Thingish Things


Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Oct• 01•11

I had an overly generous write-up in last week’s New York Observer, based on the good work of a lot of people. This morning I surreptitiously slipped a copy of it into a file I made for my five-year-old daughter. My 15 minutes are already up, but she’ll want to read about them one day.

The file includes tid-bits about her young life and about her family. A clip here, a lock of hair there. I’m sure lots of parents do that, but I wonder if, perhaps, those who lost loved ones early in life do it disproportionately often. These are, after all, in-case-I-forget-to-tell-you-before-I-die files.

What goes into them focuses the mind on what’s important in life. And, to me anyway, legacy tops the list. Who am I? Where do I come from? What are our values? What is our perspective on things? Legacy provides a road map for life.  One doesn’t have to follow it, but it’s good to know where your family’s true north points nonetheless. It’s a guide post, even if you’re running perpendicular to it at times.  How else can you know when you’re off course?

My mother died before I knew her, and I remember as a boy guiltily sneaking peeks at her old books to see what passages she had underlined. I wanted to know what she thought, and the knowledge that these books were once held in her hands was profoundly moving, if an eight-year old can be so moved. My mother never could have known what a few idle pencil  scratchings would one day mean to her children. I so often fail to appreciate that as a father. I’m too busy trying to make my children proud.

One great thing about getting older is that you get to  see both sides of the coin. You can watch yourself working to make your children proud while watching them make you proud of them. Neither side of the coin is ever satisfied with his progress, which sometimes causes angst, but the instinct to keep trying is ingrained.

What an extraordinarily dynamic family is. I’d be lost without it. 

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