Monday, July 22, 2013

My Own Private Legacy

When we speak of the Mormon Pioneers, we can’t help but speak reverently of their legacy of sacrifice and devotion. I, myself, am I descendant of John Tanner. John was an entrepreneurial kind of a guy. He owned several farms and orchards, as well as a hotel in upstate New York. He received an impression that he was needed in Kirtland, Ohio - so he sold those farms and orchards and that hotel, and packed up his family Christmas morning to head 500 miles east to Kirtland. When he got there he found the mortgage on the temple site was due. He loaned money to the temple committee and to the Prophet Joseph Smith, personally. He then donated liberally to the cause. When he left Kirtland he had $7.50 to his name. Years later, in Nauvoo, he was called at the age of 66 to serve a mission. Leaving his wife and 14 children he was on his way out of town when he passed the prophet. Joseph said, "John, what of the $2,000 I owe you." John responded, "It's yours. You owe me nothing." The prophet put his hand on John's shoulder and said, "Bless you, Brother Tanner. Your posterity will never beg for bread."  

Many times in my life I have been the recipient of that promised blessing. As a child, as a husband, and as a father. And inevitably, I reflectively ask myself what I will be known for by my posterity. 

I mean, you have to wonder what kind of legacy you are leaving for your children when they make astute observations like, “I can’t wait to be a dad – you get to stay up every night eating ice cream and watching TV!” Apparently I have painted quite a picture of fatherhood for my three sons. “Yep, that’s all there is to it, my boys! You put in your time as a youth spending grueling hours making forts out of the couch and playing Wipeout on the Wii; and then in a few short years, you’ll be living the high life with Haagen-Dazs and Seinfeld reruns. Life just gets simpler and simpler, I tell you.”

What kind of legacy would I like to leave my children? Oh, I suppose I’d like them to say …

My dad was the wisest person I ever knew.
My dad could solve any problem.
He never said a bad word about anyone.
He was the most patient man in the entire world.
I remember when he made his first $1M at age 43. (Next year!)
My mom always commented on how great he looked in a medium t-shirt.

However, my flaws and selfish indulgences are incessantly on parade at my house. It’s difficult to hide them when there are seven pairs of eyes watching. Somebody is always seeing something. So if you were to ask my children this afternoon how they would remember him…for better or for worse, it might realistically sound more like this:

My dad was do-it-yourself-home-repair-challenged and he hyphenated words far too often.
He knew a little too much about a lot of 80s and 90s pop-culture.
He couldn’t tell you the name of a single player of any professional sport.
He was his most impatient when we were whiny, which he always said was an expression of ingratitude.
My dad valued friendship. Especially mine.
He loved telling stories.
He could not dance or sing, but he loved dancing and singing with me.
I knew how to make more meals than my dad.
My dad was honest.
I felt emotionally and physically safe with him.
Though imperfectly, he tried all his life to be a better follower of the Savior. 
More than anything else, my dad loved my mom.

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