Life of Ryan II: Legacy

(NB: this is the second of a series of blogs written by “Ryan” (not his real name), someone who has become quite important in my life. He has a bit of trouble writing, as you will have note in Life of Ryan I, so some of the words are mine, but the feelings and the thoughts are his. You might take advantage of writing to Ryan through me: ron.johnson@midlandspsychological.com. Rj)

This is the second in a series of “The Life of Ryan,” which came out of a conversation with my psychologist some time ago. Ron and I have been meeting pretty regularly for many years…well, not always regularly. You see, he has what I call the “Smith gene,” which is a reference to a tendency certain Smiths have of being tardy…or not present at all, or coming a week late or a day early. I just have to put up with it. Ron tells me that he has inherited this tardy-inclined gene from his parents, but they were Johnsons, not Smiths. Maybe the names got mixed up on the boat from Europe. At any rate, we have conversation every week, or two weeks, or three weeks, depending on how Ron’s Smith/Johnson gene seems to be acting up.

Ron’s malfunctioning gene isn’t the topic of this discussion. I want to talk and write about my “legacy,” or perhaps lack thereof. By the way my “writing” is sort of figurative because the idea for this writing came during one of our recent meetings. The “writing” I do is a bit of a misnomer because Ron actually does the writing. I just sit back and dictate, well…sort of dictate. It is a bit difficult for me to write these days. I have this small malady called multiple sclerosis, which has caused me a bit of limitation in what I can actually write. My hands don’t work real well. Actually, they don’t work at all. In fact, not much of anything works in my body except my heart pumping blood into my cardiac system and my lungs pumping air into my breathing system. My doctor tells me that I am healthy as a horse…aside from the MS. So given that my hands don’t work real well…well, not at all actually…and my arms don’t work at all…and my legs don’t work…, I’ll have to depend on Ron’s words. It sounds like I’m complaining so I will give up on this line of thought because I don’t want to bemoan my current state. I want to bemoan my previous state. Hence, the current discussion on my “legacy.”

In one of our recent meetings I told Ron that I had been thinking of my legacy, meaning the legacy I will be leaving behind. I have been thinking such things since I raced past age 70 not long ago and I remember the Bible says that the “number of man is three score and 10.” That’s me plus some. So this thought about my legacy, or perhaps more accurately, my thoughts about legacy has been on my mind for some time. You tend to do that when you get past 50, more at 60, and then 70 really hits you. Most of the people my age (which would include Ron, by the way), had grandparents who were 70, and they always looked “old.” I can’t say that I feel “70” but that is what my birth certificate apparently says, so I have to believe it. Whether it is “legacy” or some other phrase that describes the same thing like, “what I have left behind” or “what I have done in life” or “what the world might remember about me” these all mean the same thing. And these thoughts lead to the big question: did I do anything of significance in life that could actually be said to be a legacy? I told Ron that I didn’t think I have any sort of legacy.

That word, and the feelings and thoughts behind the term legacy led to this writing that I’m doing. Ron thought the idea of legacy, or lack thereof, was somehow important. So he said he would try to put together some sort of statement, or page, or blog, or something that might be a way I could communicate my thoughts and feelings down on paper. So I sort of dictate these words to Ron and then he goes back to his office and re-writes what he thinks I said. Then he sends it back to me, and I go over it and trash it because he isn’t always as good at saying what I think and feel as I am. It is a joint effort. In my first “Life of Brian” I mentioned that he is my amanuensis, a word I had never heard of before Ron used it. Amanuensis sounds like some kind of disease, but it apparently means ghost writer. I will have to use my amanuensis because it would take me an hour to write this very paragraph, and Ron tells me he learned to type 110 words a minute, evidently with 100 errors or something. I’ll just have to trust him on that one.

Back to the legacy idea. Yes, I told Ron I didn’t see that I have a legacy to leave the world. Now, if anybody ever reads this monologue, you might say that I had children and now have a flock of grandchildren and the like, and this is my legacy. Perhaps, but it doesn’t feel that way. I told Ron that my wife did most of the raising of our kids, at least that’s the way it seems to me as I look back. And I can’t do much more than look back. Unfortunately, when I look back, I am not too pleased with myself. I just didn’t do much. Let me try to fill you in on how I see the past…or we might say the lack of a past…or the lack of a meaningful past. It starts with opportunities ignored. It leads into being lazy. It ends with regrets. Opportunities, laziness, and regrets. That’s about how I see it when I look back at my life.

In many ways I had a good life. I did a lot of the right things. I always went to work, usually early, since I don’t have the Smith gene noted above. I always paid my bills. I always cut the lawn. I even did a bit of housework from time to time. But I never got around to fixing that front door handle that kept falling off. Have you ever seen that token with the words “round two-it” on it? I have a trunk load of those things. Just lots of things that I couldn’t seem to “get around to” doing. Hence, the “lazy” word that I found myself using with Ron. He didn’t like the word, but he didn’t see me sitting in my easy chair watching TV and drinking a beer when I could have fixed the front door. Or the back door. Or the garage door. To say nothing about re-wiring the kitchen so you didn’t have to turn the light on in order to get the toaster to work. Or fixing the plumbing so we had hot water going into the laundry room. Lots of “round two-its”.

But there are more important things that I didn’t really do. I didn’t finish college. Well, more accurately, I hardly went to college at all. A semester with barely passing grades and another part of a semester that got tangled up with playing a lot of pool and drinking a lot of beer. So I went to the Navy, thinking that the Navy could be a way of getting rid of those round two-its. Didn’t do too badly, but for those of you who know what the military is like, there were a lot of times that I just needed to look busy, not be busy. Did my stint, but got out early. Maybe a mistake, maybe not, but certainly I didn’t put my whole heart into the Navy any more than I did with college. Ron tells me that things came a bit too easy for me. I don’t know if I am as smart as he seems to think I am, but I admit that I could get the “gentleman’s C or B” without much effort. Never seemed to have the drive to study and perform. A’s just didn’t seem important. Lazy? I don’t know. Sure looks that way. I have lots of regrets.

Regrets. Lots of them. College for sure. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to college at all. Maybe I should have gone right into the Navy, or into the workforce, or into some kind of trade school. Yet at 70, I don’t know what I might have done. Nothing seemed to draw me. Nothing seemed interesting. Nothing that I wanted to put real effort into. But I didn’t put real effort into anything aside from working faithfully, and a fair bit of bowling. Got a 297 once. Damn. Just did what I needed to do in order to get by. So I have these regrets about not having established a life that would now look like some kind of legacy. I’m still looking.

Ron thinks that this writing might be a way to find a legacy. Maybe. I don’t know. All I know as I sit here reading what Ron has transcribed out of my ramblings is that I feel disappointed in my life. Not the people in my life; not my wife, kids, and family. Just me. Just disappointed in me.

Stay tuned. The more I talk, the more it seems I have to say. I’m particularly interested in family, with all that it means.

Further Reading

Life of Ryan 1: The Easy Life

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