Hmmm, what can I say about us? This may require a lot of typing…
My name is Donna K. Sparrow, formerly Miner. So I wasn’t born a Sparrow, I have certainly earned the honor. My husband, Antonio, and I met in 1992 at Northwest Missouri State University, way up in little Maryville, MO. Although neither of us were from that area, our paths were meant to cross at that time, in that place. He was (and still remains) the sexiest man I had ever laid my big blues upon. He was there on a full ride football scholarship, far from the streets of Los Angeles that had shaped a big part of who he was.
I knew Tony was a “package deal” from the get go. He was the oldest of nine kids and had been an only child for the first nine years of his life. With the worsening of his mother’s addictions and the continuing absence of all the sperm donors fathers of the kids, he knew the responsibility would eventually fall to him. The fruition of his true childhood dream, to someday play in the NFL, was surely his ticket to something better, not just for him but also for his siblings. This, however, would not come to pass. As things began worsening in the lives of the other kids, we abandoned our educations in order to make good on the promises he had previously offered the first two of his younger brothers. We moved out to Washington state, got jobs and began the preparation.
In 1994, we two became four as we welcomed Rex and Daniel. We four became five in ‘95 as we welcomed our son, Antonio. In ‘96 we five became nine as we also took in Dashawn, Antone, Fayzonn, and Star (those four would end up back in Mississippi with their mother, only to return to us a few years later along with their sister, Shade). In addition, we welcomed our daughters, Devaney and Destiny in ‘97 and ‘99, and we were twelve strong by the year 2000. Yes, at the age of twenty-eight, we were the parents of ten children. Seven of whom were suffering with the varying effects of the choices their mother made while she was pregnant, and afterward. Although we didn’t know very much about developmental delays, mental retardation, depression, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Effects, and Schizophrenia, we would certainly get a crash course in the years to come.
Oh, if I didn’t know what sacrifice was before, I certainly know its meaning now. I’m not speaking of sacrifice from our perspective either. We have witnessed a lifetime of children not having what it was they truly needed, their mother and father. We tried to be that for them, but they could look at us with our own and were wise enough to know the difference. And what about our own? They also gave up more than we realized they would have to. Families with this many children – they don’t go on vacations, or wear Nikes, or eat at restaurants fancier than McDonalds. The sharing for our own children involved far more than a house, a room, a bathroom, toys, or a meal – it involved the hearts and minds of their parents, as well as our arms, laps, and time.
Some of the siblings we raised (our Extras) left earlier than others; some graduated, others didn’t, some made right choices, one has been in and out of prison in Georgia, one will require care for the rest of his life as Schizophrenia devastates the future we thought he would have, one is now a wife and mother herself and, ultimately, a few just had to be with their mother, regardless of the quality of care she provides, simply because she is their mother.
We have laughed hysterically, cried endlessly, loved amazingly, and worked on faith alone. The journey has never been easy – but it’s ours. With my return back to college, so many years after we had to leave school, we gear up for our new adventure – Life Round Two. With the births of our fourth and fifth children, D’Angelo in ‘07 and Adarius in ‘09, we are now complete. With our five kids still at home, and our Extras still rotating in and out as they figure out their own lives, we are as busy as ever – enjoying our blessed chaos.