Dear Next Generation: It’s All About Family

January 5, 2021 Updated: January 8, 2021

Our family is so blessed to still have our parents so involved in our families’ lives! They are both vibrant, active, and still the rocks of our family.

My dad is 93 and my mom is 89. I remember my dad telling his three girls—Kathleen, myself, and Lori—that he would pay for our college education as long as we maintained a B average and we stayed local. I thought that was an odd request at the time, but having a college education paid for was ideal.

My father, Robert Owens, was a school principal and my mom, Joan Owens, was an appreciated homemaker, the backbone of our family. She was the best seamstress, entertainer, and cook! She’d sketch clothes that she would see and come home and make them. I felt we were the best-dressed girls around. All our friends loved my mom, she had so much love to give. Our dad is a man of wisdom … he would always sit us down and have those father-daughter talks, always encouraging us and telling us we could do or be anything our hearts desired.

joan owens and robert owens
The author’s mother and father, Joan and Robert Owens. (Courtesy of Leslee Owens)

We never lacked anything as a family. In fact, it was my dad whom the family went to if they needed to borrow money. We weren’t wealthy, but we were loved. My parents are both competitive, and all three of us girls love to play. We grew up playing football in the streets, having walnut and water fights with our neighbors. During the summers, we went on great family trips, and when my dad worked, we would go to my aunt and uncle’s house in Woodland Hills to swim and play with my cousins. It was a wonderful childhood.

One thing my parents stressed over and over again was the importance of family. My dad had a miserable home life. His stepfather did not like him. He grew up as a Chatsworth boy in California … (the Chatsworth Boys were a group of friends who hung out together, picked crops, played in the hills of Chatsworth, Louisiana). His stepfather made him go out and do his chores before school. Often, it would be freezing outside, and my dad’s stepfather said he could not come back in the house. My dad would sit in the corner of the house where the sun would be peeking over the horizon and warm himself by the sun. He has always appreciated beautiful sunrises because of that experience. His stepdad told my dad that he would never amount to anything, and boy was he wrong! He left home and joined the Navy early. He is a hard-working, proud, and determined man. He went on to earn a college degree and was one of the top principals in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He also taught at the college level.

My mom has such a loving heart and an extraordinary love relationship with God. It was her love that helped free my dad to be the loving father he is and to appreciate family like he does. Every holiday, we gather as a family. My dad always included his mom and stepfather over every Christmas Eve, for family dinners and holidays, and my dad continued to visit our grandfather daily in his assisted living facility after work in spite of his cruelty to him.

We are a family of five, but we would always gather for holidays with our cousins, my mom’s parents, and her sister and brother. Our family grew as the kids married and had children and families of their own, but we always gathered. We always made time for family celebrations and family support as we lost family members before their time. Over the years, family has always remained important. We have our arguments and our different perceptions about life, but our parents always instilled in us the importance of forgiveness and learning to get along. It’s difficult to gather, especially when people in our family have little kids, but it’s a priority in our family. Our extended family all live in California and within 50 miles of each other, except for my cousin and his wife who live in Texas, but they take the time to fly in every Christmas to be with family.

My dad knew what he was doing when he said he’d pay for college if we stayed close. I continue to appreciate more and more the importance of family. People with mass amounts of wealth and status at the end of life seem to place more value on those family relationships than any other!

Thanks, Dad and Mom, for instilling this in your family. Love, love, love conquers all!

Leslee Owens


What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?

We call on all of our readers to share the timeless values that define right and wrong, and pass the torch, if you will, through your wisdom and hard-earned experience. We feel that the passing down of this wisdom has diminished over time, and that only with a strong moral foundation can future generations thrive.

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