Cherishing the Legacy of My Father

Nine years ago this week was the celebration service and burial for my father, H.D. Adams.

As I reflected on his life this week, thoughts came to mind, and those thoughts brought me to words on a digital page, remembrances of him sprinkled in posts over the years.

From 2009, in a planning meeting with a church leadership team:

It was a long travel and office day with lots of “stuff” happening, but it ended on a very positive note from the church leadership team I was meeting with that night.

After over 2 1/2 hours of discussion, a remark was made something like this:

Your company’s information on the website and print say a lot, but your talk here tonight says the most. You may not realize it, but you’ve mentioned the influence of your father at least four times tonight, all in very positive ways. That speaks to your character and integrity, and that comes from a relationship that can’t be taught, but can be caught. That’s the kind of person we want to work with.

I was a little taken aback by the comment, but was very flattered. I did not realize that I was referencing my Dad that much, but evidently I was, and it was noticed.

Thanks, Dad, for modeling for me all the right things to do and say – even when I don’t realize I’m doing and saying them!

>From 2010, after a full day of play with my grandson:

Today’s visits to Discovery Place Kids and the park – just part of a busy day – reminded me in some ways of times with my grandfather and also how my dad played with his grandchildren.

My paternal grandfather died before I was born; my maternal grandfather lived in Missouri, so I only saw him about once a year until I was in my late teens. Then he moved into the small apartment next to my house, where he lived for several years until he passed away. Anyway, a lot of my memories are of “Pappy” teaching me guy things: mostly fishing, a little hunting, playing cards. My dad had already done this (except the cards); it was Pappy’s “job” since he had the time to expand on this “guy” knowledge.

My father was still working during my kids’ early years. Even so, trips to Grandpa’s house always included driving the mower; pumping gas at the gas station; feeding the birds; and reading books. Later when he retired and the kids were older those kinds of things continued.

So here I am in 2010, a GrandBob (twice) and it seems things are the same. The kids probably get more sugar, less sleep, and more attention than they should – but I don’t remember it permanently damaging me or my kids, so who am I to break with tradition?

Some things do change though: at the end of the day my 2 1/2 year-old grandson Skyped with his two week old cousin (well, pretty much Jack was doing the talking and watching; Lucy was sleeping most of the time). But he did get to see her and wish her a happy birthday (which is pretty astute for a 2 1/2 year-old, but hey, he’s my grandson).

>From 2011, when business travel was a regular occurrence, not a series of Zoom meetings:

Recently I went on a business trip that’s taken me through 5 airports, boarding 5 planes, and taking off and landing 5 times in 4 time zones. Along the way, I waited in lines, looked in a lot of faces, and heard lots of conversations. One conversation in particular stands out – two young women in their early 20s were behind me talking about another person. I wasn’t eavesdropping, but voices in a jet way are quite clear. The comment that stopped me? “Yeah, he’s 35 you know, and that’s like, you know, old.”

At more than two decades past the age of 35, I obviously have a different outlook on life than those two young women. Or do I?

I’m not normally the type that looks at myself in a mirror. But this comment, along with much more positive comments from my colleagues related to a change in hairstyle, made me look in the mirror in the hotel that night. Just who was that looking back at me?

The face I saw was that of my father. Instinctively, I know this was triggered by recent changes in his health. At 84, issues are beginning to arise. Emails indicated a gradual change in demeanor and lifestyle. Unexpected phone calls late at night recount hospital visits that begin bringing a new image to mind.

This morning, I looked long in the mirror and the vision I saw was that of my father, coming into focus like a picture being developed right in front of my eyes.

Thought of another way, however, that familiar face embedded in my mind morphed into my son’s and then into his son’s – my grandson. Like a modern day mashup, those collections of lives lived, and yet to live, offer a considerable span of history. A life in waning years, a life at halftime, a life in early adulthood, and a life just beginning – that’s quite a few faces in the mirror.

It doesn’t take a magic mirror to see the past in your own face, or wonder about the future in the face of your children and grandchildren.

Who knows when you will glance into a mirror and meet a past you hadn’t expected and weren’t ready for, or a future that is yet to come.

Look in the mirror – what do you see?

>From the 2012 eulogy to my father:

My memories of my father span the 54 years of my life – and each memory has a special significance. A father means one thing to a 3-year-old, another to a 13-year-old, and another to a 33-year-old. They are all special.

But today I remember my father in terms of being a grandfather. I am reminded of times with my grandfather and also how my dad played with his grandchildren.

Later on, after marriage and the start of my own family, since my father was still working during my kids’ early years, trips to Grandpa’s house always included driving the mower; pumping gas at the gas station; feeding the birds; and reading books. Later when he retired and the kids were older those kinds of things expanded, but he was always reflecting a spirit of giving to others.

