Tuesday, September 20, 2011


My maternal grandfather and his wife came east from Illinois to northern Kentucky back during the Great Depression. In my mind is a story told of the two, at some point along the way, either working in or owning a store whose main profits came from a small boot-legging operation that was maintained out back. I have mental snapshots of him clerking in local pony-kegs during my early childhood years, but evidently such career choices didn’t bring them any financial security along the way. They lived in a one bedroom apartment two blocks off downtown Main Street, in an area that, in those days, adjoined itself to the “colored section”, affording me on our visits my only interaction with that segment of society. “Grampa”, as I knew him, became a ticket-taker at the local inner city cinema theaters in his later life, dying in his mid eighties… On my fraternal side, “Papaw” moved from the central bluegrass to just south of the Ohio River, seeking a job in Cincinnati. He was a welder and my dad, his oldest son, would follow him into such profession, the two of them foremen at different plants for the same company. I knew this granddad in all his “peculiarities, his love for liver and onions, his passion for baseball, TV wrestling, and westerns. He was a fisherman, chewed a cigar, and into camping; but lost most of his passion for life when my dad passed, an accidental blow to the head at work taking him suddenly from us. Papaw took his pension, withdrew to a back room in his home, but did odd jobs for others here and there. At sixty-nine, he descended from some woman’s roof after fixing her gutter, knocked at the door to announce his having finished, and fell dead at her feet from a heart attack… As for me, with my seventieth birthday just three weeks away, I’m actually pondering three more grade levels with my present charge should the school system grant me the privilege of continuing this gig. It’s not a position most men would seek, working in what, anymore, is a “woman’s world”, attending to the needs of these kids in whatsoever way the situation demands; and how that “stacks up” in any kind of heritage handed down, I know not. My life has surely been a far cry from any career that my father hoped I might pursue. Nonetheless, God has been good and I am thankful for the road thus far……

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