A Legacy of Strength


I’ll never forget visiting Grandpa and Grandma for harvest when I was in sixth grade. It was my first solo trip by plane and I arrived just in time to hop up in the John Deere combine with Grandpa and bring in that year’s crop. They were really long days, but we had the best time talking about sports, business, and family and then were always greeted back home by Grandma’s cooking. 

One night, as we were putting away the combine and fixing a part that had come loose, Grandpa cut the palm of his hand on the exposes metal. A clean cut straight across his hand. And it was a gusher. Before I knew it, there was blood flowing down his hand and on to the ground. As I started to reach for the paper towels on the work bench, I caught him looking at me with a smile on his face. He wasn’t paying attention to his hand, or the pain I am sure he was feeling, he was watching me to see how I was reacting. When I later told my Dad this story, Dad told me that Grandpa was smiling because I didn’t flinch and that I wasn’t too much of a city kid after all. 


The strength to love through pain is one of the things I will always remember about Grandpa. He was strong for everyone in his life, even when it was really hard for him. And a small squeeze from Grandma’s little hand was a huge source of strength for Grandpa, they were so in love.

I’ll never play a round of golf, a hand of cribbage, or sing a hymn at the top of my lungs without thinking about Grandpa. Not only because he was better at those things than anyone I’ve ever known, but he loved seeing others join in and do well at those things with him. 

I’ll also never take for granted the relationship that I have with my Dad because of the relationship my Dad had with his Dad, my Grandpa.  Dad and Grandpa worked hard on their relationship. They knew they were wired differently in parts of life, but they also knew that they loved each other more than any of their differences. My Dad made Grandpa so proud and loved him so much. For as long as I can remember, when our minivan packed to the gills with kids and suitcases would start to pull away from another visit to the Iowa farm, Grandpa wouldn’t be able to hold back the tears of saying good-bye to his son. It was love beaming from his tear soaked face and we all knew how much he loved us all, but especially Dad.  


And now that Grandpa has passed on and is singing hymns with Grandma louder than ever before, those he leaves behind are here to carry on his legacy. A legacy of strength, love, and pride in your family no matter where they are or what lies ahead. 

Be Careful When Looking Up and Away

For me and my six year old soccer teammates, it was the biggest airplane we’d ever seen. We all yelled to each other “look up!” as its engines rumbled and roared over towards us in the distance. With our mouths wide open, it flew directly over our field and we all oohed and aahed as we felt the power of its passing all the way down to our shin pads.. 

Looking Up at 15th Street and 7th Ave (NYC - 8/21/17)

Looking Up at 15th Street and 7th Ave (NYC - 8/21/17)

Then, not even ten seconds later, we heard a more familiar sound bringing us back to the present moment. It was the sound of the referee blowing their whistle and yelling “goal!”

While we’d all been looking up and starring at the seemingly once in a life time occurrence that literally stopped us in our tracks, some savvy other six year old had dribbled the ball past all our statuesque like figures and kicked a goal passed our equally enamored goal keeper. 

I couldn’t help but think about this story for the past few weeks, and especially today, as many people I know have stopped what they were doing, some preparing for days and weeks, to look up and away from their day to day to watch approximately two minutes of interstellar synchronization. I have no doubt that it will be, for some, everything they hoped it would be and more, the best two minutes of their year. But I worry it will be a yet another distraction, a form of escapism, from the game we're all playing, another instance of letting down of our defense and a more disciplined opponent takes the chance to score. 

Looking Up with a cardboard box and reigniting everyone's childhood at St. Vincent's Park  (NYC - 8/21/17)

Looking Up with a cardboard box and reigniting everyone's childhood at St. Vincent's Park  (NYC - 8/21/17)

The game we’re all playing, whether we have come to acknowledge it or not, is to be a meaningful and lasting difference maker in this world while we are here. And this week it seems to be harder than it was last week. Actually, It feels like that has been true of most weeks recently. That the opponents of good and the advocates of evil are gaining ground while those claiming to fight for good and a future I want to be a part of have the attention span of a gerbil and the self control of a three year old in a bakery. 

This distraction, while more Science! than most, isn't unique on the constantly updated schedule of distractions. Every week, there's a new mind-suck, a new "National day of Arbitrary Consumer Product," a new tweet from a world leader we don't like “that surely has to be The Tweet that ends all this madness,” that is then openly ridiculed by those that disagree with it to an audience of others that disagree with it. The collective “of course!” and the chorus of affirmation brings a momentary comfort I imagine is as fleeting as not being the only person standing on the corner of 15th Street and 7th Avenue this afternoon holding cardboard glasses to your face while starring into the sun. 

