When most people deliver a new baby, they can’t wait to send around photos of their new-born treasure – the bouncing baby, the tiny star of the show, like a little heaven-sent cherub.
This is my fifth child, Gretchen Marie Ford (Covey), as she looked a few hours after her birth, 53 years ago today. She was bruised, battered, half-conscious from exhaustion, she had abrasions on each side of her head from forceps, and one eye was swollen shut. But notice that her fists were still clenched and ready. It was a struggle but she made it! Her first victory!
You would think that after my numerous trips to the delivery room, I could have figured out a way to grease the wheels in some way so the babies wouldn’t have had such a harrowing welcome to life. I’m still surprised none of them demanded a refund.
Actually, little Gretchen’s harsh debut probably helped prepare her for life in our household where prizefighting skills were essential to survival. Sibling warfare among the Ford Horde was waged on a nuclear scale. I would describe some of the heated battles which took place except that I deplore violence and, besides, I wouldn’t have room on my hard drive.
Gretchen showed a missionary zeal from an early age and used it to try to improve the welfare of her brothers and sisters. As an example, she always worried that somebody hadn’t brushed their teeth at bedtime. To check, she used to go into the bathroom to find out if anybody’s toothbrush was still dry. If it was, – heaven forbid – she would report it to the nearest parent forthwith. This crusade did not endear her to the troops, especially those with higher seniority. They considered it to be a war crime best described as dog-doo.
One might assume that Gretchen’s concern about faithful tooth-brushing was so nobody would get cavities. That didn’t seem to be the case, though.
One time, Susy and Gretchen came home from the dentist, where they had just found out the bad news that Susy had one cavity and Gretchen had three or four. A heated argument ensued. “It’s better to have MORE cavities”, Gretchen insisted, “Because as soon as I get all my teeth filled up, I won’t have to go to the dentist anymore”.
After years of mayhem and bodily harm, my husband Gene and I never got over our amazement when all seven of the battle-scarred troops grew up to be Best Friends. Thank you, God.
She and Susy and Teresa were all greatly enamored of horses and every chance they had they would read about, collect miniatures, discuss, and pray that they would someday get the opportunity to ride real ones. Below is a copy of Gretchen’s Christmas list from 1966.
At last, in her early teens she did get to take lessons on real horses and loved every minute of it. Gretchen loves dogs, too, especially her little Maltese named Reisling and the family Airedale named Lester.
My daughter Susy said the best month she and Gretchen ever had in their childhood was spent at Aunt Joan and Uncle Tom Fitzpatrick’s house. Someday, we’re going to write a blob about that spectacular experience.
Gretchen graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in social work. Soon after, she and Brad Covey got married, bought a house right next door to ours, settled down to raise their three children, Bryce, Ford, and T.T.
The kids are all in college now and Gretchen is too. Thanks to Brad’s encouragement and support, Gretchen is back at school. She’s working toward her Masters of Spiritual Formation through Carey Theological College in Canada. She takes some intensive classes in Canada and does much work online as well. She’s leaving today for a week-long class that will be held in Vancouver and Bowen Island in Canada. She hopes to work at a retreat ministry or church when she finishes her master’s degree. She hasn’t lost her missionary zeal, but, rest assured, she probably won’t be checking for any more wet toothbrushes.
She says that her best presents are God, family and community. The rest of us think she herself is a gift God gave us.
My daughter Teresa e-mailed me this note about Gretchen today:
“I miss the days when Eric and little Sonja and me lived at Mom and Dad’s and I would take Sonja over to Gretchen’s almost every day and we would dance and sing and play with Bryce and Sonja. We would wander all over her big house and we would let Sonja and Bryce do whatever they wanted. They were more like brother and sister! And Gretchen would feed us and then we would go to the store or the park or to Mom and Dad’s. Gretchen was fun for me to hang out with. We weren’t very busy then so life was simple and easier and I enjoyed my time with my sis so much!!!!!”
Others in our family who were born during Gretchen’s birth year of 1958 are her husband Brad, brother-in-law Eric Opsvig, cousin Jimmy Ford, and cousins-in-law Teresa Fitzpatrick and Dan Melchior. (If you click on Eric’s, Teresa’s or Dan’s name, you can read a previous blob about them. Brad’s and Jimmy’s will appear this summer.)
Gretchen may have started life as a prizefighter, but she grew up to be simply a prize. I could write a book about her but it couldn’t really describe what a truly inspiring and gifted human being she is. I am proud to have had anything to do with bringing her into the world. I don’t know how I got so lucky. Thank you for that, too, God.
Happy 53rd birthday, Gretchen, with love from your mother.