Thursday, February 22, 2018
Opinion

Lesson about banker's son echoes in his mind

I watch this show on cable television about a woman from Long Island who can see ghosts hanging around people.

It's funny the way her face scrunches up when she's out in public somewhere. It's like she's going to explode if she doesn't go up to a person and tell them a ghost is trying to tell them something. She's usually right on the information, and the person seems grateful.

I always thought I didn't need to hear from anyone from the other side. I did all the talking I needed to do before they died. But in the recent political atmosphere I have started wishing I could ask my mother one last question.

She used to tell me when I was a kid, "Always remember, you're Grady Cowling's son."

By her tone of voice and the look on her face I got the idea that wasn't a compliment to my father or me.

Let me explain. When I was in the second grade I wanted to have a birthday party and invite this one particular boy in my class who had been nice to me that year. The only problem was that he was the son of the local banker. I thought my mother's eyes were going to pop out of her head.

"Grady! Did you hear who your son wants to bring to our house? The banker's son!"

She told me in no uncertain terms that we could not afford to throw the kind of party that the banker's son would expect to attend, so I had to tell him that I had changed my plans and he was not invited. I tried to explain it to him but he never spoke to me again, for the next 10 years of school.

The lesson I took from this experience was that the banker's son was in one class of people, and I was in another class. He was to know his place, and I was to know my place. And that's just the way life is.

My father sold Royal Crown Cola to the grocery stores, restaurants and service stations around town. He got up early and worked late. In the Texas summers when I grew up, he would sweat through his uniform by eight o'clock in the morning and stayed wet all day. On the other hand, the banker wore a suit, worked in an air-conditioned building and had what was known as banker's hours. And he made lots of money. My father didn't make a lot of money. Maybe if he sold Coca-Cola he would have made more.

I have to admit I may have misinterpreted what my mother meant. My father was hard-working, had no debts and never beat her or us kids. If the neighbors were sick he would mow their yard without saying anything. Maybe that's what she wanted me to remember.

The reason I thought about mom and dad was the implications of wealth and class in the current political season. When the wife of a candidate tells a television news reporter, "You people know all you need to know about our finances," I feel like the rest of us are being told to remember what our place is.

I'd have a psychic contact my dad for his opinion about this stuff, but he never talked much anyway.

Jerry Cowling is a storyteller and freelance writer living in Brooksville.

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