Letters To My Five Children

Photo by Russell Dilley

On the occasion of the 40th birthday of my son Mike, his wife Angela hosted  a special celebration in his honor. The other members of the family were asked to write a letter to the celebrant with remembrances, congratulations, or complaints. Essentially a roast.  Three years later, my youngest daughter Nancy was also given a 40th birthday party and letters were  requested again. Consequently, I wrote the letters  for Mike and Nancy at the times of their parties.  The drafts of these letters have been sitting on my computer’s hard drive and I decided it was time to write letters to my other three children.  All are so very precious to me.  Surely no mother could have more reason for love and pride in these five special people.  As my loving Mother always said, “I am so blessed”. And so am I, Mother.

Debra Sue Sizemore

Your perfect little self was God’s generous gift to me.

From the day you were born, you brought so much love into my life. You must have known I was lonely so far away from family as a young wife. You talked in sentences when you were only a year old and became my little girlfriend as well as my daughter.

I admire that you accepted the role as the oldest in a large family with no complaints. That is never an easy part to play. You have to learn (often the hard way) what is acceptable behavior and what is not. You were the guinea pig for young, inexperienced parents. It wasn’t easy to lead the way in everything but you did it with style and excellence.

You watched over your brother and sisters, protected them, encouraged and cheered for them. They were fortunate to have a loving pint-sized mom in you. We never went anywhere that you didn’t have a grip on the tiny hands of your younger siblings to protect them from harm.

You were a top student showing the rest what would be expected and required.

You exhibited your talents of singing and guitar playing to show the rest that developing your talents was fun and part of becoming an individual.

You were kind, attentive and cheerful to all you met showing your siblings how to interact socially with others. Your wide circle of friends is a testimonial to your sweet and generous nature.

You developed an outstanding work ethic, sometimes holding three jobs as a young adult, demonstrating to your siblings that hard work was a virtue and would be rewarded.

You were the first to drive a car in the family and led by example. You never had a ticket or accident as a teenager, making your parents proud.

As an adult, you place family first and are now enjoying the fruits of your labor. Your children, Mandy and Shawn, are grown and have blossomed under your love and example.

Your siblings still enjoy your affection, concern for their welfare and happiness, and loving encouragement in all their endeavors.

I am proud of the child you were, the daughter you are, the woman you’ve become and my friend that I love so dearly.

Always with love and pride,


Joanne Bowers

You knew where you were going.

You set your goal from the day you shinnied up the pole of the swing set.

You sacrificed many childhood pleasures to stay on your path.

You never wavered on what you wanted and where you were headed.

Even as a child, you were disciplined. Many mornings I found you in the kitchen making sandwiches for the lunches of all your siblings. You were the little housekeeper. We joked that if we went to the bathroom early in the morning, you made up our bed before we returned, expecting to crawl back in for a precious few more moments.

As a six year old, you practiced with the teenage youth aerial circus as their youngest flyer. Each night, you suffered through the splinting of your hands to make the torn flesh of your palms heal in an open configuration. Your drive and tenacity amazed your parents and grandparents.

It seems like only yesterday you were in the back of the van with the overhead light on completing homework assignments after a long evening practice at the gym. Every weekend was taken up with practice, practice and coaching.

It wasn’t easy being an athlete in college. You missed out on much of the excitement and activities because of team practice, meets, travel and commitments.  You gutted through injuries and stayed focused on the endpoint.

Raising a family and building a career is more than two full-time jobs. Often you needed to take on two or three jobs to help pay bills but you never swayed from a forward direction to your goal.  You had to sacrifice frequently in the choices you made toward your dreams to help your spouse reach for his. Your two sons, Dave and Ross, have followed your example beautifully.

Talking with a mother of one of the college team members you coached, I wasn’t surprised at her statement “We wanted our daughter to attend this college because we felt your daughter (the coach) would be the proper role model for her.” They’ve been right to place their trust in you, Joanne.

Your labors are being recognized and rewarded now and we are all very proud of you and love you so much. Your sister calls you “Midas” and feels your efforts all turn to gold under your tutelage.

Luck is not the reason for your success.  You and your hard work are the reason.

Your determination and drive inspires your family.  We all admire your dedication and accomplishments. Your happy, outgoing personality is just more icing on the cake.  Keep it going. I see you and your team at Nationals accepting the trophy for first place in the not too distant future.

Always with love and pride,


Michael Ross Caravana

Where should I begin?

I would like to tell you that I really wanted more sons so you would have brothers, but since I got the ideal son on the first try, I didn’t want to mess with perfection.  However, if I told you that, your four sisters would have a fit so —–

I can’t tell you that!


I would like to tell you that I am grateful you had colic and couldn’t sleep much as a baby so I had an excuse, in the middle of the night, to snuggle and rock you while your sisters slept.  However, your sisters would have a problem that you found a way to get more attention so —–

I can’t tell you that!


I would like to tell you that I really loved helping you build forts, taking you and a friend to a pre-season Redskins game and lining up your trucks and soldiers to play because I never did those things as a child.  However, your sisters wouldn’t want to know that I was bored silly with the dolls and tea parties, so—–

I can’t tell you that!


