My Father’s Father

Carol A. Hand

My Anglo-American grandfather lived in a goathouse
Perhaps it was my father’s father’s way of resisting classism
flipping the bird to his gated-community neighbors
The descendant of the youngest son of British aristocracy
who emigrated to make his own way because of primogeniture

***

Grandfather Wes and Aunt Margaret by the house my Grandfather built -  New Jersey, 1953
Grandfather Wes and Aunt Margaret by the house my Grandfather built –
New Jersey, 1953

***

My grandfather became a master plumber for NYC highrises
but built his own home without working indoor toilets
The hand-pump in the kitchen the only indoor source of water
It’s where his oldest son lived with his family
easy targets of derision from the privileged classes nextdoor
He preferred his two story shack out back
with goats in the basement and scores of canaries flying free upstairs

His wealthy neighbors offered him fortunes to sell his farm
But my grandfather steadfastly refused
Sometimes I wonder if he stayed there just to spite them

Despite the foul smell emanating from of his goathouse
and his dour, unwelcoming and cold demeanor
I respected his eccentric, independent spirit

***

Grandfather Wes - 1977
Grandfather Wes – 1977

***

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35 thoughts on “My Father’s Father”

  1. Shacking up and staying put alongside a wealthy neighbourhood must have been a courageous statement in the middle of last century given the steep class divides that existed in those times which refuse to fade away even in the present. Much of America’s prosperity today can probably be traced to the determination and dourness of spirit fostered by penurious conditions in which the earlier generations had to build their lives. I salute your spirit, Carol, for narrating it so proudly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Raj, I so appreciate your astute and thoughtful analysis of the context of class divisions and the resiliency that enabled ordinary people to “build their lives” and a nation. And I also thank you for your kind words. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for sharing such thoughtful, important insights, Bernadette. I think it was easier for me to understand him, and even admire his spirit of resistance, than it was for me to feel any sense of close kinship given his dour disposition.

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  2. how wonderful being a continuation
    of ancestors free of greed and perceived
    needs of wealth and luxury, Carol!
    my encounters with simple, “primitive”
    conditions, without running water, power…
    were so valuable in helping me
    be deeper in touch
    with my own existence,
    & the beauty of being alive 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing such thoughtful, lovely reflections about living a simpler life, David. In many respects, I miss living off the grid, but it’s been years. I no longer listen for the surge of the generator when I turn on the water faucet. Honestly, I’m still learning how to “be deeper in touch with my own existence” amid the busyness of life in the city. Gradually, I’m finding that this, too, is a valuable lesson in learning to see the beauty of being alive. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your playful comments, Lorna. I’d love to hear more about your step-grandfather someday. I’m not sure whether goats are good company, though. I almost had a chance to find out, but that’s a long, funny story for another day. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Kev. I, too, am sure my grandfather had many reasons for living as he did. Thank you for your playful comments, Lorna.

    Liked by 1 person

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