Friday, May 30, 2008

My Dad cuts me no slack

His childhood occurred during the Great Depression.

Summers he would spend at his grandmother's farm. He slept in the loft. At wake-up time, which was around 4:30 am, she would call him once, then a second time. Then he would hear her cane tap as she put her foot on the bottom step.

One time when he was five years old she (and--most importantly--the cane!) got all the way up to the loft with him still not moving. Suffice it to say that he was careful, for the rest of his childhood and adolescence, never to let her get beyond that first step again.

I don't recall him every hitting us as children. He never had to.

We sometimes talk politics or economics when I call home now.

I got to tell him about two weeks ago that he could stop lecturing me that a gallon of milk cost more than a gallon of gas when I whined about prices at the pump. After all, I pointed out, the two now stood pretty much at the same level.

He gave me that one, but I could tell he was just biding his time.

Last night I mentioned the fact that this year we didn't go away on the Memorial Day weekend, and that the price of gas was a factor in that decision. (In all fairness, it was a smaller factor than my wife's post-op recovery.) I told him we'd stayed home, worked on our yard, and had cook-outs with the neighbors.

I told him about somebody on the net coining the term stay-cation.

You could almost hear Dad spit on the other end of the phone.

"In other words," he said, "you're back to doing what we had to do when you were growing up. Staying home and having a good time in the neighborhood. Didn't seem to stunt your growth or anything, not being able to run off to Disney World at the drop of a hat."

Dad was a public school teacher back when public school teachers only got paid during the months they worked. During the summers he joined the custodians on the district paint crew, and spent 8-hour days slapping paint on gyms and classrooms all over Augusta County, Virginia. If he thought it was unfair that he had to take a second job every summer to keep food on the table, he never mentioned it.

My Dad's definitely not a Libertarian. He grouses a lot about the poor quality of the government services to which he believes he should be entitled.

But he comes from a generation that exhibited a certain toughness of character, a willingness to defer gratification, and an insistence on standing on his own two feet that sometimes seems to me to be dying out along with the greatest generation, especially in the whining American middle class.

I think I drifted initially into Libertarianism because my Dad provided (and continues to provide) an example for me of some essential quality that we will lose when the government controls our lives from the cradle to the grave.

Thanks to my Dad I don't fear the coming upheavals as the era of cheap oil ends, even as I realize that my children are going to spend their adult lives in a completely different world.

What I fear is that the whiners (as he would call them) will become progressively more willing to turn over bits and pieces of their birthright freedom and hard-bought (if only by their ancestors) civil liberties to an increasingly omnipotent State.

1 comment:

Shirley Vandever said...

Well stated, Professor.

Reminds me alot of my Dad. I think I need to write about that, not that anyone would care, but just to get it out there like you did. I think that I am libertarian because of him, even though he doesn't know it. He's been a registered Democrat all his life. But he and my Mom built something into me....

My Dad turned 76 last week. My grandmother turned 97 today, still living in Arden where she has spent all her life. My Dad built his house on Grubb Road with his own hands with my grandfather and great-grandfather. Alot of stories those walls could tell.