Like most parents, we thought this day might never come. On June 9 our youngest child will graduate from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. This is a momentous occasion for all parents but it feels especially so for us.

Our youngest is following in the footsteps of her older blended brothers and sisters — a steady stream of nine little people who became bigger people over 40 years of nonstop daycare, first days of school, sports teams and summer camps. And let’s not forget all those teachers’ conferences, PPT’s, SAT’s, college applications and those interminable holiday concerts. You know the ones I mean.

Years from now, should each find themself in therapy grieving the lack of attention paid, they need only look to the thousands of photos that are a testament to our commitment as parents and the fact that we almost always showed up, even with so many.

Those of you juggling careers and raising large or blended families know exactly what I’m talking about. My husband and I both worked away from home, me as a judge, on the bench making decisions for other families, and he in court making it all possible.

At the same time we were weaving a fabric to mesh one family from several. In our case, this meant two of his, two of mine, two of ours and for a time, two of theirs. We even did a stint as foster parents until the first blended batch gifted us with grandchildren.

We adopted two children from Ukraine, traveling to an orphanage there and bringing them home to join a family of older siblings who were like surrogate parents. This took place when we still had some energy and were immersed in the parenting thick of things. Okay, truth be told, my husband, being a bit older, wasn’t as high energy as I was but he was a great team player who supported my “what’s one more” philosophy.

Over the years, as one child left for college, that bed was filled with a younger sibling, a natural segue from one to the next. This is how it is in big families. For a time, we had three in college all at once.

When our little Ukrainians reached school age it felt like our family was more than complete. We could actually see the light at the end of our proverbial kinder tunnel.

And then came a phone call — a foster care request for us to take a beautiful baby girl for “just a few weeks.”

“Just a few weeks, right?” my husband questioned, already knowing the answer.

A caseworker appeared at our door that evening holding a baby carrier with a blanket hiding its occupant. Pulling back the cover, I saw a beautiful four-month-old baby girl with big blue eyes and a terrible hacking cough. In between bouts of coughing, she just smiled at me. Just a few weeks soon became a few months, then a few years, then, of course, a lifetime. We were back to years of daycare and school events, story time and flower walks with a daddy old enough to be her grandpa. Immediately, he became her biggest fan.

The years continued — from Daisy Scouts and gymnastics, to boyfriends and broken hearts, the onset of Covid, drivers’ ed and college applications. We were aging parents working hard to provide a safe place for teenage angst, helped by so many older siblings watching over her, along with two snuggly dogs.

She never tires of the story of her arrival on our doorstep, when I looked into those trusting baby eyes and said, “that’s-a-ma-baby!”

Our empty nest now looms on the horizon, just within our reach. This last one will head off to nursing school in the fall, continuing the public service example set by her family, filled with the knowledge that wherever life takes her, she will always have a soft landing here at home.

The bed she will leave empty for now will occasionally be occupied by the grandchildren we have and those yet to come.

When you ask about this last one, the last to be launched, I will tell you that I am clicking my heels. I really am. Who wouldn’t be after all these years? But with tears in my eyes.

Linda Pearce Prestley lives in West Tisbury. She is a retired judge and currently works as a family and divorce mediator.