Politics. The woke movement. Social media influencers. Joe Biden. The California recall. Donald Trump. The NBA playoffs. Talking heads on cable TV.
It’s all just background noise.
The things that really matter are what we do to impact the people around us day-in-and-day out.
It’s not the stuff that gets 100,000 hits on YouTube or some snarky 144-character Tweet that is shallower than the deep end of a lake mirage in the middle of Death Valley. Nor will it get you the proverbial 15 minutes of fame that is rapidly deteriorating into 15 seconds in Internet hell.
This past year my brother-in-law Chris MacQueen passed away.
Any loss of life is a great loss. Chris’ passing was no different.
His family held a true celebration of life, a party if you will, that was filled with more laughter than tears.
It’s tough not to cry. But when you reflect on the legacy that some leave behind you realize the world isn’t such a dark and forbidding place with a future that gets bleak with every passing social media post, breathless cable TV pronouncement, and the fire and brimstone not delivered by some wild-eyed man of the cloth spewing eternal damnation as you sweat bullets in a muggy rival tent but by soulless politicians who daily preach tolerance while bludgeoning into submission those that dare not think like them.
As legacies go, you’d be hard to top what Chris MacQueen accomplished during his all too short of a dance on this earth.
He was a devoted and loving husband who to this day, months after his passing, still makes my sister feel loved. Chris also nurtured, protected, supported, and was there for their two children — Garrison and Kirstie.
It was no surprise Chris was known as “the big guy.” Chris was indeed a big guy — 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds. But “big” doesn’t begin to describe the commitment, the ferocity of his protective instincts or the depth of his love day in and day out when it came to the love of his life, Mary, and their two children.
He was as protective as a papa bear and could deliver bear-sized hugs to friends and family. It was something Chris honed growing up and took to lofty levels as an adult.
Chris was not perfect. None of us are.
But not too many of us could have fielded the barrage of curve balls that were thrown at him. It’s tough to weather trials and tribulations generated by vindictive acts designed to wear you down, financially ruin you, and crush your spirit.
Chris but did not break. He emerged from an earthly version of Dante’s furnace with his integrity intact without wallowing in bitterness that can flow when transgressions are committed against you.
I do not mean to dwell on what was a low point in Chris’ life but it goes to the heart of what makes a man a true man. Come hell or high water you don’t abandon what is right and you certainty don’t let it poison what truly counts.
The world is indeed better today because Chris was part of it. Not only did he make my sister feel truly loved and happy but supported her absolutely in her career of striving to impact the lives of high school students as a teacher.
And there is no doubt that Chris laid the foundation for two more capable adults in Garrison and Kirstie but nurtured them to the point they will certainly have a towering impact on other lives just as big as Chris did.
The good news is that there are millions of Chris MacQueens out there that strive to do the right thing by their families and in the world despite personal injustices.
A week prior to Chris’ celebration of life, I was part of Rebel’s first birthday party. Rebel is the daughter of Rudy and Rein. Rein happens to be my grandson making Rebel one of my two great-grandchildren.
Like many young people, both Rein and Rudy have navigated rocky roads to get where they are today. There is a misnomer that today’s youth — anyone 40 or so years my junior definitely deserves to be referred to as youth — are adrift.
Rein and Rudy are committed not just to loving Rebel but committed to nurturing, supporting, and protecting their daughter. They are pretty much like the majority of young parents — single or otherwise committed — despite the impression that the family unit is as old school and slipping way with what vestiges are left being in the same boat as MySpace.
It has been my privilege to know Rudy for more than a couple of years. But I have known Rein all his life.
Last week as he was doting over his daughter while Rudy opened gifts it made me think of “Soliloquy” — the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein song from the musical “Carousel”. If the reference is lost on you, it is about the musings of a young man learning that he is going to become a dad as he reflects on his wanderlust approach to life.
But as the song unfolds, he realizes he has to be a father “if he turns out to be a she” and then says “you can have fun with a son but you’ve got to be father to a girl.”
“Soliloquy” then moves on to pound home the point he’s got to be responsible, provide for, nurture, protect, and love unconditionally his daughter. It, of course, holds true for a son as well.
Rein and Rudy have a long road ahead of them with twists, rough pavement, and turns that will puncture what can be long stretches of smooth pavement while life blissfully hums along.
Of course, that just doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment.
There are no guarantees. But then if you don’t take the risk that comes along with — and is a precursor to — savoring the reward of laughs, smiles and being able to nurture, love, and guide a child will be minimal at best.
The future is bright despite the relentless doom and gloom scenarios spewing from keyboards of those who go to the dark side because it is easier to do than engaging with life.
That’s because the world has been blessed with people like Chris, Mary, Rein, and Rudy.
They know what’s really important and understand the real impact you have on life comes with how you raise children and how you treat those who you chose to go through life with in whatever form that may take and not your participation in the growing din of what too often passes for political/social discourse and personal interaction these days.