Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Generations

Over the Fourth of July weekend the family got into a conversation about how teenagers get insomnia once in a while.  The older two generations looked at each other and immediately thought the same thing:  “This is a job for the How to Catch Bass video."

Beaven bought the video years ago when he went through a brief interest in fishing.  Along with the video he bought out the fishing department of the store and amassed a great collection of fishing gear without ever once doing any actual fishing.  But that’s neither here or there.  I’m talking about the video now.

The How to Catch Bass  video has earned the award within our family as The Most Boring video on earth.  I used to take it to lock-ins at the church and never had anyone stay awake past the frog lure.

But while I was looking through the videos I found a couple of home movies I had converted to VHS from old movie film.   Now, of course, I wish I had ALL of them converted. It would have been great to review so many of the scenes I remember from my childhood.  I think it only cost $10 a pop, which seems so nominal today but astronomical 30 years ago when you consider that Beaven and my Daddy made a LOT of home movies and I could barely find $20 to convert two tapes.

The grands enjoyed watching their mom toddle around when she was little.  Emily accused us of negligent parenting now that she runs a day care and is an expert on child safety. She claims the slide she enjoyed so much as a child was entirely TOO high and TOO dangerous.  I think that might have been to cover up the point that at age five she couldn’t master the concept of speaking into a microphone.  She kept sticking it into her eye. This might have been our first clue she had a touch of dyslexia.

Then we showed home movies of when I was a kid.  That one was more fun for me to watch.  I saw my mother and father, cousins, aunts and uncles, and my grandparents.  I kept trying to get the girls interested in seeing their great-great-grandparents.  And a cold reality set in.  Unless you are into genealogy, people lose interest in their ancestors about three generations back. 

Oh, yes, there is the occasional heroic figure in family trees, the outlaw here and there or maybe even a silly outlandish aunt who left stories behind; but for the most part we fade away in memories within three generations.

Three generations.  That’s about all we have.
                                                                                            
And what do we want to leave behind after we’re gone?  If we’ve got only three generations, who will listen to us?  What will we say to them and how?

The Stuart family had a farm on the outside of Lancaster.  I think E.G. Stuart was the one to buy it or it might have been his father Elisha Stuart, the guy who somehow managed to “resign”  from the northern army during the Civil War and move to Texas with all his Southern sympathies.   

Whenever my father and I went to the old farm property Daddy always took me to the grove of pecan trees.  And he told me the story of the day he helped his grandfather plant the trees. “Ed,” my great-grandfather would say, “I’m not planting these trees for myself.  I will never live to see them bear fruit.  I’m planting them for you and your children.”

With that story we span four generations.  If I ever get a chance to take my grandchildren to see the pecan trees (assuming they’re still alive) we will have spanned six generations.  We will have doubled the amount of interest my home movies garnered.

There is another way to pass along our essence to the future—an ethical will. Yes, dear ones, there is such a thing and the idea has been around for a long time.  I have a book on the subject.  It's called  "Ethical Wills and How to Prepare Them"  It's written by Jack Riemer and Nathaniel Stampfer.

An Ethical Will is a written document you leave behind after you die, just like a regular will except that instead of leaving real estate or money to relatives it explains the ethics you tried to live by in life and hope to pass along to your children. Instead of money you're leaving a reputation.  You can’t guarantee anyone will actually pay attention but it’s worth a try.

What ethics would I leave my great-great-grandchildren? Off the top of my head here's a short list:

·         * Be honest to others.  Pay your taxes.  Pay your bills.
·         * Be honest with yourself.  You’re not perfect, admit it.  Change things you need to change. Get therapy if you need it.
       * Be humble.
       * Be dependable
·           * Love yourself even in the light of all your imperfections·
      * Be nice to others
      * Pray often
      *Listen for God to speak
      * Be strong in adversity.  Keep on keeping on.

I would leave them photos of my own grandparents with stories of how these ethics worked for them. 

The photos of my grandmother, Bertha Kolb Kuhn on her 18th birthday doesn't give a clue that she would be widowed early, leaving her with two children to support and no money. 



And finally, I would tell my great grandchildren to enjoy life.  Here is Tom and Fannie Stuart on an outing with friends when they were young.  It's my favorite photo of them because it looks like Granddaddy is about to grab her bottom.


Generations past, generations yet to come, meet each other every day  in your life and mine.  It is up to us to leave a legacy worth passing along. Plant a tree.

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