As large families, both extended and nuclear, have become increasingly rare, my Gen Z students marvel at the fact that I am one of 50+ blood-related, first cousins. Included in that number are myself and my seven siblings. As unusual as those numbers seem today, when I was a kid attending Catholic schools, they were not such anomalies. In addition to the Roths, there were many such families: the Smiths, Guendelsbergers, Kromers, Seilers, Opfers, just to name a few.
While my dad spent most of his days at work and despite already having eight children of her own in a three bedroom, one bath house, my mom had a knack for taking in “strays,” people, not pets, including neighborhood kids; Eli, the Amish house painter; the autistic child of the African American crossing guard who was stationed on the corner outside our house; my brother Aaron’s imaginary friend; any of our actual childhood friends, who’d appear quite frequently, usually uninvited but always welcome; cousins, some of whom I thought were siblings for a number of years until I realized they didn’t actually live with us; college roommates; teammates from our many sports teams; her ex-son-in-law’s child from a previous relationship; pretty much anyone who showed up and wanted to stay. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.
In addition to our house on the corner of Fifth and Marlboro Streets serving as a quasi-Boys and Girls Club/YMCA, what else is unusual about my immediate family and often of great interest to others when they learn of it is the manner by which my siblings and I were named. I, for example, am regularly asked where the name “Ty” came from. Most assume that it is a diminuitive of Tyler or Tyson or Tyrone, but it is not. I’m just Ty. The name was chosen for its ability to continue a pattern that required my name to consist of only two letters.
It’ll be easier to show you than to explain it, so what follows is a listing of my parents’ names followed by their children from oldest to youngest:
That would have been the logical ending to my parents’ family building; however, because they were practicing Catholics, the list continues with a return to the top:
My sister Lori jokes that it is a tribute to my parents and a minor miracle that none of us children ended up in jail with the caveat of the youngest (see below), and, in fact, that we’ve all managed to be relatively-productive, even accomplished, members of our communities. I think all of us siblings would say that our most important contributions to the world have been our children. With that said, however, I’ve provided a very brief bio of each of our professional lives below:
Kevin is the typical, high-achieving, impossible-for-the-rest-of-us-to-live-up-to firstborn. He is a Stanford Medical School graduate with an MD & PhD. After stints a Wash U. in St. Louis and UAB in Birmingham, AL, he is currently the Chief Pathologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Professor and Chair of the Columbia University Department of Pathology and Cell Biology. Would it have killed him to set the bar just a bit lower?
Lori is retired. While still in her twenties she became the owner and president of the Roth Printing Company, a business begun by our grandfather that served Sandusky proudly for over 75 years. At that time, Lori was a groundbreaker as a rare female serving in those capacities.
Amy only recently retired after working for over forty years as a registered nurse in the Sandusky community, including many as an oncology nurse. If I had a dime for every time someone shared with me how wonderful Amy had been as their nurse or for one of their loved ones during one of the most trying periods of their lives, I’d have a lot of dimes.
Ty – Enough about me.
J has been an educator in Florida for over thirty years: first as an elementary classroom teacher; then as a much-honored and beloved building principal mostly in underserved communities with large, migrant populations; and most recently as a supervisor/consultant for other principals. J also authored the book Classroom Management for Successful Instruction. Poor J has suffered the most for my parent’s (mostly Dad’s) naming formula. Many bureaucracies that demand identification refuse to believe that his name is “just” J and give him the most difficult of times.
Aaron has taught high school business courses for thirty years, and he was a highly-successful basketball coach for many of those years. If you ask anyone who saw him play in high school, they’d probably tell you that he was one of the most electrfying point guards they’d ever seen on that level. His talents took him to the University of Findlay, where he earned All-American honors and where he is a member of the athletic hall of fame.
Troy is another (1 of 5) who pursued a career in education. After a few years in various teaching and coaching roles, he became a high school principal. Eventually, he rose to the position of assistant superintendent for Findlay Schools before becoming that district’s superintendent. Currently, he serves as the superintendent for Bellevue Schools.
Yon is the only OSU grad and fan among the bunch of us. In high school, he earned first-team All-Ohio recognition in football. Since graduation from college, he has been a corrections officer at the Erie County Jail, where he is a legend.
From our dad, I think we all learned the necessity and value of hard work and being devoted to our jobs. Among many other things, from our mom, we learned not to be so judgmental of others and to accept them for who and where they are in their lives with an open mind and heart.
Being one of eight children certainly had its drawbacks. As a child, I was sometimes envious of my friends with few or no siblings, especially of all the space and time to themselves they had, but today, I realize how fortunate I was, and it makes me a little sad to think that the manner in which I grew up is all but a thing of the past. There’s no doubt in my mind that the benefits I reaped of being one of eight far outweigh any of those drawbacks, even if the “Did you tie your own tie, Ty” jokes did get a little old in high school.
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