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The Men in My Life

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Challenges and Handicaps

A common current lament is about young men growing up without a strong and virtuous male presence in their lives. That certainly doesn’t doom any young man to failure, because there are plenty of contrary examples. But I do believe it is a handicap to be overcome, and the reason I believe that is the influence the men in our family had on me. I often think of them and things they said and did and the ways they lived.

One thing they taught me was how to interact with the variety of personalities they exhibited. And, they taught me different skills and approaches to issues and problems. I’m thinking of my dad, two granddads, three uncles by marriage, and two great uncles, all who lived close by and with whom I had many interactions. They included owners of small family businesses, my high school principal, a rural mail carrier, a skilled construction worker, a Baptist pastor, and a horse trader. And they all had skills beyond their primary means of earning a living. One (and only one) was even an expert fisherman!

I think of a couple of things they all had in common. They were all faithful Southern Baptists, and they all lived through and survived The Great Depression and the threat of polio. I mention polio just because it was a common, feared, virus-caused, childhood disease with many similarities to COVID-19. There is no cure and there was no vaccination until the Salk Vaccine became available in the 1950’s. (I remember instances of individual quarantine in my pre-vaccination youth.) And, I mention The Great Depression because the economic challenges it presented were about 100 times as great as those we face with COVID-19, so far.

Polio, by the way, was the disease that seriously handicapped President Roosevelt with near paralysis, a challenge he courageously did his best to keep hidden from the American people during the depression and the early years of WWII.

There were other dangerous diseases. One great uncle I never got to meet was Uncle Claude Williams who died in France, a WWI soldier apparently struck down, not by the Germans, but by the Spanish Flu. Uncle Claude had a lot of company. The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 killed tens of millions of people.

I suppose one reason those eight men were strong and set good examples is because they had been made stronger and wiser by the suffering that had been imposed on them, the older generation having survived two World Wars and The Great Depression and the younger generation, the depression and one World War.

So, while growing up without a strong male presence is a handicap, I’m going to suggest that growing up in almost uninterrupted prosperity with few widespread health and economic challenges is also a handicap. At least I am suffering only from the latter.

Related After-Thoughts

The comments above remind me of other posts that are at least somewhat related. One is about granddaddies, an outhouse, and President Roosevelt, a POTUS whose programs Granddaddy Williams strongly disapproved even as one of them provided a new outhouse for Granddaddy Shelley. President Roosevelt’s approach, by the way, was always presented in language of we, us, and our, a striking contrast with presidential language of the last 11 years. Also, Roosevelt’s programs normally involved providing government-funded jobs, including tasks as mundane as building outhouses, rather than sending out checks. Here are three links to related posts.

More on FDR, Out Houses, and Grandparents

Another Example of Mundane but Helpful WPA Work

More on the WPA