My family, and the Bush-Quayle values


OUR FAMILY is in the eye of its birthday season.

Four birthdays are concentrated in late summer -- son-in-law Bill's, stepdaughter Jenni's, son Jeremy's and daughter Kris'. All but Jere live in Atlanta, where Sandy and I live, too, and we've fallen into the habit of getting together for birthday dinners.

The celebrity calls the menu and the rest of us come up with it. That mainly meant that Sandy came up with it, but a couple of years ago Jen married a chef, Rhoads, and I'm afraid we've freeloaded shamelessly on his talent ever since.

This year, to boot, two of our grandkids from Ohio have flown in for visits, between the birthdays but adding spectacularly to the season's hubbub.

I mention all this because George Bush and Dan Quayle are having a cow over something called family values, and as near as I can tell, they don't seem to think I have any. Or have the wrong ones. Or something.

Sandy and I were bumping along in standard-issue marriages until they blew up on us. That was nearly 20 years ago. Neither of us was pleased about it, but there you are.

My two kids stayed with me, Sandy's one with her, and about a year later we put together what is currently, I believe, called a blended family. My son called it a family made up of spare parts. I like his term better. It's just as apt and more fun.

There was a spell later when its members were disposed among a variety of ad hoc arrangements, some surely displeasing to the busybody Quayles and Bushes, but now all is formalized and the family has grown into a considerable and pleasing mess.

Jere and his wife Jackie have three kids, two of them adopted, plus two foster kids. They're a biracial couple, so that has added nicely to the color scheme, though it sometimes confuses bystanders.

Bill's family long since forgot Spanish, but even so Kris is now a Garcia. The melting pot bubbles on, so our first Atlanta grand-bubeleh, due in December, will be a Garcia, too. Sandy has already started buying stuff.

Some of the kids go to one brand of church, some to another. Some sleep in.

The daughters and daughter-in-law all work.

Like most couples these days, their families need the money, but I suspect they would work in any event. They are proud of their careers as social worker, geologist, teacher. Sandy and I are proud of their careers, too, for whatever that's worth.

I'll bet that if you ask, our young wives and mothers would say they are feminists to one degree or another, but I just read in the paper that the preacher-politician featured at the Republican convention, Pat Robertson, says feminism "encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

Dear me.

The most recent birthday was Jenni's. She ordered lobster, so we took a deep breath, wrote the check -- don't ask how big -- and boiled the lobs.

We ate them with corn on the cob, salad and blueberry pie. We tied birthday balloons to the backs of our chairs, and we laughed a lot, well into the evening.

I guess there's something wrong with that, but I can't for the life of me figure out what.

Tom Teepen writes for Cox News Service.

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