Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dr. J. Vernon McGee Was My Grandfather

This is not a biography of my late maternal grandfather for which there is a good one on the Thru The Bible Radio website as well as a good one on Wikipedia. This is not my own life story (for which the following isn't even a complete outline) nor is it my testimony which is something I plan to share here at some point in the future. What this is for me is a public embracing of something with which I have had an uneasy relationship with all my life and thus have most often not embraced by not even acknowledging it to others.

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.






25 comments:

  1. Good article Kim, it brings back memories...
    My parents were married by Dr. McGee while he was at Lincoln Avenue Presbyterian Church.

    I attended school for a few years with your mother. My father would drive my brother, myself, Lynda and another girl to school every day. I still remember the fun we had on those daily rides. Say hello for me.

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  2. Aw Kim. That was grand and it took a lot of nerve to open that vein again. I commend you for doing that; it is the hallmark of an honest life that does so. I understand so much more than I can say at this point, but I have to say that I am proud of you, of what you're doing in life, and of what you will ultimately become. Your silent courage will be rewarded and by reaching out and by the telling to others, you will affect so many more lives than you could ever imagine--even if what you ultimately do has no resemblence to what you currently foresee. Patience, grasshopper. You're here to do important work. I just know it.

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  3. It's Jim Bateman...I've added my e-mail address to my profile here...

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  4. Jim, mom says hello back and likewise has fond memories of you and your brother and those car rides... did you know the Culter Academy Class of 1962 has its own website? Here it is: http://www.culteracademy62.com/
    That class will have its big 50th reunion next Spring at Universal Studios.

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  5. Lin, thanks for your kind comment and support!

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  6. Thanks for passing on the memories... I'll check out that website I wasn't aware of it.

    I wish you the very best on your personal journey.

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    1. Jim,

      I'm so sorry I neglected to respond for so long to your most recent comment. Thanks for your kind comments!

      Kimmer

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  7. Hi Kimmer. I enjoy your grandfather's teachings, and I understand how a public persona can be vastly different from a private persona. Thank you for telling a piece of your story.

    I have recently lost a small son to an accident, and I understand that your grandparents also went through something similar. Would you mind communicating with me and telling me what happened?

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    1. Troy,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my "opening up" and I'm glad you found it edifying.

      My mother's older sister Ruth died July 31, 1941 at age 6 hours and 19 minutes... she was born premature. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. What happened? Have you read grandpa's "Death of a Little Child"?

      Kimmer

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  8. Dear Kim,
    Although I didn't know your name, I have been thinking of you for a couple of days, wondering whatever happened to that "dear little feller" that your grandpa loved so much on his radio program. I was very touched by what you wrote. You are strong and God is clearly with you in your journey. Congratulations on doing so well in school, given the hard road you have walked. All the best to you. Thank you for sharing!
    God's blessings be with you always!
    Vicki
    vrpappas@gmail.com

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    1. Vicki,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my posting and then to comment. God's blessings be with you always, as well!

      Kimmer

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  9. Dear Kim,
    I'm so glad to hear a bit about you. I'm sure that there are countless listeners of TTB who like I, prayed through these years when they hear your Grandpa's concern for you, and delight in you. And here you are now, so open to the trail The Good Shepherd clears for you. This news is wonderful. Thank you for sharing! Does your mom have a Face Book? She is one I also pray for. Please give her my name if she wants to be friends on FB. Your Grandpa was so humble, and put it plainly on the program just how much of a regular fella he was. So need of grace. I'm glad you have forgiven his shortcomings. And to think that now he is with Jesus, finished the race. I remember how he cried when he mentioned how God was correcting him with cancer over his pride of thinking that the church needed him. It was like having him as a dear friend who shared from his heart. And how he really got to know your Grandma through the time at home with cancer. And how he was humbled at how special she was and deserved so much more. Even cancer ended up a blessing to him in these two areas. WE have a daughter in a coma at home these 6 1/2 years. Your Grandpa's teaching has helped me very much in dealing with suffering. To see the good part. I loved how he was delighting in Jesus. In Song of Solomon, he mentioned how Jesus gave him goose bumps. Yep, there is nobody like your Grandpa. :-) ~Love in Christ, Mrs. Leslie Dawn Neagle WA

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  10. Leslie,

    I'm glad my grandfather's ministry has been a blessing to you and continues to be, particularly in the face of your ongoing tragedy. What happened to your daughter to induce such a prolonged coma?
    I'm grateful you took the time to read my blog posting about me and my grandfather. Thanks for your kind comments, too! They are appreciated I assure you!
    As for my mother, she is not on Facebook or any other social networking sites nor does she have a computer. Her only internet contact is via my computer when she stops by and visits.

