I am Calvin’s grandson

     My grandfather on my dad’s side was named Calvin. Calvin McAlister. He died when i was about 4 years old. His death is one of the earliest memories that I hold. His passing and my sisters wedding are the two earliest things that I remember.  I’m not sure how close those two events were in time but in my memory they are side by side. But this story is about my Granddad, Calvin. You may have noticed that he spelled his last name with one “L” and I spell mine with two. That’s because of my dad and that’s a story for another day. Calvin McAlister was born more than one hundred years ago, in a different world; a world before electricity and running water and automobiles and airplanes. His family before him lived through the Civil War. That seems almost impossible but it’s true. Calvin grew up during World War I and married very young to Mandy Richardson. They lived on a little family farm and struggled mightly to survive and raise four kids. The third of those four kids was my dad, Wilson McAllister. My Pop told many stories about his dad and our family name and history. As a little boy, I would sit on the floor as my dad told stories about his childhood with Calvin and Mandy. Pop once told me that his mom would send him and his siblings to the little country school which was more than a mile’s walk down the road, carrying only a homemade biscuit wrapped in a cotton towel which would serve as lunch at school that day. Calvin and Mandy raised their family in the depths of the Great Depression and did their best to give their kids a chance in this world. My dad made it to high school even though he didn’t graduate, it was a bold step forward for their family and helped he and my mom to have a better life. My parents met and married shortly after World War II. 

  My  Pop and Momma raised five kids with blue collar pay but it was a marked improvement from how they grew up. Their parents and many others just like them blazed a trail that would lead generations out of poverty. Even though they themselves would never taste the fruit of their labor, so many of us have. We stand on their shoulders and enjoy the life they never did. My dad worked with his hands for forty years as a laborer, most of those decades as a crane operator for a railroad tanker construction company. Mom raised us kids and cooked and cleaned and was something of an entrepreneur to earn extra money for the family. They really wanted me to graduate high school and go to college. Even though we had very little money they both helped that dream to come true because they knew it would help me to have a better life and give my kids a chance they never had. My life today would not be possible if it weren’t for the sacrifices they made. Sometimes I stand in wonder at my life and remember just how blessed Rachel and I are and how much our parents and grandparents shaped our lives and destiny but not just ours but our kids and their kids. It’s a marvelous thing to ponder. 

    And now we find our family in a new century filled with marvelous wonders like the Internet, modern medicine and global travel. If Calvin could see this world he would think it was magical and he would be right. But the truth is that none of it would be possible without his generation and my dad’s generation. We stand on the shoulders of giants. These men held a nation together after a Civil War, rebuilt the economy after the Great Depression and saved the world through two World Wars and at the same time they were raising a family, fighting poverty, overcoming diseases, serving God and holding out hope for their children and grandchildren. It’s a miracle that we are still here today. Everyday is a gift. 

   Now my five kids, Calvin and Mandy’s great grandchildren, have a golden opportunity to build on generations of sacrifice and love. They will all start their adult lives with college degrees, and they will marry well and then build strong families and live out their faith. They will live lives far removed from the pain and suffering of poverty and disease of another century. I know they will each have their own battles to win and mountains to climb, but I hope they always remember where they came from and who they are and the shoulders on which they stand.   I visited Calvin and Mandy’s grave site recently to pay my respect and to say thanks. Today I remember who I am and where I came from. 

 I am Calvin’s grandson. 

Doug McAlister

Doug McAllister