So here I am in 2012, finding myself a grandfather – actually, a GrandBob – twice (now, 8 times!) and it seems things are the same. The kids probably get more sugar, less sleep, and more attention than they should – but I don’t remember it permanently damaging me or my kids, so who am I to break with tradition?

The point of all this long discourse: A lot has changed in the decades of grandparenting I’ve been a part of: first as a recipient, then as an observer, and now as a practitioner. But one thing remains the same. 

Grandparents love their grandchildren, and through that love, cherish their children in a different way, as parents, and bearers of a legacy to a new generation.

That’s a legacy I cherish.

Do You Have the Courage to Leave a Legacy?

Eulogy given at my father’s funeral, March 1, 2012. I usually repost it every year on the date of his birth, August 9. This year, a Facebook post sent to me by my wife and daughter reminded me of one of my dad’s favorite things to do for kids – so here it is again in his memory.

During the past few days I have been reminded in powerful ways that even though you may go away from a place, it’s always home.

Last night, over 750 guests came by to visit with my family. We saw friends of four years – and of four decades. Multiple generations of “customers” of my dad came by to pay their respects. From four to ninety-four, our family and friends came…

On behalf of my family, I want to thank all of you for your kind words, gestures, and acts of love.  We are humbled by your actions, and thank you for honoring the memory of my father, Doc Adams.

My memories of my father span the 54 years of my life – and each memory has a special significance. A father means one thing to a 3-year-old, another to a 13-year-old, and another to a 33-year-old. They are all special.

But today I remember my father in terms of being a grandfather. I am reminded of times with my grandfather and also how my dad played with his grandchildren.

My paternal grandfather died when I was an infant; my maternal grandfather lived in Missouri. When he moved into the small apartment next to my house during my early teenage years, I remember fishing and hunting with “Pappy.” I think that established in me what grandfathers did.

Later on, after marriage and the start of my own family, since my father was still working during my kids’ early years, trips to Grandpa’s house always included driving the mower; pumping gas at the gas station; feeding the birds; and reading books. Later when he retired and the kids were older those kinds of things expanded, but he was always reflecting a spirit of giving to others.

So here I am in 2012, finding myself a grandfather – actually, a GrandBob – twice (now, 6 times!) and it seems things are the same. The kids probably get more sugar, less sleep, and more attention than they should – but I don’t remember it permanently damaging me or my kids, so who am I to break with tradition?

The point of all this long discourse: A lot has changed in the decades of grandparenting I’ve been a part of: first as a recipient, then as an observer, and now as a practitioner. But one thing remains the same. 

Grandparents love their grandchildren, and through that love, cherish their children in a different way, as parents, and bearers of a legacy to a new generation.

That’s a legacy I cherish.

At my father’s celebration service, we showed a video clip that included him saying “I never made much money, but I made a lot of friends, and that’s what’s important.”

It reminded me of comments made by my dad when he would buy something for himself – which wasn’t very often: “I hope you don’t mind me spending your inheritance.”

When you put those two comments together, I think you have a perfect expression of what my father meant to our family – and to his church, community, and friends.

A huge difference exists between a legacy and an inheritance. Anyone can leave an inheritance. An inheritance is something you leave to your family or loved ones. A legacy is something you leave in your family and loved ones. While it hard work and success may lead to an inheritance, it takes courage through a lifetime to leave a legacy.

 Inheritance

  • Something tangible you give to others
  • Temporarily brings them happiness
  • Eventually fades as it is spent
  • Your activity may or not may pay off

Legacy

  • Something tangible you place in others
  • Permanently transforms them
  • Lives on long after you die
  • Your activity becomes achievement

What would you rather leave: an inheritance or a legacy?

I am reminded me of a quote attributed to Winston Churchill which I think reflects my father’s spirit and actions, and is backed up by the presence of hundreds at his celebration service today:

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.

Giving is very much the legacy of my father, and what I want to leave with you today.

DumDum(Family and friends leaving the celebration service were given a Dum Dum sucker.)

Your smiles in the audience tell me most of you know what this means; for those of you that don’t, it’s very simple.

Kids of all ages who came by my father’s gas station received a Dum Dum sucker from my father. It was just a simple act, but one that reverberates in my spirit to this day.

Serve people with a smile, and then give them a little extra.

Enjoy the Dum Dum or give it away.

Either is okay: keep it for comfort or a memory of Doc, or give it to someone in memory of Doc.

Give away a smile today.

That’s the legacy of Doc Adams that we all can pass on.