Sunday, June 15, 2014

Grandpa's House

My grandparent's house was an old three story, needed for the size families back then.  It was a place to gather with cousins and aunts and uncles, it's yard was our playground for games of tag and hide and seek. No one ever user the front door and no one ever knocked or rang the bell. It was a constant flow of relatives into and out of and through the home.
There was an upright piano in the living room and though I never remember anyone playing it, I remember many wooden handles and pictures of my dad and uncles on the top.  Latter in life I would come to understand those hammers were gavels from my grandfather's years of service as president of the Rhode Island state senate, and my dad and his brothers were all in there uniforms from the second world war.
My grandfather was retired and would spend most of his time in his living room chair, in front of the TV, watching the Red Sox, and my grandmother in the kitchen, entertaining and cooking.
I never remember discussions of religion or politics but it was here that my core beliefs developed.  They taught through example more than word.
The gavels and the pictures were an example of service to state and country.  My grandmother served up love of family in the kitchen.  Somehow, without lecture, I was taught that discrimination was wrong, that we had an obligation to treat all with respect and dignity, that we had an obligation to work hard, to serve and help our neighbors, and that everyone was our neighbor. I was taught that I was a Catholic Irish-American and to be proud of that, but that people of other ethnic backgrounds, religions, or color, were different, but not inferior.  I was taught that I could disagree with another's political views but I had an obligation to allow them their view, and in fact an obligation to defend their right to express it. I was taught to oppose hatred, bigotry and bullying in all it's forms. I was taught that not all of us have the same advantages, and that it was our responsibility to help those who had less.
My grandparents knew some powerful political people of their time, and they would sometimes visit for Sunday meals, but these people understood their obligation to use their position to help, not dominate others.
I know I sound like an old-timer speaking of the good old days, but I am not, I am speaking of a future that is possible if we want it. A future where service to others is our guiding principle.
It is what I and my cousins learned at our grandparent's house, it is a part of us.

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