#1 ........ A.R. McCleary ......Mr. Mac........ A Wild Irish Rose

My Papa

Jan. 25, 1915-  April 26, 1989

I don't know a lot about the young A.R. McCleary, when I think about it I really don't know a lot about the elder Mr. Mac either. what I do know is memories and words passed along to me by others, so what I know or knew could be faulty to some degree.

I do happen to know that he was a well respected man in the small town of Natchitoches, LA. the town where I was born.  I don't know exactly why he was respected so much except for the fact that he had money and he owned the town's only Drug Store  "The P&C Drugstore."   What P&C stood for I don't know.

I never saw my grandfather cook ANYTHING much less grill!  This picture was in my Aunts "old family photo" album, I love it because I can see a smile on his youthful looking face and he is enjoying doing something that I for one never witnessed for myself.   I don't know if this was some type of event or not but the caption said "Daddy Grilling Steaks."    I love this picture because I can relate to him , sort of, as I like to cook and love men who grill!   The McCleary family had "hired help" as long as I can / could remember and Octavia (who I have no pictures of)  made all of the meals.   The "big" meal of the day was always "lunch" which they called "dinner" and supper was served after Octavia went home,  usually consisted of a sandwich. 

I don't remember EVER seeing my grandfather in any type of clothing except for suits and suit pants with pocketed shirts.  I never saw him in a pair of jeans, which is kind of funny............if you have ever been to Natchitoches you would also find that funny, its a very rural town.

I moved from Natchitoches by the time I was 6 years old, so I missed out on a lot of my Grandparents lives by living so far away.   We did go back, I believe twice before I moved out of my parents home, maybe 3 times and they visited Virginia a few times as well.     I wasn't given a lot of family history in my life time, but one of the things I did know is that my Grandfather didn't have any living family of his own, due to a fire that took the lives of his siblings? and parents?
My daughter unraveled a few family events / secrets? quite by accident.  She was rummaging through the attic of my maternal great aunts home on a trip to Arkansas and came across some old letters and other written documents that no one had been privvy to in the past.  She found out that my maternal grandparents were secretly married and lived in their parents home, married but apart for quite awhile before this was "found out."  My grandmother lived in Arkansas and my grandfather in Louisiana.    My daughter was not given the documents nor was I ,  or not even copies of it, I did request them though.   My daughter Rachel, was the first Great Grand-Child of the McCleary's

I am not sure when the couple actually settled in Natchitoches LA but it was the only home I knew growing up and remained my Grandfathers home until his death, when my Mother and her sisters sold the home and divided the money.   If I would have had the money I would have liked to have bought this home, in my mind it was the most beautiful home (next to the Hawkins home in Arkansas) that my family ever owned.  It was a sprawling rancher surrounded by a horseshoe shaped lake.  There were many bathrooms, a parlor and even a library room in this house.  The only thing "lacking" was the galley styled kitchen.....I always sat at the bar to eat, it was more inviting.   It had doors in every bedroom that opened up to the outside and a brick courtyard.  The courtyard had with a huge tree covered in ivy right in the center with a brick "surround" that I would sit on and walk on top of when I was little.   My aunts reception was held there, I remember that vividly....... and there was a shed/closet that I loved to walk into and smell the leather from my other aunts saddles.   There was a playground on top of a hill and at one time my aunt kept horses on the property.   I loved it there.

The stories I heard about this man included some about Prohibition, and selling his whiskey from the Drugstore Pharmacy.  They also included many trips to a place called "Many" for business,  I remember going with him once (just he and I) when I was very very young,maybe 3 ?  My Papa was a drinker, he drank liquor, everyday.  I smelled it, I saw it, it was no secret, it was his Geritol, his gasoline that helped him make it through the days and nights.   He was "functional" isn't that what they call it these days?  He would do everything that most people could do with it , but without it, maybe not?   He had some "wheeling and dealing" going on a lot ,  I am not sure anyone really knew everything he was "into" but whatever he did he was successful at it.  There are even pictures of him flying an airplane on my Aunt's facebook wall.

When my Grandfather, Papa, would come to visit we would get to go "out to eat"  I was always reminded not to "talk" as children were to be "seen and not heard."  I never really understood that until much later, when I realized that those that warned me to keep quiet , may have not wanted what I had to say to be heard by such "powerful" ears?   But in any case we did visit an Irish Restaurant on Forrest Hill Avenue called "O'tooles" on one occasion.  My Papa requested that the piano player play "My Wild Irish Rose"  I didn't like the song particularly but I always remembered him requesting it , and wondering what the significance of it was, besides the obvious fact that he was 100% Irish thru and thru...................

I wrote a poem about my grandfather in college entitled "The Silver Years."  It was about my Papa, and the things that I remembered most about him....... It won first place in the annual Sherwood Forrest Student / Alumni Writing contest in 1994.   It also helped me to win the Humanities award for the Department of the Arts & Sciences.

FOR YOU PAPA..................

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