t evident.
Whether it was Ashlyn begging both of her parents for an hour for a Hamilton t-shirt that has a cat dressed in colonial clothing with the tag “Aaron Purr” on it or Judy calling Michael at work like six times within a 15 minute period as she was trying to find a spot or Michael hitting his head on the low back entryway to the house repeatedly–all those scenarios, which could have led to anger and frustration and fighting, led to laughter and someone saying, “I love you.”
I know a lot of what drives that, especially with Michael and Judy, is their faith. Another thing is the fact that they are a military family and have lived all over the world. They, of course, have friends and family members everywhere, but their core is their family. In a lifetime of moving, their family unit is the constant.
I think that’s probably true with most military families.
I remember the night at Tyvoan bothy when I looked at the stars and they stretched across the sky in a streak of milky dust. I knew I was witnessing a miracle. A loving family is no less miraculous than those beautiful stars, and, while I appreciated their kindness at hosting me, I truly felt privileged just to witness their love for one another.
Thanks again, O’Connors. As I said on Facebook, you guys rock!
Until my next post, keep looking to the heavens and seeking your own stars.