Robert F. Willis (May 12, 1921 – November 3. 1987)
I can still hear my father’s Rock of Ages voice confessing, “I voted for Richard Nixon for President three times, and I was wrong every time.” That was after Watergate. By the time Ronald Reagan came along, my father was a Republican in name only. He loathed Reagan and never voted for him. He could summon a liberation theologian’s righteous wrath whenever he thought about Reagan’s extra-constitutional adventures in El Salvador and Nicaragua. The last opinion I ever heard him say in the conscious world came in the cardiac intensive care unit on the day the Iran-Contra scandal broke. “Those bastards.”
My father was the kind of Republican described in John Prine’s song, Grandpa Was a Carpenter: “He voted for Eisenhower ‘cause Lincoln won the war.” He was a carpenter, too — always level on the level — as was his grandfather and father before him, and his son and grandson after. I have no doubt what he would have thought of George W. Bush and his endless preemptive wars. I have a pretty good idea who he’d vote for tomorrow if he could.
My mother, on the other hand, was a Republican because she held Frranklin D. Roosevelt personally responsible for World War II. Nonetheless, I remember hearing her say once of her children, Democrats one and all, actively protesting the Vietnam War: “I don’t know what I did wrong. I tried to raise them to be good Christians.”
The Rock of Ages responded without equivocation: “Well, I raised them to think for themselves, to make their own decisions, and I’m proud of them.”