Saturday, March 22

A Message From Papa G

This week I received a package from Papa G containing a letter and a picture. Both are reprinted here. The letter is about my grandfather, William Ferguson Seabrook pictured below (1898-1991). His grandchildren called him PaPoo and I remember him as a quiet and sweet old man. I never really thought about what it must have been like to raise a family in Charleston, SC before, during and after the Depression as a Black man. Papa G was born December 5, 1928 to Gladys Mildred Graham Seabrook and William Ferguson Seabrook. This is part of his story.



Unfinished Business

Procrastination - sitting in my office with at least two assignments that I have not yet begun; looking at the photographs of William F and Gladys M., and looking at the other photographs of our family; it occurred to me that I have unfinished business.

My concern is that Graeme, Gerren, Little Dex, Leah, DW, Lauren, Rochelle, Ryan and Rhamsie would not know who provided the foundation, the rock upon which they stand, from the Seabrook side of the family. My attempt is to do no more nor do less than share my experiences with William F. - the good and the bad (me).

William F. worked for his children and we are where we are today because of William F. The 5'6" man is a giant. Long before the eight hour day, he worked tow jobs. Imagine - twenty-four hours in a day-two jobs. He worked as a custodian for the Charleston County School District for 47 years and at the B.P.O.E. Club for 36 years. In addition, he worked private parties whenever he could. He worked for his children.

We went to public schools until completion of the eight grade and the we went to private schools. Herbert to Immaculate conception; I was sent to Lincoln Academy in Kings Mountain, NC; Gladys, Sara Lee and Lois to Avery Institute. Without fear of contradiction, I can say that damn near all of his earnings were invested, not in stocks, bonds or savings, but in the education of his children; in the welfare of his children; in the promise of his children. Three of us went to music lessons for years - to no avail. We experienced the best through high school and into college. The man invested, wisely, in his children. Did his investment pay off? You bet it did! He provided an economic, social and religious floor for our family and that floor is solid. Did the investment pay off for William F.? I would like to believe that it did. William F. was a man of great faith, a lover of his family and his church. I never saw him strike any of his children and for that matter not anybody else.

I knew, behaviourally, I was the worst of the crew. Let me say that I was terrible in a loving and respectful way. We did have several 'sit downs' after I became an adult that resulted in my gaining additional respect for PaPoo. Each of you would possibly be very surprised that the older I got, the smarter he got. The older I got, the more I understood the great love and affection he had for my siblings and me. But it took years for me to 'fess up' for some of the terrible things I did to him, and more years for me to see the true beauty of the man.

William F. never smoked, drank or cursed, as far as I knew. I often wondered how much money he might have had if he invested in property, stocks, bonds. The way that he worked, he may have become a moderately self-sufficient man, monetarily. Instead, he invested all that earned in his children, assuring them a life sans poverty. We never had a day in our lives without more than adequate food, shelter, clothing.

You would believe that with a man so dedicated to my well being, I would have been a model son. No way! I will omit some of the trivial things I did, but one session with him will stay with me for the rest of my life. As an adult we were talking and I said to him, "Tell me, how many times in a school year do you think you have to buy books?" I was feeling a little guilty about having ripped him off when I was in school. He said to me, "Listen boy, when I was growing up I could have gone to school but I wanted money and I wanted clothes. So I sold newspapers, worked on the milk wagon, and wouldn't got to school. When I got married and the children came, I promised myself that my children would not have to do that." I started crying. He, as always, was crying and for the first and possibly last time (that I can recall) I said to him, "Old man, I love you." That memory is still dear to me.

When he retired from both jobs in 1975, I believe he had little or no monetary resources. This is what I meant when I said he invested all of his money in his children. A house was bought, a mortgage was secured, the house renovated and he had the physical comfort that he had earned. In addition, for sixteen years he, his wife and Travis went, each year, wherever they wanted to go on vacation - Florid, New York, Chicago, St. Louis, California and repeat. This continued, sans Travis, for an additional four years, until he became unable to travel. His investment paid off.

To some measure, each of us, to this day owes something to this gentle giant. I truly believe that the concern, care and love that permeate this family will continue through each of you. It was his gift to us. It was well taught, by example, by William F. Collectively, we stand on his shoulders. Each of you will make him proud.



lws
3/1/08

Papa G earned his BA from West Virginia Teacher's College (now WVSC), his master's from Columbia and his Ed. D from U Mass. Every single one of William and Gladys' grandchildren and great-grandchildren are either enrolled in college or college graduates (except the black sheep scuba instructor on St. Thomas). We are committed to each other, our community and the future of our family.
I'd say the investment paid off.

13 Comments:

EsLocura said...

what a fabulous story/family history. You should all be proud of such wonderful heritage.

The CEO said...

The investment paid off better than stocks and bonds. This from a wealth manager.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

What a beautiful story! You must be so proud of your grandfather and your father. The love and dedication in your family puts most people to shame.

The investment not only paid off, it continues to do so through the generations. William F was a man of great vision and character who put his life to good use so that you would be able to do so with yours.

Thank you for sharing this amazing story.

WNG said...

Es- I am very proud of them and love them very much.

CEO - Some things are worth more than money...

Hearts - It's like Papa G said, he gave us a rock solid foundation and the tools to build upon it.

NoRegrets said...

Very nice, yet again.
Of course, scuba instructor on St. Thomas is nothing to sneeze at either!

Susan said...

GO West Virginia!!! As if I didn't like this enough you made it awesome with that mention. :)

WNG said...

NoR- I think all the lawyers and doctors are secretly jealous :)

Susan- You know he planned his college career just to bring us here :)

ooo! That rhymed!!!

NoRegrets said...

BTW, my parents did the same thing. Six kids, all the money into schooling and taking care of them. My mom is very happy with us, though sad she doesn't have more grandkids...

WNG said...

NoR- It takes a certain kind of vision (long term) that I don't think too many people have any more, which is sad.

Yeah - why aren't you a baby factory, young lady?!?!?

Mayren said...

*HUGGLE* Tuesday!

WNG said...

Huggle you right back, Mayren!!!

Big Man said...

That is a beautiful letter from your father. I need to sit down with my folks and get them to talk about their parents some more. You have inspired me to do some detective work.

WNG said...

Big Man - I'm making Papa G tell all the stories to a digital recorder. Sometimes it involves some brow beating, bu tI like to think I'm making up for my teenage years when he had to stand over me to make me study.
Actually we're having a great time with it. I'm glad you liked it and I hope you get some history from your parents - it can really change your perspective on things...