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  11. Well, considering what you say about the two personalities of your grandfather, and the tremendous impact the Thru the Bible radio program and your grandfather have on multitudes of people for Christ. One must conclude that it is the power of God that accomplishes this, and not your grandfather. And I believe Dr. Mcgee would be the first to admit this.

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  12. Thank you for sharing this part of your life. I am a 50 year old lady who has listened to Dr. Mcgee off and on since around 1976 or so. I've often wondered how his family fared in life. Glad you've found direction and a new start, I need the same thing. God Bless you and yours. Jennifer

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  13. GOD does work in mysterious ways. After listening for years to Dr. McGee and TTB ,I cannot begin to express my thankfulness for his faithful work, probably at the expense of many others' attention.
    I found your site by "accident" this morning while searching for information about how Dr. McGee's father died. I know that you are blessed in the heavenlies, and whatever you set your hand to do like TTB, it will bless others with our Lord's guidance.

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  14. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Dr McGee's Bible teaching!!!

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  15. Kim, Stumbled upon this post while "Googling" your Grandpa. Got to admit to some struggles myself through the years, so I am sympathetic to your past. Loved your Grandpa and still listen to him as often as I can. I never really thought about what kind of complex person he might have been. He sounds a bit like others describe me at times. I struggle with the one on one as you do but I can also be out going. I am also complemented on my ability to teach, makes me wonder. May God Bless you and give you that place of work and service which brings satisfaction.

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  16. Kim, I believe as long as you keep this up people are going to stumble upon it in search of more info upon which to build "a friendship" with your grandfather. So thanks a million for doing something that isn't easy but certainly honors your family. I am a 64 year old retired bus driver with a wife of 43 years, 3 sons and 5 grandchildren. I live in Michigan. When just a single young man I began listening to TTB and the inspiration and knowledge it contains never gets old. I do not believe there is another radio program that quite compares to it. Just an aside: as one gets older true friendships become dearer. They help bring comfort, meaning and joy into this time of aches, pains and for me, disappointment, regret and sadness over the way life has gone and is now past retrieving. TTB has brought this 'bigger than life' personality of your grandfather into my life not only as a mentor and preacher but as a friend. And so it is a natural desire to add to this friendship with personal ties. Your website brings such a dimension to knowing your grandfather. Your willingness to share your life and its ties to Dr. McGee adds to TTB something that no one else could add. Thanks. Al

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  17. Kim, I listened to your Grandfather for years while living in Toronto,Ontario from WDCX Buffalo across Lake Ontario.I enjoyed Thru The Bible very much and learned a lot from him. As for your honesty, I think that's something else you share with with Your Grandfather. He was an honest man. Also, human relationships are fraught with complexity and you are to be commended for your effort and dedication to coming to terms with your relationship with your Grandfather. I'm still working on mine and hope that with God's help someday I too, can be at peace with some areas of my past. Thanks for being so courageous. Moe

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  18. Kim,

    Your post suggests an empathy, self awareness, inner clarity and perspective that many never attain even in old age. My work requires long hours in the car. I bought the entire ttb 5 year series mp3 set and Dr. Mgee has been my companion during countless hours. I'm sure you hear that kind of thing a lot.

    Wishing you many blessings,

    Bill LaPietra

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  19. Hi, I came across this post after searching "J Vernon McGee grandson". He mentioned "the dear little fella" in today's broadcast on Isaiah 57 and I got curious. I'm grateful for your update and look forward to browsing your site when I have time. I began listening to TTB while in I was in grad school and recently started listening again. Like you, I'm starting over after a long stint on disability for major depression. God has used it to humble me. It's scary starting over at 50 but I must since He commands that I be fruitful for Him.

    Memories of parents and grandparents are complex. I loved my mom but she could be verbally abusive. How do I reconcile this? It must be harder with a famous grandfather.

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  20. I listen to my TTB mp3's daily. They are a tremendous blessing.

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