Tomorrow it will be ten years since my Pa died. And yesterday and today all I could think about what the concept of a legacy. What you leave behind for other people, and, in turn, what those people do to honour losing you.
My Pa lived for 69 years, and from what I can tell, all of them were great except for the last few months of his life. He was friendly, happy-go-lucky, he loved sports and his family and took an interest in all of the things his children and grandchildren did. If we were happy, he was happy. (Or, as he would have said, if we was happy, he was happy.) He loved birthdays. He sent us postcards and letters. When I first moved away from home he would write me letters and stories to help cure my homesickness. He liked ginger fluff cake and crayfish. He had a massive collection of VHS tapes which mostly featured two types of movies — Westerns and musicals. He would watch the same videos often. He was the only person I’ve ever met who called the remote a ‘doover’.
The last few months of his life, Pa was really sick, and it was tough. After he died, this was all I could think of — crazy stuff like how he just happened not to be conscripted to fight in Vietnam, just because his number never came up, and then something stupid like cancer came along and took him away.
One day, about six months after he died, I had a thought to call him. Something funny had happened at uni and I could already hear him say ‘Really? Gee whiz!’ I held my phone in my hand, and at that moment I remembered he was gone. And now I can only think of what he might have said when things go right, or when things go wrong. I won’t ever know for sure though.
What I do know is this: Pa would be pretty happy with the way things turned out for us grandkids. He would have liked being a great-grandpa. He would get a massive kick out of watching my brother on television, or knowing I was ‘following in his footsteps’ with my writing. He would have liked all of our interests and enjoyed weddings and birthdays especially if there was cake involved. He would really like that Natalie can sing ‘Morning Town Ride’ by herself now, even if she muddles all of the words like he used to do.
Maybe our legacy isn’t leaving behind a list of good stuff for our loved ones to do. I don’t think Pa would have minded where we went career wise, but he did care a lot about being honest and kind. And he made the best out of everything, and never minded sending himself up — like when he spent hours and probably twenty dollars having a photo of himself and Gran in bathers in the early 70s — just so we could have a laugh at his expense. He would always say ‘I knew you could do it’ when someone achieved something they had been striving for. But, when it comes to the question of whether or not he would be proud of me, and of my brothers and cousins, no thought is required. He was then, and he would be now. And that the best example I can think of of a great legacy of love.