Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Recently, a close friend blogged about the passing of a generation, losing the last of the “Survivors” and the continual passing of World War II veterans.  After initially reading his post, I found his entry to be highly informative, but I failed to grasp its true relevance—until this weekend.

As chronicled in yesterday’s entry, I spent the weekend traveling East Texas and visiting with Clay’s relatives.  Many of you know Clay’s paternal grandfather, “Grandpa”, as we know him.  Others of you have heard Clay or me share humorous vignettes about our time with Grandpa.  Anyone associated with Clay understands the role Grandpa plays in his life.  Indeed, few men like Grandpa exist.  

In September, Grandpa turns 80.  Like other members of the “Greatest Generation”, Grandpa saw a “Great Depression”, a world war against an evil dictator, a Cold War and the rise of the United States as the world’s lone super power.  However, Grandpa’s story stands out even among this group of American icons.  Not only did Grandpa serve his country, he also served time for murder on more than one occasion.  Not only did Grandpa survive the Great Depression, he also survived lung cancer and regained his vision after being blind for over a year.  Not only did Grandpa’s service to America foster and nurture her growth into the world’s only super power, he also fostered and nurtured six kids and later in life became the sole guardian/supporter of three grandchildren—two of which still depend on him to this day.  While many members of the “Greatest Generation” retired years ago and spend their days playing bingo, Grandpa continues to work in the garage in his backyard.

With each story that Grandpa tells, he paints a picture that captures the true essence of Americana—all on a 4th grade education.  While books sales and movie ticket sales continue to plummet, Grandpa finds no trouble in entertaining people with his stories told through his unique voice.  Harvard educated students must plagiarize in order to capture an audience; this “shade tree” mechanic just talks about his life.  Sadly, Grandpa will not live forever.  In fact, he told us over the weekend that he recently purchased his headstone.  Apparently, he feared that his children would spend the money on other things if he left it to them.  

Grandpa’s mortality reminds me of the importance of oral history. In college, I had a history professor who constantly talked about oral history.  He spoke about interviewing Orval Faubaus prior to his death and using that as an oral history of the Civil Rights movement.  I feel it is imperative that the same attention be paid to Grandpa’s story—his recounting of becoming a “born again” Christian, how he gave up alcohol and cigarettes, his memories of Korea, Woodstock, Watergate and Reagan.


Post a Comment

<< Home