Daddy, or Known to Most as Jimmy Jewell

He is 106 today.

He remains my rock.

Two things i wrote about him. One was written twenty years ago. The second was written eleven years ago posted and recited here in earlier posts.

i miss him.

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 to Kentucky with Daniel Boone and apparently was Daniel’s brother-in-law. His great, great grandfather moved to Statesville in southeastern Wilson County 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 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 his 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 an automobile dealership and a gas and oil distributorship. He retired in 1972.

He and his wife have been married for 62 years. They remain infatuated with each other. 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 $500.00 loan from a friend. They have lived there ever since.

He and his wife put three children through college. They have five 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 travel has been by RV’s, most in a twenty-eight foot fifth-wheel. When he was 84 and his wife was 80, they made their last cross-country trip to San Diego where they spent winters since 1985 with their eldest son and his family. They have made several trips up and down the east coast since then, and the fifth-wheel is still ready to go in their backyard.

They live comfortably in their retirement. Most people guess his age as early 70’s. Last month, he painted their master bedroom and sanded and painted the roof of his 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 in. 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 the changes of “progress.” Yet he never breaks. His principles remain as solid as a rock. He is extremely intelligent but humble.

He seems to always be around when someone needs help. Everyone considers him a 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, or James Rye Jewell, Sr., this remarkable man, remains my best friend. I am his oldest son. I have worshipped him since the first recallable thoughts came into my head fifty-three or so years ago. I still find myself wishing I could have his strength, his kindness, his work ethic, his love, his faith.

My father and I have had enough talks for him to know how I feel. But I’ve seen too many people wait until someone was 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 great a man I think he is.

Happy eighty-sixth birthday, Dad.

Hands

when most folks meet him,
they notice steel blue eyes and agility; his gaze, gait and movements
belie the ninety-five years;
but
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
our hearts;

his hands pitched tents,
made the bulldozers run
in war
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,
pumping life;
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
so well.

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