Here is my legacy mantra. I hereby leave my grown kids and grand kids a legacy in three parts: Material goods. A sense of my values and life experiences. Clean closets.
I've blogged at length about the clean closet thing--it came to a head when we downsized for a move from our rambling suburban house to a storage-challenged urban apartment. When spirits flagged over the sorting and dumping, I reminded myself that this was part of my gift to my kids: They wouldn't have to clear 50 years of memorabilia that had been stuffed onto shelves and into bins and file cabinets.
Now I'm working on the middle part: values and my life experiences. What kick-started me was a recent event--seemingly minor--in our family's life. This Spring, Paterfamilias forwarded a link to his grandkids of excerpts from an interview between PF and an historian from the Library of Congress. The historian was putting together a history of how Congress worked--how legislation was actually passed, what compromises were made, how power was leveraged.
PF had worked for California Congressman John Moss and several congressional committees in the 1970s and 1980s--the fruitful years when Congress passed enduring legislation that has impacted our lives in a good way. (Like product safety, car safety, investor safety) The interview was about the legislative process but the historian also delved into PF's childhood--he even had a news clip from PF's radio appearance as a pre-teen whiz kid. Now, excerpts from the interview were being posted on the Library's website and that's the link PF sent his two grown children and their teenage kids-- in the hope that they would read it, if not now at least some day.
So, in effect, without lifting a pen or his typing fingers, without making a recording or pasting photos in a scrapbook, PF has his legacy: a document about his life's work and how that work reflects his values. The teen grands didn't say much about it, beyond a promise to read it. Someday.
Then in June, he mentioned his work for the Congress to one of those teens who was wrapping up a semester on 20th century American history. She asked some relevant questions but that was as far as things went. She was, after all, 14 years old and we all know how difficult it is to keep a teen's attention, to wean them from Instagram, texting and game-playing on their phones. But then, weeks later, when she was on the West Coast for the summer with her parents and not much to do, she read the interview and started texting PF about subjects the piqued her interest. What did he know about Ronald Reagan and the air controllers strike? He called her to discuss. Then came another text: What did he know about gerrymandering? Another chat appointment.
This was an unexpected connection. It is not easy to set up lines of communication with our teen grands. They are moving away from the home as the center of their universe--pushing back their parents and looking for independence. To have one of his Grands turn to him as an expert--as a reliable source--was thrilling.
It was also a reminder of how much impact our past can have on our Grands. But they have to know about it--in some form or other that they can digest at their own pace. I'm picking up my pen.