Part One: The Busboys
My best friend, Jack, and I were busboys at my Dad’s huge banquet facility during our teenage years. We spent most Saturday nights moving bus trays of dirty dishes from the banquet room to the dishwasher. By midnight we would then haul the incredibly heavy trays stacked tightly with clean dishes to the back kitchen. At 17, Jack told my Dad that his father was needing him at his paint store, so he gave his two week notice. After he left, my Dad declared to me, “You know, when an employee gives me notice, I’d just as soon pay them and have them not bother to come in. Every person’s work turns to junk after they give notice—everyone except Jack. If it’s possible, I think he worked harder those last two weeks than he did before. If he called me needing a job and there was nothing available, I’d create one for him."
This teenage lesson stuck with me throughout my lifetime of work. I would like for all my employers to mourn my departure. I want to set a precedent that no one could match. So many years later I think—thanks Dad for the lesson, and thanks Jack for setting the bar so high when we were so young.
Part Two: The Lobster
Actually, truth be told, it was what happened to me on the way back from a lobster. It was Denise’s and my tenth wedding anniversary celebration, and we had saved up for the last five years to take a vacation. So, there we were, sharing a large patio area with only one other couple, and drooling about ordering my first (and only) lobster. We saw a branch with a half dozen coconuts break off and crash to the ground. Beyond the trees a woman was feeding her goats on the meager grass area leading up to the sea. It was peaceful and incredibly beautiful. After our long and delicious meal we began the hour drive around the west side of the island to our hotel. As I was mentally recounting that evening’s events, I had a strange “vision”. I found myself viewing my three children. The eldest, who was currently eight, was all grown up, sitting at the table Denise and I had been sitting with his two younger sisters. To my amazement, they were all long past being “grown up”; actually, they were old. Very old. Justin was in his mid-eighties, still tall but a little stooped over. He had bottle of Red Stripe beer near his left hand. I was shocked to see his aged and wrinkled face; though still handsome. Monique, only a year younger, still looked like my little koala bear—but gray and a bit wrinkled herself and still quite adorable. Adele was around 80, sitting upright with uncommonly good posture. Rather elegant I thought, and beautiful. Both girls had drinks on the table with little umbrellas in them.
The girls were leaning over the table laughing so hard they could barely talk and Adele was begging Justin, “Justin, please. Stop. I can’t breathe!” Justin, looking innocently at his sisters replied, “What? I was just asking… remember what Daddy said after coaching Monique’s soccer team?” Both girls howled in unison, “Daddy said, ‘Never coach a sport you don’t know the rules to!’” Then Monique shared a memory about my squeezing into her Volkswagen “Thing” to test drive it with my knees practically in my face, followed by a story from Adele recalling the last year of city softball she played with me as her coach.
Then their voices grew fainter, and as they became more distant I realized it was an image I was “seeing” from heaven. I had been dead for a number of years—that’s why the children were so old. What a strange “vision” of sorts. What’s the deal here? Then the answer came to me: How do you want to be remembered? Will I be long gone and never be thought of again? Will I evoke memories or lessons that are passed on to generations who never met me?
In my years of counseling I have encountered an amazing array of people’s experiences and memories. I have met children and adults who have recounted fathers who never kept their promises, and angry, stressed out mothers who kept the house in turmoil. I’ve also visited with people who need help in dealing with the sadness of losing a father who was always protective and provided guidance all their lives; and mothers who went out of their way to nurture and unconditionally love their child—even well into their adult years. Included in people’s recollections are endless stories of loving, kind grandparents who “taught me so much and were always there for me”.
If a parent (or grandparent) finds themselves coming up short, the time is overdue to refocus on what it is they need to do push themselves to create their legacy. What kind of memories do we wish to impart? How do we want to be remembered?