Legacy

So, here I am.CITD_FamilyProject

Eldest son of two people who died in 2008—Mom in the spring, Dad in the fall.

And while I realize I’m not the only person in the world to ever have dearly loved people die on them, sometimes it feels that way.

Grief is bewildering. The first year was probably the hardest.

I was acting out that summer of ’09—feeling desperately lonely and drinking too much. I lashed out at people and sunk deeper into my resentment.

And I hated the person I was becoming.

Once I’d realized how pointless self-destruction was, I sought counseling and attended a grief support group in 2010. Led by a psychotherapist, we met every week—just me and four other women who’d lost their mothers to breast cancer.

It was the right thing at exactly the right time.

At the group’s start, the therapist had us write a letter to our future selves. After meeting for 12 weeks, the letters were sealed in envelopes, stamped, and mailed.

My letter read:

“Dear Mike—

Here’s what you know now that you didn’t know when you started the group:

—The questions you have about anything can be lived now.
—Guilt is unnecessary. You are you.
—There is no closure because closures/openings are an illusion.
—You are a gem—valued by many people. You are truly loved.

Don’t let your perceived weaknesses hamper you. Keep fighting. Keep loving. Keep believing in the questions.

Sincerely, Myself”

It was dated April 22, 2010. Exactly four years ago. Until now, I hadn’t looked at it since I first received it.

Again, the right thing at exactly the right time.

***

It’s not likely I will ever have children.

That statement creates conflicting feelings in me.

During the year the folks died, with my then-girlfriend AJ, that subject was front and center. She often babysat two brothers—children of friends from her church. One day we took the boys to a nearby playground. I watched as she pushed them on a swing—she was smiling; the boys were beaming.

I was beside myself with joy.

Could I be looking at the future mother of my children? I wondered. I hadn’t thought that before or since, with any woman.

After we broke up in 2009 she emailed a letter, which read in part: “I know you think that I would make a great mom, but your thoughts on children are not clear to me and I have not known or had the courage to talk about such an important topic.”

Seems she wasn’t alone in lacking courage. I’d been struggling with it most of my adult life.

Now I’m over fifty and childless. I will probably never father a son or daughter.

And that compounds my grief.

***

The Family Project never lacked for courage. Mom and Dad ardently chose each other. From their love my brother and I were born.

We are their legacy.

Sometimes I’ll catch myself in the middle of a groan or sigh and think, “That sounds exactly like Dad.” Recently Brian told me that I walk “just like Dad used to walk.” When I think of my father’s kindnesses to strangers, his polite smile and reassuring small talk, I hope that I do the same with the people that I meet.

I know that I often don’t. And that bothers me.

My brother married nearly 25 years ago. He and his wife have three sons, the oldest now in college. Following in Dad’s footsteps, Brian created his own Family Project. He interacts with his legacy every day.

But where does it all come to rest with me?

FamProj2All I have are things—written things: diaries, journals, manuscripts, letters; image-related things: artwork, drawings, photographs.

Just Things.

Not living, breathing people.

When I first wrote about “the Family Project,” it was mostly in jest. Of course I was taking a jab at my father’s serious, buttoned-down nature. Dad felt every problem could be solved with the proper jolt of project management.

Right, wrong. Good column, bad column. White hats, black hats.

And all I see is gray.

Dad’s death was the biggest shock as I’d hoped to spend more time with him and perhaps learn how both our lives were shaped—me as his son, and he as son to his father.

But here I am.

Now, as I am. With unanswerable questions.

And I’m entirely unable to do anything about them but just keep believing.

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~ by completelyinthedark on April 25, 2014.

5 Responses to “Legacy”

  1. I always enjoy your posts, but the one is particularly poignant. I am touched by your admiration for your parents and their legacy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So beautiful. I am moved by your quiet reflection, your words and sentiments and great love for your parents. (And btw The Family Project can still happen. That’s one advantage of being a man – is it not?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words! Re: children. Doubtful my back would hold out a year after birth. 😉

      Like

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