It always felt unsurprisingly Southern to me that at our get-togethers of extended family at my sister-in-law’s house in Thomasville, most of the women were in the kitchen while most of the men were outside. Whatever led to that arrangement, if you counted up the hours I spent with her father-in-law, “Big O,” they were probably a lot less than the hours I spent with her mother-in-law, “Mama Del.” (My tribute to her, Going Home, is here.)
Although I had no problem writing a lengthy memorial to Mama Del, as we knew Big O’s time to leave us was approaching, there was just one line that kept running through my head about what I would write to honor his memory:
“A man with whom I could never talk politics but could always talk family.”
Over the course of this weekend as we celebrated his life and attended his graveside service, it became clear that, while the prioritization of family came first and foremost, it isn’t strictly true that we couldn’t talk politics.
It is true that our ideologies are different and that we were polar opposites on many issues of the day. But then I read this about him in his obituary:
“Mr. Oglesby was a lifelong Republican who worked very hard to establish a two-party system in the once Democrat dominated state of Georgia……Beloved and respected by many of his political colleagues, Mr. Oglesby was elected as the first Georgia House Republican Minority Leader in 1966.” (You can read the full text of the obituary here.)
When I was two years old, Big O was blazing a path that honored that most American of principles: making sure everyone had a platform from which to espouse their beliefs. While he and I may have voted differently, we shared a deep respect for our system of government, and for the resilience and integrity of the legislative process.
And it was across the dining room table more Thanksgivings, celebrations, and summer afternoons (because the women had to come in from the kitchen and the guys from the grill so everyone could eat) that I had the privilege of learning about governing, about people, about decency (all with a touch of Big O’s unique humor) from a man who had seen more than I could ever imagine.
After Big O’s burial yesterday, family members were playing a recording of him talking about all kinds of things — family, history, his time in Georgia politics. Lucky, the faithful dog who had spent the last several years with him, was in his crate but when he heard the voice, he cried to be let out and join us in listening.
Lucky is hardly the only one who will miss him.
RIP, Big O.