A couple of events over the last week got me thinking about legacy and made me pretty angry at my dad.  Let me explain.

The first event was a trip to South Carolina.  My daughter has a friend (he’s really her boyfriend, but I don’t admit to that) who graduated from boot camp last week at Fort Jackson.  It was really important to her to go and she worked very hard, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to find a friend who would travel with her.  It was definitely an overnight trip and I wouldn’t let her go by herself, so the compromise was for me to go with her and for her to pay all the expenses.

The graduation was terrific and very moving.  Lot’s of hooting and hollering from very proud family members and a standing ovation for three Iraqi’s who were joining the US Army.  Afterward I was able to talk the new private’s sergeant into letting us take him off post for a couple of hours (normally only immediate family is allowed to do that).  He had been earning a paycheck for the last nine weeks with nothing to spend it on, so he probably spent $500 in an hour on new toys and I’m convinced he would have spent another $1500 if I hadn’t been there.  So, that was fun.

But, other than some wonderful one-on-one time with my daughter, my biggest take away from the trip was a feeling of loss and regret.  My biggest regret in life is never having served my country.  I think the military would have done me a ton of good when I was the right age.  It may have made the difference between an average life and a life of a high achiever.

That brings me to the second event.  Over the weekend we had some relatives staying at our house and my dad over for dinner.  It was a great visit, but one short conversation sticks out.  The topic of my dad’s past came around and he started talking about his stint in the late 50’s in the Air Force.  He went on and on about how he hated it.  He talked about the idiots he had to deal with who were constantly yelling at him.

I’ve heard those stories my whole life and they shaped my feelings about the military.  I can see now that it was my father’s pride that brought about his awful experience.  He needs two things in life: attention and praise.  If he doesn’t get those, whether earned or not, he is miserable.  The Air Force wasn’t going to give him those things unless he earned them, and then only after a ton of hard work.  So, he distorted my views of the military from the time I was a little kid, and his views were more about him than the military.  So, when I was the appropriate age it never occurred to me to want to join and I was never mature enough or smart enough to question the assumptions I made.

Of course, I am responsible for my own life.  I can’t pin it on my dad.  But the combination of seeing young people doing what I should have done and my dad bringing up his negativity made for an uncomfortable time.

Ultimately I came out of this with two lessons:

1. I’m not going to do that with my kids.  I want to be an encouragement to explore life and the world.  I don’t want to put unnecessary burdens on them.  And, I want to encourage them to question the choices and assumptions I’ve imposed on them.

2. While regret can be useful, but only if it helps shape your future.  I don’t want to look back twenty years from now with regret about the choices I make today.  So, I will be intentional about the decisions that continue to shape my life.

Not every circumstance is of our making, but our response almost always is.  Don’t float through life letting the current carry you where it chooses.  Pick up a paddle and pick a direction.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: