As parents, we focus on our children’s milestones, but at some point, as the clock moves forward, we learn of our parents’ as well. Not only those milestones that began when we were born, but those that occurred long before we entered the world.
These moments are no more poignant than after a parent passes…when we inherit the archive of a life well lived.
When I started going through my father’s things, I felt like I was disturbing treasures in a museum. I would simply pick them up and put them back in exactly the same place. Years later, I have many of these pieces – his books with handwriting I still find hard to decipher; the sweater he wore for his TEDx Talk; his notebooks with yellow legal pads; gifts given to him because he mattered to many; hundreds of emails that captured good ideas, wise words, and always a joke or two; New Yorker cartoons; everything I ever wrote and sent his way; and, of course, cards that – before he opened them – would always ask “Is this going to make me cry?”
There are others –
The three carrot ring (actual plastic carrots on a ring), because he couldn’t afford a real three carat ring (my mom has a sense of humor); his master’s thesis and dissertation; articles that talked about the work he was doing and how he was making a difference; copies of awards; and letters from those whose lives he changed.
I have spent the past few years learning about my dad’s milestones and sharing them with my family. I am, in a sense, getting to know him better, because there are memories in what he saved. He kept what defined his life. And, in doing so, has helped others, including myself, define theirs.
I’m not sure a daughter, no matter how close she was to her father, can ever come close to doing his life justice. And so, I have included his TEDx Talk so that he can tell those listening about a life well lived.
To view, go to:
”The Milestones Project – The Bonds that Unite Us: Richard Steckel at TEDxDenverTeachers”