The latest issue of Rolling Stone features Steve Jobs on the cover and a lengthy amount of editorial space is devoted to the Apple icon.
Jobs' passing elicited tributes left and right, although, by many accounts, he was a jerk for much of his life. But his products were cool, and have a lot of fanboys who swear by them. I fall into that category.
It's easy to canonize someone who is successful, rich, famous -- a celebrity. In a way it's also positive that people who become celebrities can be from different fields -- not just athletes and artists.
I sat alone on the deck last night and watched the sun set while the dogs cavorted and did dog things. And I thought about Jobs, about Hunter Thompson, about my parents and my daughter and about it being late in the day, and later in life. I thought about M, about my friends, and my ex-friends (one newly made!), and about legacies.
In Jobs' case, because of Apple products, his legacy is going to be a positive one. The man is associated with something widely popular; he'll be remembered as "cool."
In the case of someone like HST, like Hemingway, his legacy is marred by the way he went out. All the good they did, washed away with the twitch of a finger.
My parents are old. Nearing 80. I saw both of them recently and my dad, a little decrepit these days, seems to have a strong spirit. My mother, typical of her lineage, defies nature. She'll be 77 in a few days, but she's showing no signs of slowing down. It's encouraging in both cases.
What will their legacies be? If he thinks about these things, my father doesn't share that information. He seems to just keep moving ahead, without giving much thought to the day he doesn't. That might be a good approach. He had some fairly serious health issues a few years ago and could have thrown in the towel. He didn't. And for me, those extra years have made all the difference. We now have a closer relationship. A lot of things would have been left undone otherwise.
Are legacies defined by the individual, or by the collective views of those who remember the individual?
I will remember my father as someone who overcame many obstacles. You can do this and still be unknown. Not every success equals fame and fortune. But those successes are no less notable and important.
I will remember my mother as someone who also overcame many obstacles (perhaps one of them: my father! I joke!)... my mom is a loving person. She wants to be optimistic. I think I frustrate her with my pessimism.
It's interesting how the concepts of family and loyalty are manifest through my parents. My mom is fierce about those concepts; blood means a lot to her and that line goes back through her sisters and parents, as close-knit a bunch as you'd ever know. For my dad, his ideas of family were distorted by his father. When my father was 13, the oldest of five siblings in a tiny Oklahoma town, his father abandoned them. He told his uneducated, unemployed wife he was going to Oklahoma City to look for work. And never returned.
At 13, my dad suddenly had a lot of pressure on him. There weren't then and aren't now a lot of economic prospects in a scrub town. When my dad was born there, this town had a population of about 2,900. In the 2010 Census, the population was about 2,900. It doesn't change. I never understand why people live in places like that.
We've never talked about this a lot. In a town that small, everyone knows everyone else's business. It must have been humiliating for my father, even though it was no reflection on him at all. In fact, his working to help his family and continue going to school actually should have put him in a somewhat heroic light. But I don't think he ever thinks of that, just the shame of having a shitty dad who would dump five kids like that. If hell exists, I hope that man has a seat by the fire.
The damage to my father played out over the middle of his life: abandonment issues colored his behavior. And they have also colored mine. Part of his legacy has been trying to get over that. It's part of my legacy, too. As Cheech Marin accurately stated, "responsibility is a heavy responsibility."