I sit alone here on the farm this evening, my wife is away. She is traveling to Pittsburgh and staying with a friend and on saturday they will be driving for two hours to a wedding of another friend. I wanted to stay home for a number of reasons, a new painting to start, I hate to travel, the garden needs tending and I needed some time for my thoughts. I was sitting on the back porch watching the animals and listening to the birds and thoughts of my grandfathers crept into my head. Not just one of them, both of them were there inside at once. How odd for this to happen. I don't think this has ever really happened before. So I thought more and more about them and started to see the things that made them the same and made them different.
My Paternal grandfather was 'Highland Scots' by blood, hated anyone and anything that was not Scottish even though the family had been in this country since 1746. He would be a very good example of a 'nativist', he hated blacks, Jews, Poles, Italians, Russians, name a European country and he hated them, and he especially hated the Irish. He even disliked my grandmothers family because they were 'lowland Scots' that came over later. But he married her anyway.
He was only one generation away from the farm and he was haunted by that fact, he hated the city and he longed to go back to the country. He was a master welder but every single moment he was not working he was hunting or fishing or working in his large garden.
On sundays he took us out to the country, he hated that we were growing up in a housing project and thought the best thing for us grandkids was a day in the country. He taught me all the names of all the birds and trees and flowers, he showed me the tracks and told me what animal made them, he taught me to shoot and hunt with a rifle, shotgun and bow and arrow. We fished for every kind of fish and we went frog gigging and turtle hunting. We picked all the wild fruits when they were in season.
He also took me into the garden to learn how to grow things, he taught me about the soil, how to enrich it and to keep it from compacting. He showed me how to plant things from seed and how to tend and nuture the plants and then we would harvest our crop and he showed me how to clean, cook and how to jar everything up for the winter.
His one other vice, he drank like a fish. But I loved him in spite of this and his proclivity for hatred and bigotry.
Well, my father married a girl whose father was of Irish blood and Catholic to boot. Don't worry it wasn't that bad, the few times both my grandfathers were at a family gathering together they were both very civil to one another.
My maternal grandfather was a friendly man who got along with anybody and everybody, he never ever had a bad word to say about anything or anybody. He didn't drink or smoke and he went to church every sunday. He was a railroad man, a freight conductor and he was always on the road. I got to see him when he was off and we would go to the city and look at the buildings and into the shop windows. If something interesting caught his eye we would go in and explore. We would even go into churches and synagogues to look at the architecture. He was fascinated with everything and we would have fun just looking at everything.
When he found out I could draw, he bought me a large wooden drawing box with all the tools an artist needed. He was always happy to look at a new drawing. When I decided to paint, he got me all of the paint and brushes, an easel and canvas and would come over just to see how I was progressing.
By the time I was getting good and interested in attending saturday classes at the museum, he was retired and on a small railroad pension. My parents did not want to spend the money and he told them he and my grandmother would go with out food for a month and pay for school if they were to cheap to pay for it (he used those exact words). I got to go to saturday art school and I eventually went on and got my masters degree in painting. (with the help of my wife of course). my wife and I eventually moved to a farm in the country and we plan on never leaving. (so far, so good).
I had to sit and write this because I came to realize that I am my grandfathers. I am a melding of these two very different men.
They each brought me something, they each taught me about the world around me, they taught me about simple pleasures and they each provided me with the things I love.
I love the country, farm-life, growing things, looking at things, creating art, going to the city and looking at everything. They both taught me how to be who I am and how to live my life the best I can.
That is all we ever really need.