Staying close to home a genetic thing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 18, 2004

My in-laws are in town as I write this. Unlike many people, I suppose, I love it when they come. Not so much that I like being displaced from bed and moved to the sofa, or having to wait in morning on my Alzheimer’s-afflicted grandmother-in-law to remember that the master bathroom where all my stuff is I need to get ready to go to work in the morning is not a place to sit and lounge, they are just a big help.

Our house is 18 years old and reaching the point where many things are beginning to act up – electrical and plumbing things that I have neither the time, talent nor inclination to become involved with.

Leonard Morris, my father in law, is a retired coal miner from West Virginia. He knows a good bit about all that stuff and by about midnight last night, four hours after arriving, he had all the lights properly functioning. Before I left for work Friday morning, he already had the dead tree cut down in our front yard and was on the roof cutting limbs that were hitting the house. I’m sure by the time I get home Friday, it will all be sliced and piled up neatly in front of the house ready for disposal, and the heating element in our hot water heater replaced, and the toilets repaired.


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After nearly twenty years as a member of his family, he knows my limitations well – that and he cannot live with himself to know his only daughter and favorite two grandkids are taking cold baths in the dark not knowing at any given time whether there is a working toilet available, while I’m outside jogging or engaged in some other unproductive pursuit.

By the same token, Vonda Morris, his wife, my mother-in-law, wash, dry, fold and put away every cloth thing in the house; all windows will be cleaned inside and out; every soft surface vacuumed; every hard surface mopped and every bit of wainscoting dusted.

But what I like most about them is that they are West Virginians.

West Virginians have two quirks in their character that makes it impossible for them to stay away from home for any length of time. That is why Leonard and Vonda work so fast and furiously the entire time they are here. The faster they get done, the faster they can get back home. So my sofa stays are typically short-lived, at least where the in-laws are concerned. I manage from time to time to get ordered there without their help.

The other quirk West Virginians have is that they are Democrats.

I’m West Virginian and share these same traits, as does my wife. Rebecca Hill, the advertising director here, is always asking me if I’ve been to various places around here like Waterside, or restaurants in Ghent, or the beach at Yorktown, etc. Invariably my answer is no.

&uot;There are so many wonderful things to do here,&uot; she says. &uot;You need to get out more.&uot;

I don’t get out more because I’m a West Virginian. When I’m not at work, I like to be home. Pretty much everything I need or want is there.

I’ve lived all over the country and it’s been that way everywhere. Mena, Arkansas, Saraland, Alabama and Hampton Roads, Virginia are all pretty much the same to me – they all have a sofa, a TV, a refrigerator and air conditioning. It’s pretty boring, I know, but I can’t help it. It’s in my blood.

The Democrat thing is a little harder to explain. West Virginians are not liberals. They are as patriotic, as religious, as conservative as the most deranged right-wingers the Old Dominion can produce – people like George Allen, Oliver North and Pat Robertson. We just don’t vote Republican.

Actually, it is easily explainable. It’s because of an innate distrust of wealthy people, who have exploited the resources and people of the state for generations. Wealthy New Yorkers and Bostonians swindled the poor, dumb hillbillies out of their land, rich in timber and coal, and then forced them and their children to work themselves literally to death mining coal for low wages. Since wealth is most often associated with the Republican Party, they turn away.

For some reason, President Bush carried the state last time around. Had the state voted Democratically as it reliably does, Al Gore would be president today. He must have done something pretty awful, like banning the consumption of roadkill, for such an anomaly to occur.

Twenty years now removed from the Mountain State, I’ve lost my distrust of wealthy people and in fact aspire to be one myself some day. I’ve even voted Republican a couple times (Sorry Dad).

But the one thing I’ll never lose is my love of home and family, particularly now that I can see them better. A warm bath is always nice, too.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or via e-mail at andy.Prutsok@suffolknewsherald.-com.