After a parent teacher conference, we were talking to one of my daughter's teachers about her socialization. I commented about one of my daughter's friends. "They are a little odd."

The teacher corrected me. "We don't call the children odd anymore. We call them `quirky.' "

I asked, "You can't say different?"






"How about nutcase?"

"I still think we have to go with `quirky.' "

About that time, I talked to my Aunt Katie, a Catholic nun, about some of my projects. My father had recently passed away, and she said that my projects sounded a bit like some of my ancestors' adventures. She pointed out that I had come from a long direct line of quirky men, and since my father passed away, there was no one picking up the quirky family banner.

She suggested it was my turn to pick up the banner. I mentioned a few other family members more deserving to pick up the banner. Her response, "Some of your relatives have passed quirky a while back."

Sister Katie explained the history.

It started with James Lawlor. James used to wander around Victor, Iowa, in the morning with a Bible under one arm. He would approach people and tell them what they were doing wrong with their lives. My aunt was unsure if he read from the Bible or just used it as a prop. He would tell the townspeople to be more industrious all morning, and then in the afternoon he would go fishing. He lived with his son, Timothy Lawlor. Timothy named one of his 13 children Thomas. You tend to run out of biblical names around 13. The name Thomas mortified James. Thomas was the Apostle in the bible that doubted Jesus' resurrection. Because Timothy named his son Thomas, James disowned Timothy and would not speak to him for several years, even though James lived in his son's house.

Timothy moved the family to Davenport, Iowa. He wanted his sons to go to St. Ambrose College. He didn't provide them with any financial support, but he wanted them to attend college. He also believed in education for his daughters.

Timothy had a son, John, my grandfather. Sister Katie points out a few of his quirks. "We had only one food on our plates at a time. After we ate that, Dad passed the next food and we ate that, following that pattern until all was eaten. We never had all the food on the plate at one time touching. That really made us act weirdly when we ate at restaurants or at other people's houses."

John Lawlor begat Joseph Lawlor, who homesteaded in Alaska and had nine children. He started a dairy farm, became a politician, and had a road named after him. He moved to the desert, where he installed a revolutionary solar heating system in the 1970s. He planted jojoba trees and housed refugees. He regularly smuggled shoes and clothes into a Mexican orphanage. And on a given day, he could be having dinner with the governor, a homeless family, or the president of Nicaragua.

Joseph begat me. Now I am supposed to carry this banner. The problem with banner-bearer is you have to be very sure of yourself. These men, even when proven wrong, had no doubts about their convictions. My problem seems to have begun several generations ago. Not thinking, my parents named me Thomas, the doubter. What would my great-great-grandfather say? I question too many things and don't have the fire of a firm believer. An unpardonable sin in my lineage.

However, as I look at my daughters, I notice they are showing early signs of quirkiness. There may be hope yet.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at: