The national elections are a year and a half away as I write this but we are already being bombarded with phone calls asking our support for candidates seeking the presidential office. Invitations to town hall meetings or meet-and-greet appearances arrive in the mail regularly. Every newscast has an analysis of future politicians and the issues they face. We will certainly be weary of political talk by election time. My husband says he grew up weary of political talk.
His dad had to quit school during 6th grade when his own father died. He and his brother, an 8th grader, stayed home from then on to try to keep the farm operation going. The depression years began and, despite their hard work, good intentions and help from neighbors, they were unable to keep the bank from taking over the farm. This set of circumstances led him to a life-long interest in government and what effects the decisions made in Washington D. C. have on the average citizen or general public.
Pop's formal education may have stopped before he was a teenager, but he became an avid reader. He studied whatever was available and once he made up his mind on how to vote or what policies to endorse, he talked them up wanting everyone to agree with him. He loved to talk politics but didn't like to listen to anything that challenged his views on a topic. Once his mind was made up, his decisions were carved in stone. There was no argument sent his way that would alter them. Few people were brave enough to try. He was very vocal about shooting down opposing opinions.
Probably because his sermons on the subject didn't lead to any discussions, the family tired of his oft-repeated declarations. That is, most of the family tired of listening to him. He had one grandson who, from the time he was a teenager on into adulthood, would sit and listen as Pop preached. He gave Pop his full attention, nodding and mumbling an occasional affirming, "Yup" or, "I know what you mean."
This young man would walk into the room where Pop was sitting in his recliner reading the newspaper or listening to polka music on his little radio asking, "What's up, Pop?" No one else would ever ask him such a leading question knowing his answer would be about the latest political issue and it would take the next 20 minutes to an hour for him to give his complete answer. Pop had twenty-six grandchildren and they all spent time with him but they never encouraged talk about the government. Most of them stuck around until he got off on one of his sermons. That is when they found any excuse to escape somewhere out of earshot.
The Listener was eventually rewarded for his courtesy and patience. He was in his early teens the day Pop told him to go up to the attic and bring him the 410 shotgun that was up there. "You can have it," he said when it was retrieved. "I never use it anymore."
Pop lived frugally and worked hard all his life making him financially secure by the time he retired from farming. Some of the grandchildren screwed up their courage and asked him for a loan for college or when buying a first home. He discussed their requests with them at length before agreeing. He never turned any of them down but stressed this was not a gift. He wanted a firm promise that he would be repaid so he could help the next one who asked. Every one of them lived up to their agreement with him.
There was a difference with The Listener. He wasn't even thinking of buying a house the day he told his grandpa about his first job in a small town an hour's drive away. "Where will you live?" Finding an apartment to rent didn't sound like a good idea to his grandpa. Pop told him paying rent was like flushing money down a toilet. He offered him a loan to make a down payment on a house. That was the difference. The Listener never asked his grandpa for anything because Pop always offered first. No one in the family seemed to mind the preferential treatment The Listener received. They figured he more than earned it.
The Listener, for his part, says he is happy he spent so much time at the side of his grandfather's chair. He didn't particularly enjoy the Six Fat Dutchmen's polka playing in the background but he enjoyed the passion with which the old man talked even when his own thoughts were leaning in another direction. "He was a good guy and I learned a lot."