My grandfather was raised on a farm in Illinois until he came down the Mississippi River around 1910 and met a Spanish girl at Delacroix Island in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. That romance accounts for my family’s situation in this part of the Gulf Coast, and also accounts for the tradition of family and heritage that I value to this day.
In his later years of failing health, I distinctly recall him reminiscing emotionally on his childhood. His words on one particular day in that time resonate clearly: “My Mama, she raised us!”
I recall the pathos in his speech as he went on to explain how his father abandoned his mother and his brother and sister. He didn’t have much regard for that absentee father: Notably, he didn’t refer to the man as “Daddy,” and he had no kind regards or memories of a biological father who reportedly loved drink and gambling–the party life– more than he loved his wife and children.
My PaPaw could have followed the role model his absentee father provided for him, but gratefully he rose above those circumstances and became a man of character. He helped my MaMaw rear a family of seven, supporting her as a faithful provider and helper throughout the economic trials of the Great Depression.
My Daddy revered Papaw. In fact, he found his role model for “Daddy” in that special grandfather who overcame such adversity from his own childhood.
I’m grateful for such a legacy of manhood. May this example before my own children be worthy of such a noble tradition.