One pair of Fruit of the Loom underwear, brief style, blue with gray waistband, condition: some fabric softener stains; otherwise, average. One Woody Hayes commemorative edition bobblehead, still in packaging. One copy of the Reader’s Digest printing of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth.
These were my father’s legacy to me.
To be fair, he didn’t plan to die. In 2009 he had a sudden heart attack and was gone. He’d never been in great health, but there was no indication his time was going to be up that soon–until it was. So he didn’t really have time to plan what he would pass on to us. He just left behind the evidence of an ordinary daily existence and my mother divvied it up as fairly as she could. I’m not sure who got his Minnie Mouse nightshirt, or if that was even up for grabs.
There are some things that scare me about parenthood, but the scariest thing is this issue of a legacy. I don’t want to sound gender-biased here, but I think this may be an issue of greater concern to fathers and sons. At least, if my wife has any of these concerns, she hasn’t told me about them.
The problem is, I don’t feel like I have anything figured out, and I’m supposed to somehow guide this little guy, give him the direction he needs? I’ve been thinking about going back to school for a PhD. I want to be a mixed martial artist (but my wife won’t let me). I want to write a novel so good it makes your teeth hurt. My idea of a great day off is a day spent playing Civilization and drinking Diet Mt. Dew. And with all these scatterbrained ideas of my own, I’m supposed to tell my kid how to focus himself and achieve his dreams? What do I know about that? I want to leave him with a great legacy, something he can point to and say, “This is what my dad gave me.” It doesn’t have to be material, although I’m sure we’d both like if it was. But there should be something. A father should, if the world is a fair and just place, be able to leave his son with something worthwhile.
My best bet, I guess, is to tell him to follow his heart…but use his head. Do everything the best he can, and don’t worry about how other people evaluate him…unless they really know what they’re talking about, and are offering him good advice. He should be his own man, but not so much that the system grinds him up into pieces.
And, one day, I will leave him a pair of FTLs. I hope he will wear them with pride.