The Hawks have been hovering on the edges of my awareness lately. I have felt their grit and their determination that’s been passed to me. It’s as though I feel them walking with me, holding me up when I am tired.
My dad’s mom was born in 1894, she was 100 years old when she died. She raised 9 kids, of which my dad was the youngest. My grandparents were poor. They were tenant farmers, never having enough money to own land of their own. Neither of them were educated beyond middle school.
My dad remembered the cycle of farms they rented. When they would arrive at a new place, they would find the land farmed out and exhausted. They would invest years in bringing the land back to productivity. And then the land would become too expensive for them to continue renting. Repeat cycle.
They never had much. My dad recalled that his Christmas gifts were always hand-sewn clothing that he would need for the following year. The only frivolous gift he received was an orange.
It brings a smile to my face thinking of how he would eat an orange. He would eat them as his after-dinner treat. He would sit at the table with a paring knife and remove the skin, then every scrap of pith, then separating each segment methodically picking off any bit of tasteless fiber. Only after each section has been thoroughly inspected for unnecessary pith and fiber, would he savor each and every segment. I remember countless times climbing into his lap while he worked, and we would eat a segment for me a segment for him. Even as a surly teenager, when I would encounter him in the kitchen eating an orange he would set aside half of his segments for me.
Growing up The Hawks where just as they were. I didn’t see all the ways poverty marked all of them. I’ve only just realized the ways it manifested in my dad. The elaborate way he enjoyed an orange. Why he wouldn’t eat peanut butter. Why he would never wear jeans. I cannot know now, but in retrospect I suspect his dungarees were his uniform, the only pants he had until he started earning his own money as a grown man. They were a symbol of what he had broken free from.
The whole family over-achieved. My grandmother kept her garden up until she was 90 years old. It was a massive plot of 20 feet by 40 feet. My earliest memory of her is of her teaching me how to hoe. My dad accidentally slammed the car trunk on my grandmother’s hand, and she wrapped a handkerchief around it and went and picked strawberries without a single complaint. My dad’s older brother retired at 80 from his second job as the head doctor for a nursing home, and went into day trading. The way in which they were never idle betrays how hard they were trying to make sure the past stayed the past.
I think I have been feeling the energy of his family because of the current uncertainty. I feel lucky, because I have an in demand skillset. And although I don’t know exactly what comes next, I have good reason to believe Jeannine and I will weather this ok. But I know that many other Americans will not be so lucky. And I am afraid that in this hard moment we, in aggregate, will not be capable of making good choices.
I have been thinking about this quote from LOTR.
“Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me, I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide, All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”
The Hawks made incredible use of the time that was given them. It was their grit that set my early path on far easier ground than what they had to walk. I am so thankful to them. I am thankful for they work they did to make my path easier, and I am thankful that I carry their legacy. I can only hope to live up to their example.
Aside: There are stories that didn’t make it into this blog post. I think I should set those down, but they didn’t belong here. My dad had dreams that came true. My grandmother saved the family car from being stolen by hopping on the running board and punching the get-away-driver until he gave-up and fled. My uncle got impaled on a pitchfork, the remedy for which was to pull it out and hope for the best (he lived). But those are for another day.