Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grandpa Mack

I have told you some about one of my grandfathers, now I will tell you some about the other. As I've said before, Grandpa Young was a hard worker in every sense of the word and knew how to earn a dollar and what to do with that dollar, but Grandpa Mack, the other one, would fit another description.
       He was born right at the turn of the century in 1901 in West Virginia. Grandpa Mack's given name was William McKinley Thomas. Named after the president, of course, but I don't know if anyone ever called him William except maybe his mother.
       Just in case you've never seen it for yourself, I will tell you now that there are few places anywhere as beautiful as those old hills of West Virginia. Not to take anything away from other parts of the country, or the rest of the world, but that is just how I feel about it.
      Grandpa Young- the hard worker- dug holes and planted trees, mostly hemlock, on the hillsides and made a good living at it. Grandpa Mack on the other hand, put it on canvas, in oils, and made works of art. He hardly made a dime much less a dollar, but he was passionate about it and dedicated to a life of trying to capture and express that beauty I told you about earlier. It was a life of study, contemplation, spirituality, and aloneness.
       He did other things, too. For instance, in World War II he was a tail-gunner on a plane. At least that's how the story goes and I believe it. I've seen a photograph of him in his dress uniform. At some point he was also a school teacher. My mother, his daughter, was one of his students in the seventh grade, I think.
       I don't know if he was a good soldier or not, and I don't know how he was as a teacher, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't fired from either of those jobs so I guess he wasn't too bad at fighting war or teaching English in school, but all along, from early on, he painted.
      There were articles about him in the paper from time to time and several of his paintings took places of honor behind pulpits in churches and over mantels in living rooms in West Virginia and even some in Ohio. I almost forgot to tell you-he was also, (from time to time) a fine preacher of the Gospel. Don't forget though, he was an artist above all and therefore as is not uncommon with artists, he was also fond of drinking rum (from time to time). In the last years of his life he was supported mostly by his sister, my Great Aunt Clara. She was wheelchair bound, but made a living as a telephone operator. She had a switchboard in her house and was very good with her money. She made sure Mack had paint, canvas, and brushes and she was proud of his art. As a matter of fact on of the last letters Mack wrote was to her and it said near the end, "Thank you for a supreme effort to make a Man." Grandpa Mack died in a sanatorium of tuberculosis. He was sixty.
        At the start of this story, I might have made it seem as if one of my Grandfathers worked harder than the other, but that is not quite true as I see it now. Grandpa Young worked hard at working hard and having some of the finer things in life, which he deserved, but Grandpa Mack worked just as hard at being an artist. At being a searcher. A bit of a gambler too, but mostly he worked at simply Being. I am sure there is some of both of them in me.

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