These men, at least from the information that I can get, were polar opposites. They had different ways of showing what and how to be a man. I will be the first to admit that I do not know much about my Grandfathers, and what I do have comes from the stories of their children, or at least the stories they wanted to share.
Jepsie, it seems, was a man of enormous strength, both physically and emotionally. It seems that this blacksmith, farmer, and very proud man could do just about anything. One story says that a cart and a team of mules were galloping down the street, out of control, and my Grandfather, with one hand, reached out into the street, from the front gate, grabbed the mules, and reined them into the front yard. Yes, I said with one hand. Jepsie was quiet man, but wanted the best for his family.
Jepsie is also responsible for changing the spelling of the family name. It seems that one day my Aunt was playing by the road when some boys came by. This young man, a white boy, reported to my Aunt that she got her last name from him because his family used to own her family during slavery. Well, that did not sit too well with Jepsie, and so he immediately flipped the last two letters of our last name, changing our branch of the family name forever.
Where Jepsie was strong, my Grandfather Louis was very weak, which is an interesting word to describe a man who seemed to be abusive in nature. My Grandmother once told me that the only reason she married Louis was because he was the only one of her suitors that walked all the way to the front door, and did not drop her at the gate. She also told me that after being married for three days, he finally “took it” on the fourth night. At first I didn’t understand, but when I did, I really understood.
Louis worked at the Naval Shipyard in Charleston, which was an important job back in the day. That afforded the household to have a pretty decent living, when Louis wasn’t drinking and what not, and there was much “what not” going on. When I would ask my Mother about him, she always came back to one story. My mother was the oldest child, and on Christmas Eve my Grandmother would have her to go find Louis, at his other family’s home, on the other side of town, to get money to buy her younger siblings Christmas gifts. Yet when my Grandfather became ill from cancer, he came back “home” to die, the other family could not be bothered.
These two men were total opposites, yet their personalities are in me. I like to think that I have the strength of Jepsie , but because of the actions of Louis, I am stronger. Louis was a man who was by all accounts selfish, and yet this trait of his comes out in me because I love the people I love selfishly, wanting them to be mine, even when they may not be the ones I need to love.
Jepsie was a man of pride. Proud of his family, his home, his job, all that was in his domain. He saw them as an image of him. The work that I do and the life I live is a reflection of me. I am proud of my family, my home, my job, and all that is in my domain. Louis was a man who did not have a role model of how to be a great father. His own father not only had outside relationships, but brought one of the children home for my Great- grandmother to care for as her own. Louis did the best he could with the example that he saw. I like to think that I do the best I can with the knowledge and the information that I have been given. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it does not.
I am not here to say that Jepsie was perfect and the Louis was evil. I never met them, and am gleaning bits and pieces from what others have said, but I will say that there are bits of Jepsie and Louis in me. They directly affected the lives of my parents. They produced my father, who always told us to not let anyone tell us we were not qualified to do anything we wanted to do. My mother learned that there never is a situation too humiliating where grace and courage can’t guide you through.
These two men, Jepsie and Louis, made an enormous impact on my life, the lives of my family and on future generations yet to be named. They have left a legacy of strength, power, family, forgiveness and bravery. These men have given me the opportunity to learn from and through them. Learning about them, made me begin to understand some things about myself that I had never taken into consideration. Jepsie and Louis are part of the puzzle that makes up the picture of why I am who I am.
Jepsie and Louis….more than my Grandfathers, they are me.