Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hardest. Job. Ever.

Yesterday, for the fourth time in my life, I toured Monticello. Each time I learn something new, each time I come away astonished by such a life. Although he can be included on a very short list of indispensable men to the establishment and success of this country, and his contributions can never be undervalued, at his grave site, the obelisk that marks his final resting place includes only three of those contributions:

Author of the Declaration of Independence
Author of Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom
Father of the University of Virginia

Seeing it has gotten me thinking about what I would want as my epithet. What thing have I done or accomplished that I would want to be remembered for? It is a singularly clarifying exercise to think of such things. Unlike Mr. Jefferson, I don't have a ten volume book full of things to pick from. Still, it's hard to narrow it down to the most essential.

I would want to be remembered as a good son, a good friend, a good brother, uncle, and cousin because these things would suggest that I loved and cherished family. I would want to be remembered as a good husband because that would suggest that I was faithful to the most important commitment I ever made.

I suppose I would want some mention to be made of my thirty plus years of a moderately successful business career. But having just written that sentence and reading back over it, it sounds so out of place, so inconsequential. Sure, it provided the financial means to do many of the other things, but in and of itself doesn't rise to the level of "good son."

But, after much reflection, I've come to the conclusion that I would want to be remembered the most for being a good...father. The reason is simple; It is the single most difficult thing I've ever done and carries with it the greatest potential for a lasting legacy. If I raise and unleash horrible people into the world, they will continue to pollute it long after I'm gone. But, if I can gift a couple of caring, loving, compassionate and gifted people into the world, my efforts will help make the world better for the rest of eternity. Right?

But, it's so hard. You want to teach them to care about other people, but you don't want them to be taken advantage of too easily. You warn them about the dangers of loving money, but you also want them to be good stewards and know their way around a bank statement. You teach them about God, but you don't want them to wind up so heavenly minded that they're no earthly good. You want them to love and adhere to truth but also live a life full of grace towards those who disagree. You teach them to be compassionate, but not a sucker. You teach them that there is no replacement for hard work, but also compel them to stop and smell the roses. You try to teach them how to think instead of what to think, then spend the rest of your life hoping they don't start thinking stupid things. You want them to become self sufficient, but spoil them rotten every chance you get. You play the parental version of tug-of-war between pampering and pestering, too much of either and all might be lost. Hardest. Job. Ever.

So, here's the epithet for my tombstone:

Good Father.
Good Husband.
Passable Writer.
Baseball Fan.

Notice which one got top billing...