This weekend my parents came down for a pre-father’s day visit since my little family will be on vacation over the actual holiday. My younger brother and his daughter came up as well to stay with us. We had a great time, while I was warming the grill my dad walked into our dinning room with a few wrapped packages. First of all I was not expecting any sort of present, especially from my father to his son on a holiday saved for sons to honor their father’s. I believe tradition would dictate that I am supposed to present my dad with a tie, or picture made out of glued macaroni.
I unwrapped the box, to reveal an oak box with a glass top. Inside was a red towel. Now if you know my dad, I honestly thought he was giving me this red towel. I figured it held some significance from my childhood, most likely from when he was going through cancer or something similar. Dad then proceeded to take the towel out and explain that it was there to protect the contents in the box during transport. If I am being honest as I write this, I’m making this part of the gift giving process more eloquent than it was. Dad made fun of me for thinking my gift was a towel, but I digress.
Removing the towel, I found myself gazing upon my great, great, great grandfather’s civil war canteen and an old book. I knew exactly what the canteen was. It had been on display in my Grandpa Miller’s house for years (it was his great grandfather’s), and then he gave it to my dad, where it was displayed it in his house for some time. Having it passed down to me, was breath taking. I am in possession of a 152 year old family heirloom – what a responsibility!
Next to the canteen was a book. I was a bit puzzled not knowing the significance of the book. It was the book my great(x3) grandpa Lords’ carried with him through the war in his pack. WOW! I knew our family had this book, but I had never seen it. Like the canteen, it had been passed to my dad who recently had the binding of the book restored. As I gently leafed though the book, I open the back cover where it has his name and inscription that it was carried in the civil war. Grandpa Lords survived the war and thought enough to mark that in there for his future descendants. This book is an amazing keepsake, published in what looks to be 1863, I would love to know where he bought it.
Finally my reached in his pocket, and in an air tight bag was the last piece to go into the box. It was Grandpa’s wallet. Now I doubt he had this during the civil war, this wallet was taken from him upon his death in 1875. He was killed in a horrible logging accident in Michigan, and this was all they presented to his wife. As gruesome as that is, it’s an honor to have such a piece. Dad told me that he was talking with his dad, Grandpa Miller about this gift he was giving me. Grandpa told him it wasn’t complete, and headed back to his bedroom. He returned with the wallet and said he wanted me to have it.
By this point, tears are welling up in my eyes as I look at this gift that no amount of money could replace. How many people have 1 thing from a distant relative, let alone 3 very personal items. I would like to believe that the canteen and book were with Grandpa Lords’ at the battle of Chickamauga where he fought heroically in one of the last defensive units on the battlefield as he guarded his comrades retreat from the field.
I will cherish and hold these family possessions dearly and look forward to handing them to my son when he is of an age to appreciate these.
I realize this post takes a turn from what I normally write about, but I think without much of a stretch it applies to that which I strive for on this site and that is authenticity in leadership. My Grandfather was a good man, he signed up and fought bravely in some of the worst fighting this nation has seen. He returned home and took care of a family and raised 3 daughters. In my quest to become a better leader, I can look at these gifts I received, that have passed down through generations to my Grandpa Miller then to my Dad, both of whom I look up to. I can see this gift as a monumental reminder of the man I want to become, and the man I want my children to see me as. That’s pretty powerful unexpected gift.