Life Lessons and Legacy

Life Lessons and Legacy

For the next few hours, I will post once an hour, an interesting experiment. Will you remember the things I will mention here? What do you remember? In what way have I, or the people I mention here touched your life? Keep in mind what follows is my own observations and thoughts and are intended as a top down perspective. If I forgot you, please keep in mind the list is long and having to remember all this stuff clearly takes time and brain power. It wasn’t intentional, I assure you. Also for ease and space constraints, I’ll be jumping forward a lot. This is kind of a “Highlights reel”, of those who made impressions and left me with a legacy.

We often times take what’s around us, and the people we meet along the way for granted. Do we ever stop and think exactly what roles those people took in our lives? When we’re asked as children who our heroes are, how many of us responded with, “My best friend” or, “My parents”.  I seriously doubt any of us did. I began contemplating a week or so ago, about what it was I’d would eventually be leaving my daughter with, what kind of Legacy would be hers to take up? It occurred to me that it wasn’t just me that would leave an impression on her life; it was everyone she ever comes in contact with. This line of thought, led me to my own life and the people I ran across in growing up. Many of these people are still in my life in some form of fashion, those that are not, left me with something. What they left behind isn’t tangible, you can’t hold it in your hand and its far more precious than anything physical could be.

Most everyone knows where I was born, so I’ll skip this part, especially since I was too young to remember anything. Let me start in New Mexico, 1985 or so. I was five years old and we moved into the apartments in Rio Rancho. I was growing to the point in my life when things would leave impressions and what happened prior to that, really isn’t what this exercise is about. The family members that helped get me to five will play a bigger part in this later, so we’ll return to them.

When you talk about people that influence you growing up, often times it’s the first ones that last the longest as life goes on. This doesn’t really need to be just parents, often times its friends. When we lived in Rio Rancho we met a family of three. Each one of them left a mark in my life. The husband was a tall, rail thin man with a heart the size of Texas, drove trucks for a living, and would be gone for long periods of time. He loved his family and was the first to show me that work often required sacrifices. To this day the mother is like a second mom, who helped watch over me growing up at the apartments. She left me with the knowledge, that motherhood was more than a name; it was hard work and discipline. After all, she had, at times, three kids instead of just one.  Then there’s the daughter of these three fine people. Few things make an impact as a rock to the head. Although it wasn’t me that got hit in the head, it nevertheless makes an interesting way one enters another’s life. And so my second sister entered my life. As nerdy and carefree as I am, she was the kind of person that no matter what I did, she forgave me. Thus I learned humility and forgiveness.

Moving from the apartments to our house on Capri Court brought new life experiences. Here I met people that although left their mark on my life, didn’t stay on a path I could or wanted to follow. I did however meet one charismatic character who had a big impact on my life. We lost contact like most people do, but because I grew up and nostalgic, I perused finding him and only within the last few years have we reconnected. He taught me sacrifice and bravery, the kind of sacrifice made by jumping on a grenade. The kind of bravery one faces, when looking down the lions maw.

I learned of rock’n’roll from another person on that cul-de-sac… I learned growing old took work, experienced new tastes for the first time, and that rabbits were good BBQ’d. I learned to ride a bike, and that seeing your sister’s eyes roll in the back of her head is a scary sight. There were trees to climb, forts to build and rules to be broken. I learned it was no fun to eat sugarless ketchup, or wheat-less bread. Mustard became my condiment of choice. Somewhere around here, my mother’s dad came to visit us. My grandfather, a vet of World War II, often visited us where ever our home was. But it was our time here that I learned the most from him. His wisdom taught me the sun rises in the east, and sets in the west. He taught me how to read a compass and how to build a fire. He gave me the basis for patriotism.

Around this period I entered into a dance school. The experiences were good for me, even the bad ones, such as learning NOT to flip your mom off while in middle of class. As much as I’d like to say this part of my growing up was pointless and I didn’t learn anything, it wouldn’t be true. The friendships I had during my time there remain with me today. No matter how small a part the other students there played in my life, each one touched it and left an imprint. None of them left as big of a mark, as the owner of the school however. From her I learned grace, hard work and dedication.

