Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Father's Legacy

by Pa Rock
Proud Son

My father, Garland Eugene Macy, died one year ago in the wee hours of Christmas morning.  He lived alone in a huge house and managed to take care of himself right up until the end - when he called his own ambulance.  He was eighty-five.

My dad was part of what was truly "the greatest generation."  He grew up in poverty out in the woods of Newton County, Missouri, during the Great Depression.   He earned his spending money trapping wild rabbits and selling them to the neighbors for their stew pots, and he and his parents would have to catch rides to town with neighbors or relatives because the family never owned a car.  The rural school that my dad and his friends attended, Westview, only went through grade ten, so my dad moved in with relatives in Neosho after grade ten where he got a full-time job and managed to complete high school.  He graduated in May of 1942 and enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis shortly after that.

My dad's older brother, Wayne, and most of their male cousins served in World War II.  Dad was the only one of that group to rise to the rank of sergeant, and his cousins called him "Sarge" well into all of their declining years.  Dad's military specialty was fixing the sights on machine guns of fighter aircraft.

The Great Depression and World War II marked an entire generation in a way that history seldom does.  My dad and his contemporaries started out in life dirt poor and always worried that no matter how good things happened to be at the time, those bad days could come back.  They worked hard and saved with a vengeance.  I can literally remember my mother washing tin foil so she could use it again, and my dad, to his last days, always lectured me about the need to be doing my own home and car maintenance.  He felt that it was foolish to pay someone else for work that any able-bodied person could do on his own.

My dad was a hard worker and a saver, often, I felt, to the detriment of his family.  He did take our family on three vacations as Gail and I were growing up, and on two of those we basically drove day and night to get to California where we bunked with relatives.  He and my mother owned businesses that often precluded things we take for granted today - like days off.  I remember him best at work, because that is where he usually was.

I was able to become closest to my dad during the last five years of his life.  I left Noel in January of 2005 when I went back to work for the military.  From that time until the very day he died, I telephoned him each evening to see how he was doing.  We had some wonderful conversations that covered hundreds of topics, and we both got to where we really looked forward to our daily telephone visits.  More that a couple of people have related to me how he rushed them off of the phone because it was time for "Rock's call."  It took me several months after his passing to get over the feeling that I needed to be making my daily call.

My dad had money stashed in several types of investments when he passed away last Christmas, and although the temptation to take my half and have some fun with it was nearly overwhelming - since he seldom did - I have found that in some ways I have been marked with his conservative instincts, and the inheritance has proven to be more burdensome than beneficial.   I have never lived through a Great Depression, but I think we came close to an economic catastrophe at the end of our last President's term - and we are not out of the woods yet.  So I spend my own money and shepherd his, knowing that one day my kids and I may need his savings to get through awful times like those my dad knew as a child.  History really does tend to repeat itself.

If the economic apocalypse hasn't happened by the time I call my own ambulance, my children will inherit the burden of handling their grandfather's legacy and they can decide what to do with it.   I know that they will be up to the task because they come from a long line of smart people!  In fact, that know-how is also a part of their grandfather's legacy!


BK in MO said...

Very wise. But I think you should at least have a little fun with some of the money. Have a good year, friend. And enjoy living in paradise in Okinawa.

Tiffany Burke said...

I miss granddad very much. He was such a great man. I love reading about him in your blog. I haven't been able to get on here much but I try to as much as I can. I also went back over older blogs and read about Reed, dad, and the accident again. It made me cry of course because I miss dad terribly. But I also keep thinking about how incredibly blessed we are that Reed made it thru ok. I'm reminded of that everyday and thank God for it.
I miss you uncle Rocky and hope you're doing well!