I would like to tell you that it was different hearing from your teachers – it seems that you and your big brown eyes were so adorable they couldn’t scold you for school work undone.  The calls from the girls’ teachers informed me that they were all “Chatty Cathy’s”.  They would despise knowing their reports were all similar and yours original so—–

I can’t tell you that!


I would like to tell you how very proud I was watching you build your darkroom, taking and developing beautiful photos, watching you build the window seat and bookshelves, fixing the lawnmower, dishwasher and all our cars but the girls would be terribly jealous, so—–

I can’t tell you that!


I would like to tell you that you are an example to all in this family. You have always been a “Golden Rule” person, a hard worker with principles and ethics of the highest order – a man with a sense of humor, loyalty and boundless love that you continue to share unselfishly with your family.  Your devotion to your wife, siblings and their families should be a model to all who know you.  And since the entire family

agrees with these statements—–



Always with love and pride,


G    is for the glue you are for our family. We are an extremely close-knit group today because of you and your efforts. All through the years, you phoned, posted letters, cards, emails and now texts to make sure everyone felt loved and informed of up-to-date happenings in the family. No one asked you to be the caretaker of our familial relationships. You just took it on and, like everything you attempt, you excelled at it.  We’ve all admitted to depending on you for the updates and becoming lazy ourselves about keeping abreast because you are so generous with your time in keeping us all in-the-loop.

I    stands for “involvement” because you have never been a person to sit on your hands and leave problems to the other guy. You jump right in to help with no thought of “what’s in it for you”.

N  is for the “noise” of cheering you make when one of the family deserves applause, congratulations, or a pep rally for a bad day or event.  Your “noise” always comes in a brief note, email, phone call or text. We all agree you are the family cheerleader. Even the “favorite treats”, remembered and stored, in your noted “pantry of the century” qualify as a note to your loved ones that you care and you remember.

A   is for the approach you use in dealing with friends and family. You are carefully aware of the feelings of others and apply great sensitivity in dealing with them. The empathy you practice is real and appreciated.


M  is for “Mother”.  You and Dave gave me your generous rescue at a difficult time of my life when I desperately needed to feel love and have a reason for getting up each day. You should also be commended for the mother you are to your sons, Kyle and Austin.

A  is for the amazing work ethic you practice and amount of volunteer hours you have donated through the years.

R  is for the comic relief you provide those around you with your consistently happy nature and your wonderful, spontaneous “Julia Roberts” laugh.

I  is for the inspiration you are to your family and friends. Your life exhibits dedication, responsibility, humor, love and devotion.  How lucky our family is to be included in the people you love.

E   is for the enthusiasm you exhibit for each facet of your life.  I’m sure no one in the family has been able to detect when you are having a bad day. Everyone has ups and downs in their life, but you never inflict your tales of woe on anyone.  Probably because you are too busy trying to make life better for others.

I wish I could add an “S” to your name or make it plural in some way, so I could add one last note. Oh heck, I’ll do it just because it’s necessary, “S” or “no S”.  You did not get the nickname of “Smiley”, at age three months, by accident. You will never have frown lines, Gina.  You have smiled more than 98% of your lifetime putting smiles back on the faces of your family whenever they needed it.

Thank you for the “glue” and the “smiles”.

Always with love and pride,


Nancy Ruth Reynolds

Your “stick man drawing” was not the first artwork of a young “master”.  To your mother who had “been there-seen that” four other times, it was just “That’s really pretty, Nancy”.

 Your first “essay” was not the masterpiece of a “budding Hemingway”.  To your mother who had “been there-read that” four other times, it was just “That’s really interesting, Nancy”.

 Your first “song” sung in a school Christmas play was not the aria performed by a famous “diva”.  To your mother who had “been there-heard that” four other times, it was just “That sounded really nice, Nancy”.

 The first “flip” you had practiced for days was not worthy of membership in a “Chinese Acrobatic Troupe’.  To your mother who had “been there-seen that” four other times, it was just “That looked really good, Nancy”.

As the baby who wanted to crawl up in her mama’s lap to cuddle, you had to be put down often so mama could get the older ones to softball, baseball, gymnastics, basketball or guitar lessons. 


As the child enjoying playing dolls with her little neighbor friend, often you had to end your play to hop in the car so mama could get the older ones to softball, baseball, gymnastics, basketball or guitar lessons. 

 Consequently, I am sure that growing up as the youngest in a large gregarious group of siblings must have been trying and less than rewarding in most of your earliest years.


However, in spite of taking the fifth position birth order in this family,   I hope you know you have never had less than equal love and pride in your mama’s heart.  


Look how you have “grown and shone” in your first forty years.  My greatest source of pride came in watching you develop strong priorities and principles at such an early age.  You have consistently practiced in your adult life the absolute truth that the proper order is God, family and friends and then your career.  You live your strong faith daily, give strong love, respect and guidance to your children Jarrod and Erin,  and yet are somehow able to give your employer two hundred percent effort in each and every assignment.

 The honors you have earned in your life’s work and the accomplishments of your volunteer and charitable work are many but will probably never be fully known as you are extremely humble and modest about your successes and efforts. 


If you had not been born to me, Nancy, I would still choose to love you and have as  a friend and person to emulate. 


Each day of your adult life, you surprise me and make me proud.  No more “been there-done or seen that” from this mama.  You are unique, talented, special, extraordinary and “WOW” me with each new accomplishment or award.

Always with love and pride,