From here, I think it’s fair to jump back to family members, since from this point in my life and forward at least five years I wouldn’t meet any new friends for a while. Admitting these following things will probably be the hardest part. Because, let’s be honest, who wants to tell their parents they were right? Both my parents provided growing up, and some of it I’m sure was during hard times. I had my allergies to food for a better part of my early years, constant Doctors and tests. Through all that however, I turned out pretty good. They gave me a home, they gave me things, they gave me love and most importantly they had patience. The one thing I use today with my own daughter is patience and sometimes have to stop and think, wait, I used to do that. Back then, it was the least used on my part and was constantly the one thing my parents kept telling me. I don’t find myself telling my own daughter this as much as I remember it getting said to me, but I certainly use it when it comes to her antics.

Then again, this parenting thing is what started off this whole study, isn’t it? Legacy, imprinting a person’s life, learning things and teaching things too, all intertwine. So it would stand to reason that this is also the biggest part of one’s life, and growing up. Patience is only one attribute I took from my parents, or I should say they gifted me with. It’s hard to even comprehend everything, because it’s become so engrained in WHO I am, I don’t even think about it. Its only when I look at my daughter when she does, or doesn’t do something that, in the back of my head I think, “Wait a minute, this seems familiar.” Then I realize it’s my mom or dad, saying the same thing to me when I was her age. I have to chuckle to myself in those moments because it’s those moments that up till now, I’ve taken for granted. Those lessons never even crossed my mind. So it’s not about what is left for me as a child that determines a legacy, it’s what was given to me already. The chance to grow old, the chance to give my parents the love and patience they showed me. The chance to give them a grandchild they can spoil, like my grandparents did with me. It’s about giving me the opportunity to make my own mistakes and to touch people’s lives, to experience life and giving me the tools to survive.

We will come back to this later. For now, let’s jump ahead again, this time we’re in Tigard, Oregon a few miles outside of Portland. My dad was transferred here to work, so my family and I went along for the ride. It seemed we moved a lot around this time, although I really don’t remember the order. And really, it doesn’t matter. Oregon however, was a milestone in growing up. I met the last of my best friends here and am glad I did.

We lived in three different houses in the same sub-division on the side of a hill in Tigard. There were lots of trees and space to play. It was around this time moving in, that I met a new friend, who ended up connecting me to several friends. One of them somehow stuck out more than others, and we hit it off. No other summers in memory, can compare to those spent in Oregon. With a neighborhood full of like-minded young teens, we all had fun and yes, got in trouble en mass. Because of these friends, my style as a kid got an upgraded image. I moved out of the nerdy kid, to the, “He’s cool” category. Or, at least I felt I had. Regardless of this, it wasn’t me that forced the change, it was the collective suggestions and guidance only peers could make. These were my teens; bad discussions come with the territory. Luckily though, my friends we’re all pretty cool, and so were their parents. So I didn’t end up getting in any real danger or bad crowds. No, instead I came away with friends I still talk to this day. From them I learned true friendship and that it’s not where you’re going, so much as where you’ve been.

After leaving Oregon and moving back to Phoenix, I lost contact with many of my good friends. So I turned to making new ones, in a new way, online. Here I had the chance to meet many new people and they remain with me today. The life lessons learned were no less important but became less frequent. Was it my teenage attitude of, “I know everything”, or was it simply I didn’t care? Could be both aspects I’m sure. These imprints were however, no less important. I learned to play pool. I learned to get out and have fun. This is when I gained a brother and learned it was ok to eat Nutter Butters for breakfast and if we got in a fight over driving backwards, he had my back and who could forget his request to go back and STOP at a stop sign. My friends online taught me chivalry, honor, and integrity. I learned to draw, or at least learned some aspects of it. I learned that online gaming was something more than the kids today know it as, it was a huge community, a family. Most importantly it led me full circle and gave me my wife, and ultimately my daughter.

My parents gave me more then I even realize and it’s through my daughter and raising her, I see just what I had growing up. It wasn’t about possessing things, those can be lost. It was about what I gained as a person and what I will pass on to my daughter. It’s about lessons learned, it’s about giving a little piece of me each day to my daughter. In the end this will be her legacy. It won’t be an empire, it won’t be monetary gain, but will be far more precious to her then both those things combined. Whose life will she touch growing up? Will she see things differently? Will she know what to do with these life experiences?

As for me, it will never be over. At least not until I take my final bow in life. I will continue to learn from people and will grow as a person.  I will pass on what I know and learn unto my daughter and share my experiences with those I cross paths with. Who knows what knowledge I will gain in the years and decades to come; every day is a learning experience. Thank you all for your contributions.

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