Letter From Dulles Airport 12 05 2016 Remembering my moral compass…

It is a quiet Monday evening and I am sitting in a waiting area at Dulles Airport; in a couple of hours I will board a flight to Albany, retrieve my car and drive the hour it takes to get down to the cottage.

The flight from Charlottesville was very short, about twenty minutes.  I closed my eyes and let my mind wander.

To anyone who reads me on a regular basis, it is apparent I did not support Donald Trump.  It occurred to me that many think I am now a disappointed Democrat.  Long ago, I became an Independent.

My upbringing was staunchly Republican.  My first vote for a President was for a Republican.  In the in-between, I have voted for worthy Republicans for various offices.

My parents were Republicans as was my Uncle Joe, who lived next door to us in the double bungalow we inhabited in south Minneapolis.  He and my father and mother had lived in duplexes and then the double bungalow forever as my father and my uncle shared responsibility for their mother, who was gone before I had cognizance of the world.

On a brutally cold morning in a February, my father awoke, complained of the worst headache he’d ever had and was dead before the ambulance could arrive.

Uncle Joe did not attempt to take his place but allowed me space to be in his life.  We took to watching television together on his huge color television set, sitting quietly, occasionally commenting on the acts on television variety shows.  He delighted in the Osmond Family and the Jackson Five.  He read paperback westerns and drove Lincoln Continentals.  His well-tailored wardrobe filled the closets.

Not well educated, he rose to be the Senior Vice President and General Manager for seven states for American Bakeries Company [Taystee Bread], then the second largest commercial baking company in the world.  He became a member of their Board of Directors.

At seventeen, it was determined by me and most everyone else, including family, counselors and my psychiatrist, that the healthiest thing I could do would be to leave home.  Relations between my mother and I had become unbearable, probably for both of us.

Uncle Joe took me to dinner and offered to help me.  I needed, in return, to maintain a B average in college and to have dinner with him at least once a month.

We grew closer.  At one of those dinners, at a restaurant looking down over downtown Minneapolis, snow swirling in the winter night, I asked him what was the thing he was proudest of in his life.  Uncharacteristically, he hesitated.

He told me that in 1932, he stood in his office building in what was then the tallest building in St. Paul and looked down at the bread lines weaving around the blocks.  He made a promise then that none of the people who worked for him, who counted in the hundreds, if not the thousands, would ever stand in a bread line.

He kept that promise.  He made sure that those who worked for him, even if they weren’t working full time, would have enough to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads.

I had not known; I was born long after the Great Depression, a child of the baby boom generation.

When I began to question the Viet Nam War, we had conversations.  He told me he no longer knew the right or wrong of Viet Nam; I must make my own decision and whatever it was, he would support me.

While he had never married, he had a great friend, Rose.  They breakfasted every Sunday morning after he’d been to church.  When she died, I suggested perhaps he might want to have breakfast with me, which began a tradition that grew to include sometimes two dozen members of the family.

It was apparent to me that Nixon’s goose was cooked when the medal Uncle Joe had received from the Committee to Re-elect the President {C.R.E.E.P.] disappeared from his desk where it had sat proudly.  If Nixon had lost Uncle Joe, he had lost it all.

He was and has remained my moral compass.  He was a humble man, not without flaws or he wouldn’t have been human, but a careful, considered, considerate man.

The last time weekend I saw him, he angered me with a comment.  Everyone told me to let it go but I marched over to his side of the house, started to speak and he held up his hand.  He told me he was sorry; he had spoken unwisely and out of turn.

It became a two-hour conversation that, when he died two months later, allowed me to feel I had had closure with the man who I now recognize as my greatest moral compass.

He was not my father but he fathered me.

On the short flight from Charlottesville, in a semi-slumber, I realized much of my hostility to the nomination of Donald Trump was because I am convinced Uncle Joe would have found his campaign deplorable and would be wounded that a man who has spoken as Donald Trump has about minorities and women would be the President Elect of these United States from the party he held so dear.

But Trump is.

I accept that and it does not mean I will not be watchful and will not civilly disagree when I feel it is appropriate and necessary for the good of this country to civilly disagree.

It is my belief that is what Uncle Joe would expect of me.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Letter From Dulles Airport 12 05 2016 Remembering my moral compass…”

  1. Susan Schuette Says:

    Your Uncle Joe sounds like a wonderful person and a great “moral compass”. You are also a great example of what it seems we need now in this country at this time. People awake, aware and watchful. Those who can disagree civilly and guard the principles upon which this country was founded. You are an important person in your own right and a guide to many of us who read this blog. Thank you!

  2. tombers Says:

    Thank you, Susan! Very kind…

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