Thursday, August 30, 2007

173. Uncle Jeff

My mother has more than a few times relayed the story to me of some advice her mother rendered as she was carrying around me in her womb, just a few weeks under 47 years ago. The most important advice her mother gave her was this, "A lot of folks will be telling you how to raise this kid, especially people who have never had children, who seem to know more about it than anyone. For those who are parents, listen to them. For those who aren't, ignore them. They don't have any idea what they are talking about."

Most of you know I have no children; as such I have tried my best not to tell those who do the dos and donts of child-upbringing. Truthfully it has not been much of a problem. A number of my friends, both married and single, are also gleefully childless. And from my perspective, grandparents and aunts and uncles, at least at certain times, seem to enjoy children a lot more than parents. I have often written of my six (known and acknowledged) nieces and nephews - three of each - as well as the five or six half- and step- sisters and brothers of those six, all of whom I serve in some capacity, either great or small, as Uncle Jeff, a role I cherish.

Last evening was one of those evenings my presence was needed to pick up the youngest three of my brother's children from their school, Cochran Elementary. Aubreana is 8, Kevin is 6, and Elijah is 4. The time for me to pick them up coincided with the time I was to be travelling out 7th Street Road toward the old Carpenters' Hall on Dixie Highway for a big Democratic Party dinner and rally, billed as an Appreciation event for those active in the Party. So, off the four of us went to the Union Hall, which was packed to the gills with about 600 folks, all hankering for the food which was prominently displayed in serving dishes along the center of the hall.

I have not been in the Carpenters' Hall much in the years since my grandfather Dan Hockensmith passed away in 1983. My last visit there (as I recall) was with Eleanor Jordan campaigning there in 2000 for Congress. During the last two decades of my grandfather's life, he was an officer of the union, Local 64, serving as either Business Agent or President. Those last two decades of his life pretty much coincided with the first two decades of the lives of me and my brother.

My brother and I spent endless hours in the place as meetings were held, strikes were planned, or union jobs were posted for the men to seek out for their weekly wages. I can remember roaming through, but not understanding, all the tools and machines which were located in the Apprentice School, later named for Ted Pitts, at the rear of the property. I can also remember doing some genealogical research on my grandfather's family, as his father had also been a member of the union when its headquarters was located downtown on Washington Street. My grandfather help design and construct the building we went to last night, and every time I pass it I think of him and all the times he spent there.

But, last night, I was trying to control three little children in a hall full of people, with a band playing, a lot of singing, dancing (notably my old boss in the County Clerk's office from the Summer of 1979, Barbara Aubrey, and her beau), politicking, and all sorts of other activities taking place, all of which the three of them wanted to be a part of, although they really had no idea what it was all about. They drank their lemonade, ate their potatoes and green beans and ham, with a roll and a piece of cake (which Kevin reported was not all that good). They got their picture taken - repeatedly - by Mike Ridge, a photographer in the Yarmuth campaign, and generally had a good time running around, with me about three feet behind them trying to keep all of them in sight. Eventually they met most everyone running for office, but the only one they remembered by the time we got home was "Jack" as they reported to their father, who responded "Jack who?"

This whole scenario took about an hour and a half. It was fun but exhaustive. I have no idea how working parents find the time to do anything other than handling their kids. That must be doubly or triply exhaustive. Taking your three youngest nieces and nephews out for a few hours to do anything gives one a great appreciation for whatever job your brother may be doing in the raising of his children. I've now and then over the twenty years he has been a father - although pretty rarely to be honest - offered criticism to him, to which he has on each offering responded, "Jeff, you don't have any idea what you are talking about. You've never had kids." With those words, he proved our grandmother's sage advice to our mother from the Summer of 1960 about those of us who are childless about making suggestions to those of you who aren't when she said, "ignore them. They don't have any idea what they are talking about."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Exactly why I chose against bringing my four year old son! Sorry I missed you... Matt

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.