Things Handed Down

image (c) ArtToday
by James Harris

I´m a lucky man. I´ve got tradition, a namesake, and an inheritance that I was able to pass on to my son. I´m a James Harris. My dad passed that name on to me. His dad passed it on to him. I was lucky enough to be able to pass the name on to my son last June.

As most new fathers do, I find myself watching my son as he plays, thinking about the responsibility I have to him. It´s a wonderful, albeit intimidating, thing. Knowing that I will guide this precious little person from infancy to manhood is something I don´t take lightly.

When I think of the three men who share my son´s name, I realize that he is in good hands. I‘m proud of the three James Harris´ that came before my son. There are values and traits that I want him to inherit and borrow from each of us as he grows up.

My grandpa is a man with strong convictions, opinions, and morals. He lived through the Depression and learned that only through hard work and commitment can you reach your goals. He served in World War II and after an incident in which a German bomb dropped into his bunker without exploding, he realized he had been saved, not by mere luck, but by the Hand of God. When he came home, he professed his faith.

He is a man who is devoted to his family. He will tell you his opinion the way he sees it, but will always finish any conversation by telling you that he loves you.

My dad learned from observing his dad, and took those lessons with him into manhood. As I´ve gotten older, I´ve begun to notice that, to my surprise, my dad and I are quite alike.

My dad was an excellent student, and attended a four-year school for one year before leaving for a job on the railroad. His parents thought it was the worst decision he could have made, and he later agreed, as he would often tell me.

My education was always important to my father. After many years with the railroad, my dad is growing weary. He always stressed to me that I get a good education so that I could find a job where I was out of the bitter cold and the blazing sun. He regrets that he didn´t stick with his education. He stressed to me the value of the college experience and I made the most of the opportunity I had. I thank my father for that piece of advice.

When he left school though, he was out to prove his parents wrong. He took that commitment to hard work he learned from his dad and turned it into a passion.

My father has worked for everything he has. He sets his sites on something and works toward it. He bought land and built his first house when he was 21 years old. His current work in progress is a log home, built by hand with help from my grandpa, brother, and brother-in-law, sitting on 20 acres of rolling land that is home to 2 horses. He was shown the beauty of Minnesota´s lake country by his father and fell in love with it, just as I later did, and decided that a goal in his life was to own a piece of land there. He now has 7 acres of beautiful, wooded splendor on a quiet Minnesota lake. He has built a family vacation spot with his own two hands and the sweat of his brow. On and on it goes. My dad accomplishes things….it´s that simple.

He takes pleasure from the simple things in life. I remember sitting on our deck as a kid watching the sunset and then staring up at the stars in the summer sky. I remember my dad pointing out the cry of a loon on a cool Minnesota evening. As a kid, I enjoyed watching the interaction between my dad and his and how they were best friends. I felt good during those times.

My dad loves music. He played in a band in high school. I still remember listening to him play the guitar and talking about the albums and artists he loved when he was growing up. Those are the bands and artists I love today.

I´m proud to be a conglomeration of my dad and grandpa. My grandpa showed me that it´s important to keep promises and commitments. He showed me that family is the most important bond people share. He showed me what it is to be moral and honest and not waiver on that. From my dad, I learned to set goals and work for them, and to never settle. My love of music and nature comes from my dad. My love of learning comes from lessons taught to me by my dad.

My son can only benefit from the gifts he will be given by his namesakes. I hope my son will see my grandpa´s honesty and faith and take those for himself. I hope he sees that my grandpa is never afraid to poke fun at himself, but is a proud man nonetheless, and will stand up for himself and his family when push comes to shove. Most of all, I hope my son observes my grandpa´s ability to show his love for his family; that he won´t be afraid to tell those close to him that he loves them and mean it.

If he works half as hard as my dad, he will be a success. If he sees beauty in nature, maybe he´ll be closer to God. If he inherits the love of music that my father has, maybe he´ll appreciate the other arts and enjoy them. If he hears my dad´s story, maybe he´ll realize that an education is the most valuable asset a person can obtain for himself. And with that knowledge, I hope he´ll realize that there is never a time when learning stops.

I too bring things to the table that I hope my son draws on. I hope he will see that it´s OK to not only be someone´s husband, but also her best friend. I hope he observes my love of sports and writing and makes them his own too. I hope he looks at me and sees a person who´s willing to give something a try even though he might miserably fail, because there´s always a chance he might succeed.

My son has a lot of growing up to do. He´s so very young right now, but time goes by fast. Before I know it, he´ll be out of diapers. Then he´ll be off to school. And then it´ll be college. And then he´ll be on his own. I only hope that the things we Harris men have handed down to him will have shaped him into a responsible, respectful, honest, and caring man.