Topic: "Irish Spring"(3)
Frodo's grandfather lived to be 96 years old; as if anybody needed confirmation that "the good die young." A life-long carpenter, he left his wife and eight children for reasons unknown to Frodo. Frodo's father, then in the seventh-grade, left school in order to find work and to help support the family. Frodo's father never had the opportunity to return to school, and it was certainly one of the great regrets of his life. The Depression, the War, and then Frodo, following in sequence, dictated his priorities for the rest of his life.
Frodo's grandfather lived all alone in a small home in Virginia. The living room and bedroom were the same, and the toilet was outside. Despite all that had transpired, Frodo's father regularly visited, and Frodo very often went along. At that time, Frodo never understood much about the situation, but he did have conversations with his grandfather. In fact, when Frodo first met Sam, he took Sam along to meet his grandfather, and in their only meeting, Frodo's grandfather pulled out a banjo and proceeded to serenade Sam with the song "A Girl From Sunny Tennessee." No one in the family knew that he could play-and-sing, much less that he even owned a banjo.
All of this is relevant today because Frodo's grandfather was an avowed racist. Frodo remembers asking his grandfather why he hated black people so much, and he heard him say "Because they smell bad. They don't bathe." Frodo quickly assumed that a working man was most often around other working people, all of whom sweat, and that smell is accentuated in close quarters. Perhaps, thought Frodo, that was the reason for his grandfather's misunderstanding of the facts, and why he felt the way he did.
One day, while Frodo's father and grandfather walked through the apple orchard in his yard, Frodo sat on his grandfather's bed watching the Washington Senators play the Baltimore Orioles on the black-and-white. As they returned to the house, a commercial came on for "Irish Spring" soap, and the video featured a black man taking a shower in the rich lather of the sponsor. Frodo, in his exuberance, pointed to the TV screen and said something to the effect that grandpa was the one who was "all wet," because right there was a black man taking a shower. The look that his grandfather gave to him was, and is, indelibly etched in the mind of Frodo. The face of hatred is something probably seen by all at some point, but the face of racial hatred is something experienced in a way like no other. Frodo never brought up any discussions with his grandfather about such issues ever again. Frodo attended his grandfather's funeral, and could not help but hope that what he represented to Frodo would also die and be buried with him.
Last night, Frodo watched something very important happen. Above all else however, Frodo was struck by the most seemingly innocuous. Chris Matthews, on the pre-election coverage, asked his panel of Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson, Howard Fineman, and the alluring young lady from "Air America" (whose name Frodo cannot recall at this moment), after all the hoopla and the predictions about the Iowa Caucuses had been completed, who each thought would win in a hypothetical presidential head-to-head contest vis-a-vis other contenders. When posed with the question of "McCain-vs-Obama", each hesitated before stating "McCain." It was if each was finding it hard to accept that the "feel-good" was real.
Hours later there is indeed something in the air. Frodo likes to think it is the green aroma of Irish Spring.