It’s an old family name.
A paternal uncle with a few “greats” before his name was Grover Cleveland, who was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. He died just over 100 years ago, in 1908. He spent part of his boyhood growing up in Fayetteville, NY, and I drive by Academy Street where his former home still stands almost every day.
Look at the pictures of Cleveland, the president, and compare the stately way with which he holds his head with the looks of Cleveland, my Dad in this picture taken at Silverado Senior Living where he has lived since October 2008.
President Cleveland was a lawyer and a long-time bachelor. He served as mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York before becoming president, and so far he is the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms. Historians say he was known for his laser-sharp focus, and they say he was at first ill at ease with the niceties of life in the White House. He’s described as “honest,
One of the many Grover Cleveland biographies says much about the man with its title, “Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character,” by Alyn Brodsky. The book quotes another biographer who calls Cleveland a paradigm of honesty, integrity and resolution who acheived greatness through strength of character; a man who, though flawed, exemplified “courage that never yields an inch in the cause of truth, and that never surrenders an iota of principle to expediency.”
Of course, strength of character isn’t necessarily handed down through generations, though I’d like to think it is. And I realize that many people hold their bodies square and firm for portraits, making them no more or less “stately” than either Cleveland. Still, I like to think we can trace some traits through our lineage.
Is/was my Dad honest and hard working and principled because his namesake was? Have my son and nephew inherited those traits, too? Sometimes I fret about what their genes hold: the same frontotemporal dementia that afflicts my Dad? Or something benign, like fearlessness or laser-sharp focus, even an aptitude for the law?