He was a man of faith.
He was a man of science.
He was the man who stood at the train station in Alabama one day after being fired. This man saw the manager who let him go.
“Did you come to see me off?” he asked the manager.
“No,” he replied. “One hour after I let you go, my bosses fired me.”
This was during the Great Depression. The man at the station was my grandfather, George M. Dickinson Jr.
My father—his son—was invited to give a sermon at his church today. He spoke of George, and I heard the prior mentioned story for the first time.
Stories about my grandfather could span a long life of their own. Some tales are funny, some are moving, and the most significant stories make you realize no one had his guts, tenacity, imagination and strength.
One Fact is for Certain
My grandfather’s life inspired the project about which I am most passionate and have treated as a (much loved) career throughout Sons of the Edisto‘s six years. George’s life sparked Dad’s sermon just as it sparked SotE.
“Anyone’s grandfather can inspire them,” you might say.
Not everyone’s grandfather was George M. Dickinson Jr.
When the Time Came
I fiddled with poems and short stories in early 2006, but I was distracted by a bad relationship and an ill-considered sorority. I had not accepted my path.
I had forgotten life for a writer is very different.
You cannot hide from it.
It will find you.
Whether you have one story or ten, they will find you.
I shot out of bed at 3:00 am during June 2006 and turned on the light. I began writing what I thought would be a short story inspired by (you fill in the blank).
Why my Grandfather?
During the teen years and first semester of college, I was a songwriter. I wanted to compose something in my grandfather’s memory, but nothing did him justice. I grew bored with music,and left it behind.
I could not leave the idea of Papa behind. Somehow that man who had stood at the train station deserved whatever small piece of immortality I could offer him.
In a time when fear shook the United States, a political group attended the 1924 Democratic Convention in New York, NY. The group, with 5 million members nationwide, fed on fear of immigration and encouraged intolerance. The 1920s faction was not made up of the cliché cartoonish uneducated men from the South.
The Ku Klux Klan represented white men, women and its youth organization for what it considered to be America’s roots and Protestant values. They were educated and believed they were right.
My grandfather knew they were wrong.
George—a chemist from South Carolina—burned a robe from his father’s shed along with Klan paperwork.
He burned it all despite opinions of that time.
“I can’t talk about that,” my father said to me before his sermon.
“No, but you can recognize the spirit your father had to stand up to injustice.”
That man at the train station burned a robe, became a chemist, recognized love above all things and inspired the work I hope will be recognized one day.
By Rebecca T. Dickinson
I would like to thank everyone who has continued to support my blog since I have not been online as much to read and write on WordPress due to a busy work schedule. I am working to set aside time for reading, because there are so many of you who write such wonderful blogs.
- Grandfathers: A Writing Prompt (lizbreenwrites.wordpress.com)