“Write as though you were writing about yourselves to your great-grandchildren.” Those are the words I noted about this week’s writing assignment, so that’s what I’ll do. If you’re reading this because you want to know about where I grew up, what things I did as a child, my two marriages, my thoughts about religion and politics, or my hopes and dreams, I’ve already written about all that, and you can read it on the Internet. At least I hope you can; surely some version of the Internet still exists in your day and time.
But if you are my great-grandchild or another direct descendant, then there’s really only one thing that’s important for you to know about me: I love you. If you are Owen, whom I’ve held in my arms and watched grow almost too big for them, I hope to show you enough love that you’ll feel it, if not remember it, even after I’m gone. If you are another child, born too late for us to spend time together in person, then you need to know that I am madly, deeply in love with the very idea of you.
I’ve traced our family history back into centuries numbered in three digits, and let me assure you, you come from good stock. Also from some that was not so good. You can learn a lot about yourself by exploring the lives of those who came before you. You had no choice about whose genes you inherited, but you can freely choose whose behavior you want to emulate. I hope you’ll decide that the honest farmer and the hard-working country doctor are better role models than the cruel king, but that’s up to you. I can suggest that your life will be easier if you make good choices, but I will love you whatever you do.
Most of us mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers are quick to notice our offspring’s kindnesses and accomplishments, the deeds and achievements that lift our hearts and make us love you more than ever. A funny thing about us, though, is that when we see some less than desirable conduct on your part, we nearly always think the best way we can help you do better is by loving you more. That doesn’t always work, just so you know, but the occasional failure of the theory doesn’t diminish the truth of the emotion that inspires it. Either way, you are loved.
I also want you to realize that you’re not alone in either your joys or your struggles. In addition to the family you know now, there has been a large network of people who came before you who have held great hopes for you and have given conscious thought to what they could do to make the world a better place especially for you, whose name they didn’t even know. I’m only one of those people. You and I are part of a long chain, not only linked genetically, but also bonded by our shared history and by all of the emotional tethers attached to the word “family.” We are part of each other.
I am your past, and you’re my future. So, yes, child, I love you dearly.