How will your loved ones remember you?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2008

By Kevin Chiri

I found myself thinking about my legacy recently.

It had to do with some extra time I have spent with my granddaughter Abby.

I know that Father’s Day passed us by over a week ago, but lately I’m having a little more time to work on my “dad” skills, or in this case, it’s a little bit of the “Papa” skills.

That’s right, little Abby is visiting with us for a while so I’ve gotten some extra time to spend with my granddaughter number one.

Abby just had her second birthday, so for most of you who have had kids, you know what kind of stage that puts her in.

She is, naturally, cute as a button and is now at that very early talking stage where she never stops saying things, even though you really don’t recognize most of what she says.

Well, let me rephrase that. You actually can understand many of her words, and she now will try and repeat almost any word you ask her to say. But as parents, you quickly learn what some of those garbled sounds actually mean. And as grandparents, you also get where you can decipher what the little one is saying. As for someone else understand the words, well…..that’s another matter.

With Abby staying with us for a while lately, I have been the one who gets up with her, and the one who will take her for doughnuts on Saturday morning. It’s given me a lot more time to think about the relationship I have with her, and also to pause and reflect about the relationship I have with my 12-year-old son Mikey.

I was reading somewhere recently where it raised the issue of our legacy—or at least, what kind of legacy we might want to leave.

It’s a good question.

When I’m long since six feet under, and my name occasionally gets mentioned, what do I want people, and particularly my family, to remember?

The answer for me never revolves around how much money I made, or if the paper I ran was a success, or how many times I had my byline in the paper.

I’ve thought about that question, and the answer is always the same thing—I want people to think that Kevin was a good guy, and especially that my kids and grandkids think I was there for them.

How many stories have we all heard about the absent dad? He was so driven at the office that he seldom thought that being home with the wife and kids was important. Of course, to that dad, it was all about providing for the family. If you ask so many men today, they will tell you that they “HAD” to work all those hours to provide for the family. But the truth is far from that. None of us have to work so hard. For most, we don’t need the extra money to give us that bigger house, or fancier car, or more vacations, or more dinners out. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is all nice.

But when YOU are six feet under, and the family and kids start talking about what kind of man you were, will any of them ask about how much money you made? OK, so maybe a couple. But most won’t care a lick about it. Instead, family members want to talk about what a “good guy” the dad was, and that he always had time for the children and spouse.

Am I measuring up? Funny, but I know I try to do a lot of things to spend time with my 12-year-old son, and just lately, my 2-year-old granddaughter.

But still I hope it’s all good enough.

On Sunday I kept Abby while the others went to a movie. I have a little procedure now for the weekend mornings. Since Abby is such a little chatterbox, I get her out of bed in the morning since everyone in the house likes to sleep longer than I do. Then we hustle outside to sit in the driveway right outside the garage door.

It’s shady there, and the mornings are still not so hot. But even to help, I set up two fans so we both have one blowing on us. I read my Bible, do my favorite Sudoku puzzles, or read the baseball boxscores in the paper. For me, it’s really very relaxing and enjoyable.

Abby has a neat tent that Mikey got, so we bring that out, then I get her big clothes basket full of toys. Add a drink in a sippy cup, and she seems happy as can be. We can stay outside for hours and she is happy. But is that really the kind of time a little one will remember, in terms of “Papa” being there to do things with her?

On Sunday night, everyone else went to a movie in town, so I kept Abby. She hadn’t gotten her afternoon nap and was cranky easier than normal. I tried the same tricks, but they were wearing down in a hurry. So I went to plan ‘B’ by getting her some candy in a bowl to go with her sippy cup. It worked for a while, but then she was getting fussy again.

This time I had one more trick up my sleeve. My daughter had bought her a little swimming pool, so I set it up in the grass right next to the driveway, and put the hose on very low. Toss in a few toys, and suddenly the kid was happy as could be. Whew!

It’s easier to find things to keep the 2-year-old going, but I have to say that I wonder about keeping Mikey happy. He’s getting older and getting into a lot of computer stuff that I don’t know what to do with. So once again, how do I keep up with that? We play basketball, throw the Frisbee or the football. But is that good enough?

It all goes back to the question. My legacy. I want my son to always look back on his days growing up, and know that his dad was willing to do stuff with him. But as he gets older, it’s hard to know what to do.

I’ll keep working on it, I know that. The last thing I want, is to be remembered as a guy who was always at the office, but didn’t have time for the kids. There’s too much of that going on this day, all in the name of making what too many men say is money they can’t live without.

For me, I can’t live without my kids thinking their dad was always there to play, or just spend time with them—even if it was just doing his Sudoku puzzles in the driveway while Abby played in the swimming pool.

Kevin Chiri is Publisher of L’Observateur and can be reached at (985) 652-9545 or at