No one could believe in the myth of America like my grandfather. Having become an adult in the mid 1920′s, Frank Finley Blakely Jr. was born into a legacy of military men who passed down their material fortunes to each new generation in the forms of land and business ownership. By the time my grandfather and his brother, Brown, came of age, the Great Depression had eaten into the family stores. Their father was tight with money before the financial crisis, and during it, the purse strings resembled a knot. Like most others, my grandfather took any and every job he could find just out of high school: Kraft salesman, third shift Kerns bakery boy, messenger. Eventually, he went to college, served in World War II, was an engineer on the Manhattan Project, and worked most of his life for the Atomic Energy Commission.
Hard work, determination, perseverance, love of God, and loyalty to America gave my grandfather purpose along with passion for his wife and daughters, and football. To suppose any other combination of values would make a person happy never occurred to him; therefore, he did not understand any one who questioned his formula. But he delighted in hearing me express my very different ideas even though he disagreed with my views. As a matter of fact, he took every opportunity to engage me in discussions that highlighted our differences of opinion. It was customary in my family to talk politics at the dinner table, and rarely a meal passed without the liberal women of the family triumphing over my conservative grandfather if not through logic through food. He could argue aggressively if needed, but I think he quite enjoyed having women fuss a little at him.
I never attacked my grandfather’s ideas: I loved and respected him too much. But there were times I had great difficulty holding back my disdain for some of the people he chose to champion and defend. His support for who and what I found abhorrent ranged from the innocuous Chrysler K-Car to Ollie North. It was actually more difficult for me to understand why he traded he beloved Olds 98 for the bland mid-sized K-Car than it was to figure his defense of a public servant turned felon. Even the automobile’s name made my grandfather nauseous, but he believed in America and that meant helping to bail out the sinking Chrysler corporation of the early 1980′s. Forget personal pleasure; Lee Iacocca was more important. My grandfather hated that car. I never understood my grandfather’s faithfulness to so much that was corrupt. Nixon, Vietnam, Ollie North, a mushroom cloud. Because there he was, rocking me, feeding me, holding me, singing to me, believing in me, his little girl who would grow up to oppose almost everything he honestly thought was moral and good, when no one else would.