Almost seven years ago, I wrote my first email to request an interview for a story. In between now and those seven years, the correspondent and I have dropped many of the formalities of our exchanges and have shared personal details.
She’s known about big events in my life, mostly related to my kids, while I was aware of when she was getting married.
Recently, she shared the exciting news that she is pregnant. I am thrilled for her and the husband I’ve never met because parenthood is such a spectacular experience, opportunity, and challenge.
Less than a week after hearing about her pregnancy, I spoke with someone for another story I’m researching. When this person heard my last name, he immediately asked me if I was related to someone. Most of the time, that someone is my mom, who works visibly and tirelessly in the communities these newspapers serve.
When I was younger and people asked me about my mother, I would look down or look away, because I couldn’t answer questions about the way my mom’s paper covered something or because I was far too busy reading the batting averages for the latest Yankees to share insights about someone who was and is such an inspiration.
As I’ve grown, I’ve become more appreciative of the questions and more prepared to look people in the eye — yes, mom, I’m teaching my kids to do that, too — to hear what they have to say and to provide a thoughtful answer.
But, this person wasn’t asking me about my mom. He wondered if I was related to Dr. Dunaief, his former ophthalmologist. Hearing the question surprised me. My father died almost 30 years ago. We talk about him regularly amongst ourselves, wondering what he would have thought of the people he’d never met, including my wife, my brother’s wife and his grandchildren. We tell our children stories about him so they know who he was and they appreciate their heritage.
The person said my father was a great doctor. I told my children about the interview and the mention of their grandfather. I asked them what they thought the conversation meant.
Both of them looked me in the eye for a long time as they considered their answers. “He must have been a good doctor,” my son said.
“Wow, that’s amazing. He made that connection all these years later,” my daughter offered.
Yes, I thought, they’re right. And, they had an idea of what it means to make meaningful and lasting connections. Whatever we do, whoever we see on a daily basis, we have an opportunity to create a legacy that extends long after we’re no longer involved in the same routine.
Some parts of who we are, or who we were, remain, whether that’s through our children or grandchildren, or through the memory of an action or interaction. I remember sitting in my father’s office one day when he took me to work and watching as he pulled glass out of the eye of a patient who had been in an accident at a construction site. The patient, a man much more muscular and stronger than my father, fainted in the chair. My father calmly removed all the equipment and revived him. He demonstrated such incredible grace, control and professionalism.
So, as I think about the connection between the expectant mother and the memory of my father, I hope she creates positive, lasting memories for her unborn child, even as that child grows and develops a meaningful legacy.