The making of history

by Terry Hogan

As I write this, the saga of who won the election continues. Our vocabulary expands with such useless words as ''chads'' and phrases such as ''dimpled chads.'' We have had the opportunity to watch live on CNN, a Ryder Truck drive down the highway, loaded with ballots. Call me single-visioned, but my main thought was how much of this is really history? The real history will be what the winner will be able to accomplish once he gets into office. But politics is not where I want to go.

Let's face it, when you are 93 years old and your adult grandchildren recall your life, what will they remember? Will they remember Grandpa saw the Ryder Truck, live on CNN, or will they remember you playing with them?

Although we seldom think about it, we make history every day. Some of it is irrelevant and will be lost to time. Some of it won't be, and we will wish that it had. Some, a small part, will be remembered and we will be glad for it, and the family history will be better for it. Unfortunately, while we go forth each day to see what history unfolds, we run the risk of losing history. History loss is not day-by-day, but in ''chunks.'' It comes with the loss of family members.

Many of us know when we lose family history. We think, gee, I intended to talk with him/her and ask aboutŠ. I just put it off, and now it is too late. Another chunk of family history has perished. Those who had died before but lived in the memory of this individual also died, as their memory was lost and not transferred. So we lose family history by not taking time with our elders to talk with them, to ask questions, to take notes, or to tape. By this failure, we lose history off the back end of the spectrum of family history continuum.

But we also can lose history by a failure to make meaningful history in our own lives. Do we take enough times with our spouse, our children, our grandchildren? Do we make the right use of our ''free'' time? In the realm of things, would you rather be remembered by your great grandchild as a ''VP of Widgets, Inc.'' or the kindly figure that taught him/her how to fish for bluegills? At Christmas, did you sit comfortably on a chair and watch the little kids play, or did you get down on the floor and play with them? Same time spent either way, but a world of difference for the kids. Did you watch football or play it?

I'm never quite sure when/if my ramblings will get published. But let me suggest to you that we all could do worse than to make a New Year's resolution, even if it is a late one, to spend a little more time with our family- both younger and older. Let me suggest that each may bring rewards. As the old trite saying goes (badly paraphrased), ''Seldom is there a man on his deathbed that mutters the phrase, 'I wish I'd spent more time in the office.'''

If your children or grandchildren, or great grandchildren had to write their view of your life, how would it sound? Would it sound like a professional resume or would it sound like a series of warm recollections? If you come up with the wrong answer, or think that it is even a toss-up, it isn't too late. Grandparenting is great. It gives you a second chance to do better. Parenting is tough. No rules, no guidance, just fake it as you go, and hope they come out without too many psychological bruises.

But grandparenting, you have a little more time, a little more experience, and it is most often intermittent for most of us. Grandkids go home. You get another opportunity to get it right. Some of the not-so-good parents can be pretty good grandparents. As one remarked, grandparents and grandkids get along so well because they have a common enemy. There may be a little truth in that, but there is also another truth. Grandparents know that by being better grandparents than they were parents, they can help their children and grandchildren. They can also make a little good history.

When my life is done, there is little doubt in my mind what type of view of my life that I'd like my children or grandchildren to write. There is also little doubt in my mind that I'd better spend more time making good history than watching a Ryder Truck travel down the highway with a window sticker that says ''pregnant chads on board.''

I think it is time to quit reading this column and go find a child or grandchild or a parent or grandparent to make a little good history with.

Go on, go. This can wait. You can backtrack and pick up this article later.

Have fun and make a little history.


Uploaded to The Zephyr Online December 13, 2000

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