I always hated History and Government. In high school, my teachers would make us memorize lists upon lists of dates and places, all of which I’ve since forgotten. During my first go-round of college, I avoided History and anything related as if it was the Plague. I mean, who wants to pay for such a class. To be fair, I have several good friends who were History majors. they’re the ones who enjoyed memorizing dates, and who understood what those dates represented. History is about so much more than dates or words on paper.
History is about people.
My second, and much more successful attempt, at college introduced me to an instructor whose passion was History. He made me love it. He made the people from our book come to life with letters from soldiers of wars long past. He brought mementos from veterans who no longer no what day it is, but who can recount every move made in Vietnam or Korea. He brought History to life.
Over the last few years I have lost three family members. Those deaths made me realize that I don’t know my own History. This week alone there have been three deaths directly and indirectly affecting me. They’re lives, and consequent deaths, inspire me and make me want to be a better person. They also remind me that I am still no closer to knowing my own History or where I come from than I was three years ago.
We live really far away from my family. We moved nearly one thousand miles away over twenty years ago. On one hand, I am really grateful for the life I have lived. My parents made sure I knew right from wrong. They encouraged me at every turn, and discouraged where I could make monumental mistakes. I still made mistakes, for sure, but I was allowed to make my own path. That path rarely collided with family.
Even now, I feel like I live in a bubble of sorts.
I have my kids, my own family, my own little world to take care of. I don’t often get the chance to think about anything or anyone else, much less do something about it. But, in light of these deaths, I find myself questioning the legacy I am leaving my own children. They know right from wrong. They are allowed to make mistakes. They are children who go to church and believe in God. But, do they know the why behind who we are?
This is my struggle.
I don’t know my own legacy. How can I pass what I don’t know down to my children? I don’t know my dad’s family. I know the general area of where he was born and raised. I know he’s the next to youngest of thirteen (!). I don’t remember his parents, but I have pictures of me and my brother as toddlers hanging out with them. I know my mom’s family. They make it a point to get together anytime we trek the thousand miles home. But, my grandparents are the glue that holds them together. What happens when they are no longer here? When there’s no reason for each family to make it a point to leave their own worlds in order to get together? What then?