One definition of “legacy” is “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” As baby boomers age, we think about our personal legacy, don’t we? I’m not referring to passing money or property to our kids. I’m talking about the intangibles, i.e., how will we be remembered when we are gone?
I have three great sons. Perhaps I will be remembered for playing some role in developing the positive qualities that each of them have. That would be nice because it may cause them to pay it forward to their own children.
I believe in building and maintaining family connections far and wide. My mother and father do as well. My father has acted on those beliefs over the years by sponsoring extended family gatherings in various places. My mother has organized small and large family reunions.
I’m trying to pay this forward in my own way.
This past Monday I returned from a week-long stay at our family lake house in Kentucky. During that week, I was joined by 31 other family members in four generations. My mother, my sons and daughter-in-law, all four of my siblings, most of my nephews and nieces, three first cousins, and a handful of young grand-nephews, grand nieces, and first cousin – once removed. Most of them stayed in our house.
We had a wonderful time. We cooked and ate together, including meats smoked by my cousin and brother and my sister’s amazing peach pie. (She baked six of them.) We drank a lot of beer, generously donated and transported by two craft-brewery owner nephews. We fished and floated in the lake. We sang patriotic songs. We had a family Independence Day parade. We shared family stories. We showed love to each other.
This was the ninth such gathering at our lake house. Each has been very special to me and I think to many of my family members because they keep coming back. We are fortunate in our ability to get along in close quarters, even when some of us don’t see each other often.
So maybe this tradition will be my legacy. Family gatherings at the lake. A time to reinvigorate and extend family bonds. A time for family members to feel part of something greater than themselves. A time for distant family members to meet and learn that others care about them.
Our Kentucky house has become more than a vacation home to me. It is a symbol for family togetherness. I want the lake house to stay in the family and have made estate planning arrangements to help that happen.
I’m hoping that 50 years from now, my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all sorts of extended family will still be gathering at the lake over Independence Day. Maybe someone will ask when these gatherings began (2004). Maybe if they ask how the family lake gatherings started, someone will think of great-grandparents Mark and Mary-Jo.
That would be awesome.