Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I dearly love Grandpa McGee and I miss him terribly. I probably miss the version of him I never met that lived before I lived and was dead before I was born more than the version of him that he had become by the time I arrived on the scene. I was 18 and in my senior year at Atascadero High School when he died at age 84 in Templeton, California. He fathered my mother Lynda when he was about my age now (40ish) which made him a father who was old enough to be a grandfather and later a grandfather old enough to be a great-grandfather. Consequently, I did not have him in my life for as many years as most people get to have their grandfather who lives to be 84 years old.
Living under the shadow of a great man, and Grandpa McGee was a great man I can assure you, is never easy for anybody. Certainly his over-sized personality and life overwhelmed my personality and life. Like all great men he was very complex. Those who think they knew him in most cases did not. He had two distinct personalities, his public persona whom his listeners came to believe they knew and his private personality his family knew which was his true self. He possessed a great many internal contradictions which created tension between these two versions of himself. That tension never found resolution during his natural life.
As a young male human being growing up and later coming of age and trying to make sense of it all and just simply trying to fit in at a time when fitting in is a foremost social imperative I found the drama that being the eldest grandson of Dr. J. Vernon McGee engendered was oft disruptive to life and on some occasions even a bit overwhelming. That situation continued into my early adulthood and became conflated with my own mental-emotional-spiritual issues which lead directly to my present condition and status in life.
For much of my adulthood I would have given anything to have experienced a normal life growing up and thus one would think, a more normal adulthood. Given I had no other frame of reference with which to compare my life being Dr. J. Vernon McGee's grandson in some respects it often seemed somewhat normal even while clearly even back then being anything but normal.
Being the grandson of Dr. J. Vernon McGee afforded a modest share of material comfort. For example, grandpa was generous at Christmas and for our birthdays and we often ate out at nice restaurants. Also I grew up in a middle-class Atascadero home that was payed for by Grandpa McGee. My childhood was physically comfortable while otherwise less so.
Although Grandpa McGee lived comfortably he was hardly a wealthy man by the standard of way too many of his contemporaries and even more so those who have come after him. After he died his trust left me enough money to pay for college outright which was quite generous. However, there were no grotesque sums of money accrued through his book royalties and no money personally gained through his ministry (Thru The Bible Radio) as grandpa was not driven by the love of money nor was he ethically-challenged as seems to be the industry standard for "men of God" (particularly those utilizing electronic media) in the modern era.
I experienced my own internal conflict growing up in Grandpa McGee's shadow. Part of this conflict was the sense of while loving grandpa dearly and he being my favorite grandpa I nonetheless felt trapped when talking to his fans who always seemed to tell me how lucky I was to have that legacy. These well-meaning people had no idea what they were talking about given the complexity of that "legacy" which was loaded with positives and negatives. Grandpa McGee was not always easy to be around (he was moody and self-absorbed at times) and I did not always get along with him even though he was often a lot of fun to be around, too, because he was also playful and funny and charming and highly intelligent. Another part of my own internal conflict was the sense that everybody expected me to follow Grandpa McGee into the ministry which idea I eschewed.
Like Grandpa McGee, I have always possessed my own set of internal contradictions. My entire life I have always been a free spirit and a highly socialized loner with many acquaintances but few close friends which is one of my own internal contradictions: I'm an introverted extrovert (or rather an extroverted introvert). To a fault I have always preferred to follow my own path. Part of this was driven by my own stubbornness. However, part of it was out of necessity as I struggled alone with mental illness for the better part of 20 years starting in my senior year of high school when the sum of everything in my life to that point, to wit, my dad dying and other family turmoil (of which Grandpa McGee was a central element) overwhelmed me and crushed me. This was possible because I was not walking in unity with God and He used mental illness to discipline and transform me in pretty much the same way He did with King Nebuchadnezzar.
I am now dangerously sane and yet to my somewhat surprise I have discovered that the world seems to have gone utterly mad (or was it already?) while I was away (in a manner of speaking). God and Time healed me after years of reading and self-educating and journeying and searching a lonely path. That path has by way of a number of twists and turns led to where I am sitting this very moment in Paso Robles, CA, in my modest home where I live simply but comfortably while I make ends meet while underemployed following the demise of my small business in this moribund economy. I am now going back to school attending classes at Cuesta College where I am maintaining a 4.0 G.P.A. I am working on my general education there with the intention of transferring to a university sometime in the next few years. My current direction is Emergency Management but that could change if God directs because I'm through making my own decisions and am now simply following God's appointed path for me.
I am now starting over in life in my early 40's. For the first time in my life I am happy and have found peace. I have also thoroughly come to terms with Grandpa McGee and forgiven him and forgiven myself just as God has forgiven both of us. I am now able to embrace that legacy and can even see some of him embedded and encoded within me and my personality and am thus honored.
Other posts on Granpa McGee:
Dr. J. Vernon McGee's LA Times Obituary
A Marathon of Loss
Top Ten J.V. McGee Things You Probably Didn't Know