Harold and Martha Plus Ten
She did Jon and Kate...and then some, but no one did a reality show about Martha Bestul.
Martha was a mother of ten, one of whom is my wife, LuAnn. Martha died Wednesday at the age of 89. Her husband Harold died a few years ago.
She leaves behind sons Terry, Greg, Steve, Randy, Chris, Tom and Mike, plus daughter Laurie and my aforementioned wife. An eighth son, David, died of brain cancer shortly after being ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.
That's ten kids, folks.
Martha didn't get a reality t-v deal, write books about her brood, work her family situation into lucrative plugs for teeth whitening, a remodeled kitchen or implants. She didn't sit on a couch and whine about her lot in life, her husband's ineptitude or her needs being neglected.
Martha was a mom--a job she cherished. The big family wasn't an opportunity for fame. It was a blessing from God.
Her day started in the kitchen, and it ended there, too. Breakfast rolled into dinner and then became supper. That's how it goes on a farm where everyone contributes, where the family eats when it can grab a bite. In between came the laundry and the cleaning and yes, the chores. You don't get days off when you're growing crops and raising livestock.
She did it all with nary a complaint. Or a single camera, unless it was to capture a family snapshot.
It was a big family, but not too big to welcome in-laws--Martha made me feel like part of the group from the get-go. One of the boys. On one of my first visits to the farmhouse, I was handed a knife and a hunk of freshly killed deer--from which I was asked to scrape meat. Other tasks included the gathering of wood for the winter furnace, or collecting sap for maple syrup each spring. At the end there was always a hot, home-made meal with fresh veggies from the family garden. You'd never have a more sound night's sleep, either. And through it all, you felt like you belonged, even though were weren't "blood".
Martha Bestul's family was her pride, not a premise for a cable show. It was that way until the very end, which came peacefully Wednesday afternoon. Her faith was her rock through good times and bad, especially when she had to bury a son who decided later in life to answer God's calling and become a priest. He would be but a few years on the job in the Green Bay diocese when he died.
Martha respected family--hers, and mine. She never meddled in my domestic affairs. She let her kids have their own lives after they left the nest. That's not to say everything went perfectly. It's just that she knew how to handle it when it didn't.
This blog will be about all Martha gets in the way of publicity, and if she saw it she'd be embarrassed by the attention (not that she would, since she had an aversion to technology). She didn't do what she did to get credit. She did it because that's what people from her generation did. Marry once. Work a farm. Have kids. Enjoy the simple life.
That wouldn't make for a very good reality t-v show, but for Martha Bestul, it made for a wonderful life.
I thank her for making me part of it.