GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - After 11 children, 32 grandchildren, 57 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great-grandchildren, Shirley Keena has a key piece of parenting advice.
“I just think that you gotta listen to them,” said Keena, 85, of the ever-expanding pool of children who have swirled around her for decades.
Shirley and her husband, Don Keena, 88, have lived their entire lives in Grand Rapids and since their marriage in 1948, their brood has grown exponentially: In November, they celebrated the birth of their 100th grandchild.
Having a big family has been fun, Shirley Keena said. She and her husband just went with the flow of life as they were planning their family.
“We just loved it,” she told The Grand Rapids Press (https://bit.ly/1TkszUZ ). “We always made room.”
Before retirement, Don Keena worked as a painter. Shirley Keena worked first as a waitress, then in local hospitals.
The family moved into their current home on the Northeast Side 50 years ago, when their youngest child was just 2. They’ve stayed put ever since.
When their children were growing up, the family entertained themselves with drive-in theaters and picnics.
“We always try to show them love,” Shirley Keena said.
As they grew older and the family expanded, the Keenas have tried different ways to keep the family close-knit.
“I tried to have Christmas parties, but it got too expensive,” said Shirley Keena, referencing how many people were getting to be in the family.
Now, if they want to get together, they have to rent a hall.
“(Otherwise,) our floor would cave in,” said Shirley Keena, laughing. “That’s about all you can do when you got that many - plan a family reunion.”
The five-generation family shows no sign of stopping its growth - the 101st grandchild is expected in May, around the same time Shirley and Don Keena will celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary.
Despite the family spreading its branches to different Michigan cities, California, Colorado and Texas, the heads of the Keena clan keep in touch with the numerous family members via social media.
Nowadays, Shirley and Don Keena spend their time grocery shopping, playing cards, watching television and going to bingo games in Mount Pleasant.
“I’m just lucky that my husband is a good driver,” Shirley Keena said.
And even though the couple is fairly independent, one of the biggest perks of having a huge family is the network.
“There’s always somebody to call,” Shirley Keena said.
Information from: The Grand Rapids Press, https://www.mlive.com/grand-rapids
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