Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grandpa Tom - A Family Legacy

As you saw in my post from last week, I have been doing a lot of genealogy for the last few years.  Not only do I collect names and dates, I collect stories.  To me, the stories are the best part.

Grandpa Tom
My Great Grandpa Tom was the seventh of thirteen children.  He married when he was 29 and took on a wife who had two children from a previous marriage.  A few years later he moved his family to a different state and started up a large farm with crops and livestock.  He and his wife had 5 more children, 3 of which died in a 5 year time period.

Tom was an amazing man.  He was innovative and confident.  He bettered his family and he blessed the lives of his neighbors with his generosity.  He was well regarded in his rural Texas county, but he was also just a man. He experienced doubt, shame, regret, sorrow and misery.

While I have distilled his life into two paragraphs, I could write volumes about this man who was born into a harsh environment and struggled his entire life to care for his parents and then family.  I could tell you how the dust bowl stole his farm, his family and eventually his life.  I could even pontificate on the chain of events that brought him from greatness to sadness.

When I started researching this great man I didn't know what I would find.  As I learned more about his life and his challenges I realized there wasn't much of a difference between who Tom was then and who I am now.

Many of the traits about myself I cherish came from this man.  I look at the incredible engineering projects he completed and know I got my technical mind from him.  I learned about his farming innovations and realized he was a person willing to take risks.  I think of the risks I have taken in my life, and once again I see the similarities. I see the responsibility he took for his mistakes, and the guilt he carried.  I reflect on my life and see a similar pattern. 

Tom was unable to leave his family much in the way of material support.  The farm was auctioned, the livestock were sold and the family home has long since fallen to the ground.  What Tom did leave his family was an important lesson.

Born a man with immense potential, Tom was given situations which required life altering decisions.  Many of those decisions brought joy and happiness, however some did not.  His children grew up, moved away and had families of their own, but the repercussions of past choices went with them.

In my life I see choices placed before me every day.  Most of them don't amount to much, but some do.  I realize the choices I make have more than a limited effect.  They can change my life and that of the future.

Tom has left me a gift.  He lived a hard life, but he did the best he could.  He cared for his family with all the emotion of his soul. He kept at it until he had done all he could.  He messed some things up, but the love he felt for his family was always there.  He was a great man, with his faults making him all the more impressive.

I hope to never experience the adversity put before Tom.  I don't know if I could do as well as he did.  I have compassion for his mistakes and better understand the phrase, "Don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes." Tom walked many dusty miles in his 75 years. He laughed, he loved and he lost.

Above all, what he left me was a legacy of hard work, a tradition of risk taking, and the need to become more than what I am now.  That is an amazing legacy to have.

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