That's something to be proud of

I spent this evening with my boys watching the Super Bowl at Gant's Pizza in Whitehall. It was a great time, even though the team we were rooting for lost. I seem to be making a lot of really good memories at this tiny restaurant on Main Street. Owned by Tiffany's cousins, Gant's is a part of her family history. Years ago, it was a Papa Joe's pizza, and Tiffany will tell you of the many days she spent there as a baby with her family. Papa Joe's and, subsequently Gant's,  is truly a part of the legacy her father left to her, and is quickly becoming a big part of our story. Making memories and creating a legacy is a big part of who I am now, and that is where I am going to go with this blog.

I went to look at a new fire last week just north of Lancaster, Ohio. Work has been extremely busy recently, and on that sunny afternoon I cruised down Route 158 through the town of Baltimore, Ohio. In the center of town there is a funeral home, and when I was passing by there was a service in process. A gleaming white hearse sat out front, followed by a long stretch limo of the same color. The next two vehicles in line, though, are what truly caught my attention. They were a pair of very large, double rear wheeled John Deere tractors. Not the kind you mow the grass with, but the behemoth version usually reserved for the cornfields of Fairfield county. They took up a whole lane of the road, and as I looked at them I realized that farming must have been this person's legacy. It was a very cool way to honor the person they had lost, and it got me thinking once again about my own legacy.

I had never really thought about what I would leave behind before that cold day in January of 2009. I had created a life, with a family and a job and a house and all of those things that 30 something men are supposed to have. But on that day, when we said good bye to my mother, the words of a speaker at her wake spoke to me and started me on a path of change that has led me to where I am today. It was the same person who, on Saturday, uttered a few simple words that brought tears to my eyes. And even though I spent tonight enjoying another great night at Gant's with the boys and Tiffany, hearing those words were the highlight of my weekend.

I also have written before how a few words can change your life. There are moments in time that you will always remember by the way someone else narrated them. The wake was one I can pin to my wall and say hey, that was a defining moment. In the years since, as I have traveled a path of pain, sorrow, regret, discovery and, ultimately, happiness, there have been so many more. Moments of good bye, moments of hello. A moment of slamming on the brakes to avoid the truck, only to wind up on an operating table after hearing the doctor's words a few weeks later. A moment of waking up in a hospital groggy yet grateful, and another in the same place but being totally alone. And, of course, a moment in a bar meeting a beautiful red headed girl, and another when she said yes. And a thousand great moments since that have shaped me into the man I am today, and put me on the path with her, that girl who makes everyone else disappear.  And when my sister said those words to me this weekend, it was validation that I am becoming the man I have always wanted to be and that everyone else can see it too.

My sister Angelia and I have not always had the relationship we enjoy today. For a long time it was easy for me to blame her for the distance between us, a product of the victim role I used to play. Even though since the passing of our Mother, when I have seen so much of Mom in her, it was much more convenient for me to dismiss anything she said rather than take the chance she might be right. After all, allowing that would mean that the lifestyle of more than a few drinks every night and a different girl every week wasn't the path I needed to be on. And in my new found bachelor way of life, she was just another critic who didn't understand me. I am so glad that we have worked to repair our broken relationship and I now can call her one of my best friends. I really do see so much of my Mother in her, and she is the first call if I need advice or just to share good news with. When she called me Saturday morning, it wasn't out of the blue or unexpected as it once would have been considered. We talk a few times a week now, and she will call me if we go to long without touching base. But the content of the conversation was what gave me a smile and made my day.

As with the conversation I had with my Grandpa at the reunion and the one I had with my Dad at Christmas, our chat started with small talk to catch up. After a few minutes, though, she told me she was proud of me. I thanked her, and she said these words to me. "You know, when I talk to you now, it is like talking to a male version of our Mom." Stunned, all I could do was cry. There is no higher compliment she could have given me, and I quickly played off the tears by telling her she just wasn't right, making me cry on a Saturday morning. As the tears flowed, I smiled ear to ear. It has been a long journey, and it is a long way from over. But if my sister, who lives by the examples taught by our Mother everyday, can see a little of her in me, then I must be going the right way. The words will linger in my ears and I will continue to try to be the father, brother, son, and man that I strive to be. I may never get there. But I am a lot closer than I used to be. And if I can leave my boys with a fraction of the legacy that Mom left us, then everything I have ever done will have been worth it.

Good Night All.............................


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