If you read this column regularly then you know, there were many points in my life when I thought I’d make my living as an artist working in one of a few different fields. I was pretty certain that would be my lasting impression on the world. It wasn’t just OK with me, it was what I craved. In truthfulness, in those silent moments right before I fall asleep, it’s what I’d still love to have happen. Let’s be honest though, I’m just about 40, it isn’t going to happen. I’ve accepted it, that doesn’t mean I still don’t want to write the great American novel or be remembered for an amazing synth or guitar solo or set the world afire with a few other ideas I’ve had. Oh sure, I’ve come close, I’ve been closer than I thought I might, but in the end obviously it didn’t happen. It may not sound like it but I swear to you, I’m OK with it. It took awhile, a lot of self reflection some growth and acceptance but I am finally OK with it. I still write, I still play in a band on the weekend but I know, these are now fanciful hobbies more than career options.
So, the question I’ve had to ask myself then has been how would I leave a lasting impression on the world? What sort of impact would I make? If I’m not going to paint a masterpiece or write the next epic they’ll teach in some antiquities class in centuries to come then what is my purpose. I thought for quite awhile about this question and it came to me one day quite by accident. The stick figures I’ll draw in sand far from the shore is the time I spend with my son. I want to make sure I say this correctly, I’m not saying my impact on the world will be what my son does with his life or how I shape his life, I mean quite literally it’s the time I spend with my son.
Jack doesn’t care if I’m a famous painter or the next great American novelist, it matters not to him if I’m a lawyer or a salesman or a gas station attendant. Honestly, he doesn’t even care if I’m a thief or if I’m a good person (he will care eventually if I’m a good person but we aren’t at that point yet). What he does care about is the time we spend together. He genuinely enjoys spending time with me and that’s what he wants me to be, a person that spends time with him, that has action figure battles and plays board games; someone who builds puzzles and erects Lego’s. When I’m tired after a long day of working Jack asks me to play, it doesn’t matter how tired or stressed or lost in my own world I am, I say yes because I remind myself that this is his world and it’s amazing that they only thing this person wants is to spend time with me and his mother. I always have the most wonderful time a person could have.
My father died young. We didn’t have a lot of time for life lessons. He shared a few of those with me, I learned a few more from watching the way he lived. What I do remember though is the time we spent. I remember his smell when I would sleep on his chest while we watched TV; I remember chasing model rockets that you would buy at a hobby shop and launch into the air, they’d ride a parachute to the ground, ours seemed to always catch the wind and we’d end up chasing it across the North Side; I remember me, my brothers and my step sisters swimming in his swimming pool. I remember the time we spent together. That is my father’s lasting impact on the world, the time he spent with me and my brothers and that’s my impact, the time I spend with Jack.
Given the knowledge that it doesn’t matter who or what I am, Jack’s going to love me and cherish our time and that’s my impact it makes it easier to know even if I’m not an artist I’ve already painted my masterpiece. Ask Jack what I feel about global warming, he can’t tell you right now but he sure as heck can tell you what we did last Tuesday. I think that’s all I can ask.