Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Papa, Taxes and the Scary Monkey

Around the middle of April I often think of my grandfather with admiration. I want to share him with you.
Papa sold high quality little houses to G.I.’s returning from WWII. There were hundreds of returning soldiers and hundreds of nice houses to sell to them.
My grandparents moved out of Detroit and into the suburbs (Beverly Hills) in the late forty’s. Papa was rich. They built a mansion. It was a actually a two bedroom cape cod, about 1400 square feet, but considered a mansion according to my grandmother’s siblings. He drove a beige Cadillac. It was a fat, pompous car.
For the record, I wasn’t close to Papa. The main thing we had in common was not liking each other. His beef: I had too much of my grandmother’s attention. My beef: he never held me on his knee.

Maybe it was the monkey incident that broke us?
At a huge family gathering when I was quite little, maybe three, Papa gave me a stuffed monkey. Gave is the wrong word. He waggled it right in front of my face. I wasn't expecting it. Just a moment before, everything had felt so safe, and then this mean monster monkey lunged at me. I screamed in terror. I screamed until I had the hiccups. I screamed until I couldn't catch my breath. 

In 1951 my Republican Papa gave all the family members "I Like IKE" buttons. I loved having a button. I wore it proudly. However, our Detroit neighborhood was all school teachers, policemen and factory workers. I was a political outcast until I hid my button. But I liked IKE, or anyway I liked the button and really, it was the best slogan ever written.
I remember Papa crying while watching anything on TV about an orphans. His own father had died when he was five and his mother soon after. His uncle George grudgingly became guardian to Papa and his younger brother. George P. Codd was mayor of Detroit for a year. He was a circuit court judge for 13 years and a United States Representative for two years. 

Uncle George was all those important things. But more significantly, he must have aspired to be a Dickens character. He was cruel to his sister’s two young boys. Cruel to the point that Papa couldn't speak of his childhood. His release was sniffing, coughing, and hiding his dripping, red eyes over any orphan on television.
When April 15th came around, Papa would say how lucky he was. He made a lot of money and he paid a lot in taxes. Keep in mind that in the fifties the rates were much higher than now. He was proud that he had a big tax bill. Not everyone made enough to have a big tax bill. He was privileged.

In one fell swoop every April, he contributed to the building of roads and bridges. He paid for children to have teachers and schools. He helped the poor and less privileged. He paid for returning soldiers care in V.A. hospitals. Public libraries and municipal buildings with beautiful murals came from the tax money he sent the IRS. He could do so much for society simply by paying the taxes he owed. 

He was honored to be able to contribute to the country he loved. And this is why I remember him with pride at tax time.
The New York Times published an expose about General Electric making $26 Billion in PROFIT in this country in the last five years. They paid nothing in taxes. 


They have a tax department of 975 employees who spend half their time “looking to exploit opportunities to reduce tax.” And due to their diligence, G.E. claimed a 4.1 billion net tax profit from the IRS during that time.

Do you think that G.E.’s trucks use interstate highways, or cross some bridges getting their products to their markets? Do you think they want to hire people who are well educated? Do you think they’ll ever need a policeman or a fireman? 

Do you think they should get the scary monkey? 
Maybe they should cry until they get the hiccups.
Maybe they should hiccup up some money.


  1. i don't have a comment but wanted to let you know i really liked it.

  2. Let's give a rousing "YES" to your 3 final questions!
    Your Papa was a half monster but he did some very good things. My Papa was more than a half monster and often teased me until I cried, when I was 3.
    Maybe your Papa sold my house to the returning serviceman who bought it in 1948 and lived in it until 1999. This is a nurturing, cosy home and I've grown to love it. We are all such mixtures of non-monster and part monster!!

  3. Your house is just the kind he used to sell. Wouldn't that be fun.

  4. Well written, thank you. Lynne Ford


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