Tomorrow is Father’s Day. i am making it my tradition to post two previous things i have written about my father. And i am most fortunate to have a great father for my grandson. Thank you, Jason Gander.
Written in 2000 for Jimmy Jewell’s 86th Birthday:
An Incredible Man
There is an incredible man in Lebanon.
He was born September 28, 1914. The first record of his family in America dates to 1677. His great, great, great grandfather came over the Cumberland Gap with Daniel Boone and was Daniel’s brother-in-law, marrying the Bryant sisters (this is from family oral history and not documented). His great, great grandfather moved to Statesville, Tennessee (about 20 miles from Lebanon) in the early 1800’s.
He had three brothers and three sisters. He is the only one left.
He has lived through two world wars, fighting as a Seabee in the Southern Philippines, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands in the last one. He has lived through the depression, the cold war, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War.
He had to quit his senior year at Lebanon High School to go to work when he father contracted tuberculosis. He started as a mechanic, shared a business with his brother-in-law in the 1950’s, and then became a partner in a combination of an automobile dealership and a gas and oil distributorship. He retired in 1979.
He and his wife have been married 62 years (he passed away shortly after their 75th anniversary). Their romance continues. the first home they owned was a one-room house adjacent to his wife’s family farm on Hunter’s Point Pike. They bought their next home on Castle Heights Avenue in 1941 with the help of a $500 loan from a friend. They have lived there ever since (they moved to Deer Park, a whopping three blocks down the street in 2004).
He and his wife put three children through college. They have five grandchildren (when he passed away, they also had three great grandchildren). They have visited every state in the union except Alaska where they were headed in 1984 when his wife’s illness forced them to turn around in British Columbia. Nearly all of their travels have been by RV’s, most in a 28-foot fifth wheel. When he was 72 and his wife 69, they made their first cross-country trip to San Diego where they had spent winters since 1986 with their eldest son and his family. They have made several trips up and down the east coast since then. The fifth wheel is still ready to go in their backyard.
They live comfortably in their retirement. Most people guess his age as the early 70’s. Last month, he painted their master bedroom and sanded and painted the roof of their two-car carport. When he can’t find anyone to go fishing with him, he hooks up the boat trailer and goes by himself. Now he usually throws his catch back. When he used to bring the catch home, he would clean the fish and give them away. He doesn’t like to eat fish, just catch them.
For years, he had the reputation as the best mechanic in Wilson County. He can still fix anything except computers and new cars because he has shunned learning the electronic advances.
All of this isn’t why this man is incredible.
He is incredible because he is such a good man.
He is a willow. He bends with the winds of change and changes of “progress.” Yet he never breaks. His principles remain solid as a rock. He is extremely intelligent but humble.
He seems to always be around when someone needs help. Everyone considers him a good friend, and he reciprocates.
He is not rich financially, but he is one of the richest men around.
My generation’s fathers were family men. They lived through hard times and hard work without a whimper. They believed in giving a day’s work for a day’s pay. They kept their sense of humor. Their sons wish they could emulate them.
Jimmy Jewell, this remarkable man, remains my best friend. i am his older son. i have wanted to be like him since my first recordable thoughts came into my head over fifty years ago. One close friend said of him, “I have never had a better, more caring, more fun-loving, thoughtful friend.” It seems to be a common theme among the people who know him. That’s whom i want to be like.
My father and i have enough talks for him to know how i feel, but i’ve seen too many people wait until someone is gone before singing their praises publicly. i figure he’s got a good chance to outlive us all, but i wanted to acknowledge how much he means to me and how remarkable a man i think he is.
And this is a poem i wrote about him, and i remember him remarking after he read it that he didn’t realize i knew so much about him:
When most folks meet him,
they notice steel blue eyes and agility;
his gaze, gait and movements
belie the ninety-five years;
those folks should look at his hands:
Durer, if he saw them,
would want to paint them.
His hands are marked from
tire irons, jacks, wrenches, sledges, micrometers on
carburetors, axles, brake drums, distributors,
starting in ’34 at twelve dollars a week.
He has used those hands to
repair the cars and
His hands pitched tents,
made the bulldozers run
in the steaming, screaming sweat of
Bougainville, New Guinea, the Philippines.
His hands have nicks and scratches
turned into scars with
the passage of time:
a map of history, the human kind.
Veins and arteries stand out
on the back of his hands,
tales are etched from
grease and oil and grime,
cleansed with gasoline and goop and lava soap;
They are hands of labor,
hands of hard times,
hands of hope,
hands of kindness, caring.
His hands own wisdom,
passing it to those who know him
with a pat, a caress, a handshake.
His hands tell the story
If you would rather listen to me recite this poem:
Happy Fathers Day, Daddy.