Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Grandfather's Birthday

Paul Jones Lindsey
4 November 1895 - 11 June 1983

I took this photograph of my grandfather in September 1982

In the twenty-six years that I knew him, I learned so many things from my mother's father. What a treat it was to hear him recite the poems of Robert Service, especially "The Cremation of Sam McGee," and to listen to his real - life stories of the Dalton Gang (see my post from the Dalton Museum) and Buffalo Bill (see last summer's post, "Hominy, Horseradish, and Buffalo Bill," on my Fortnightly Blog).

The Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe, June 1966
Here I am with my Grandpa Lindsey, ready to ride the train
to Kansas City to visit his sister, my Great Aunt Mabel

Shortly before he died, my grandfather taught me a very important lesson about trusting and sharing when it comes to family heirlooms. It was Christmastime 1982 when he offered me the 1913 photograph of his brother Sam, who was killed in WWI. Knowing this to be one of his most treasured possessions, I said, "I don't want to take it if you're not ready to part with it."

My grandfather responded with words that I shall never forget: "Well, Honey Girl, if I give it to you, I'm not parting with it." As I left his house that December night to return to college, he wished me a Happy New Year and said, "You're a quarter of a century old now, Kitti Girl. You must make your own decisions." That was the last time I saw him. I should have got on a Greyhound Bus and gone to visit him over Spring Break; I regret to say that I did not.

I used to think that one day, if I had a son, I would name him after this favorite grandfather. As it turned out, however, I married a man with the last name of "McCartney" and decided that it would not be fair to name a child "Paul McCartney," thus saddling him with the task of repeatedly denying that his parents had named him after one of the Beatles. Also, as it turns out, my husband Gerry, hails from Liverpool, though he claims no relation to the famous Paul, other than to say that they are related "by talent"!

Still, despite this quandary of surname, I was reluctant to relinquish my plan to honor my grandfather with a namesake. Our first son already carried the family name of "William," so Gerry and I settled on naming our second son after Great Uncle Sam, whose memory my grandfather had cherished all his life. I feel sure that having a great-grandson named Sam would suit him every bit as much as having one named Paul. Here is the picture that my grandfather passed on to me, and that I in turn will pass on to my son, Samuel Jerome McCartney:

Samuel Gordon Lindsey,
my grandfather's brother,
in 1913, age 20
Died in France, 31 July 1918
at the Battle of the Aisne-Marne

A letter from my grandfather ~ October 19, 1980:
"About the picture of your Uncle Sam: it was taken close to Barnsdall, Oklahoma, about this time of year 1913. He lacked a little over two months of his 21st birthday. We were both working on a booster station there and I had my 18th birthday while there. He lived five years after that. He was killed July 31, 1918 in what is known as the Aisne - Marne Battle. Aisne - Marne are two rivers running parallel to each other, and the battle was about 30 miles northeast of Paris. There is a National Cemetery of the same name, and Sam was originally buried there but was brought home two years later and buried at Niotaze. He looks like a little boy in that picture, but he was much of a little man. Never weighed as much as 150 until he went to the Army."

Click below to hear
the inimitable Johnny Cash (1932 - 2003)
Robert Service himself (1874 - 1958)
recite "The Cremation of Sam McGee"

1 comment:

  1. I loved the birthday card you sent and have been meaning to write and tell you so since the day it arrived. It is so perfect!

    It reminds me of a photograph of myself at age 9, holding hands with my grand-dad at the train station. These were the old days, when you could actually go places on trains in this country, and we -- just the two of us-- were taking a day trip from his little town in Kansas up to see his older sister in Kansas City. Even though we would not be spending the night, I insisted on taking my little suitcase, just barely visible in the corner of the photograph. To this day, I can tell you exactly what was in there: my little white Easter gloves (remember when we wore those?) and a six - pack of Butterfinger candy bars!

    So when I read your card -- "in their purses were candy bars" -- I knew it was true!