Looking Up at St. Vincent's Park  (NYC - 8/21/17)

Looking Up at St. Vincent's Park  (NYC - 8/21/17)

But on the flip side, if we can use these more meaningful of the "distractions" as moments of refocusing and uniting as humans around the things that bring us together like our fixation with the universe beyond our own planet, then days like today can be very valuable indeed. As I walked from one meeting to the next this afternoon during the peak of the eclipse here in NYC, I had no fewer than seven people offer me their viewing glasses or to peek inside of their throwback to elementary school in the 80's breakfast cereal cardboard box.

They wanted me to see what they saw, they wanted others to step into the moment they were experiencing and share it with them. 

While we must keeping looking up towards the world we want to live in, the world we want to leave to our children and future generations, we cannot look away from the very tactical and aggressive ground game we are currently losing. Our vision must be more detailed than the eclipse path of totality, our time preference must be longer than the next three solar eclipses, and our discipline must be inspired by the billions of people in this world that experience daily pain at the hands of evil men and women that is much worse than the lingering burn of looking at the sun without special glasses . And perhaps most importantly, our invitation to share in this point of view must as inclusive and proactively intentional as my single serving eclipse friends today. 

If we don’t start building the institutions and frameworks of this future, a future that can handle truly focused and ruthlessly pragmatic action, we’ll just continue burning holes in the retinas of our collective vision while our opponents use the our next weekly scheduled distraction to score their next goal.

Living To Be 119

When I first began talking about my plan to live to be at least 119, the responses I got from people ranged quite a bit.  Some took it with a grain of salt and brushed it off as me "being Andy" and others got pretty riled up about it, saying it there is no good reason to be alive that long, that all my family and friends will be long gone and I'll be lonely, that my body will break down and I'll be holding on just to say I made it to my goal. 

The original idea came from my Great Grandfather turning 100 and passing away the same year, 1998. It seemed to some that he'd held on to make it to that birthday and then seemingly said, "welp, that was the goal. Love you all, I'm done." He had lived a very full 100 years, there is no question. But a few years later, I was thinking about that fact that he almost made it to 2000 and that if he had, he would have lived in three different centuries. That is when the idea struck me: If I live to be 119 I'll have lived in the 1900s, the 2000s, and the 2100s. 

So I started making plans and talking about it.  And with each brushback I got from people I told about my plans, I became even more obsessed with the idea. The negative responses actually convinced me how right this idea was. 

"There's No Good Reason To Be Alive That Long"

This was the first one that really stuck with me because it was the most frequent response. Do people really only think that there are 60-80 years worth of things to do? That the ever increasing life expectancy rates for the majority of the world are actually causing people to thing they'll get bored at some later date, that they will run out of problems to solve, sunsets to see, challenges to address, or hugs to give? That being alive for a long time would be an inconvenience? Are they in a hurry to get somewhere else?  If what I am working on right now only has can keep my attention for a few decades, maybe I should be thinking bigger. 

"Family and Friends Will Die and I'll Be Alone"

I've had the chance to see my groups of friends and my relationship with my family continue to grow and mature, especially as it gets larger and larger and everyone grows into who they are becoming in the world and they bring more people into the family through marriage and birth. I mean, I no have a brother who is Irish and soon to be an Uncle for the 4th time! How cool is that? But then think about everything that will happen as those relationship continue to grow and mature. As being Uncle Andy turns into being Great Uncle Andy. And some day, hopefully, as becoming a father myself, seeing my future children grow into the incredible people I believe they will become and then they'll bring people into the family and I want to be there for all of it with all of them for as long as I have breath. Will being a grandfather or a great grandfather be so boring that people would wish it to stop sooner rather than later? And yes, being alive until 119 means I'll see people that I love pass away and friends that I love go through challenges and hardships. But that is what life is all about and I don't think it is going to become tiresome. 

"My Body Will Break Down and I Won't Be Healthy"

Me at 119 (hopefully)

Me at 119 (hopefully)

What a great challenge! It certainly has me thinking about what I am doing now and that I need my body to keep cranking at a solid clip for another 84 years. If I put my health and my fitness on that kind of a timeline, I am not trying to wreck it or go hard on it thinking it only has to get me through another few decades. It causes me to ask questions and pursue habits that I can keep with me for a life time and also to invest time and effort in understanding the way the current and future technologies will give humans the ability to continue to live full lives in great health. 

I think the thing that this idea has done the most for me is understand that there is a lot of time left and that I need to be tackling problems and challenges in my career and life that may take decades to build and to solve.  That by extending what I believe is my window to disturb the universe, I am challenging myself to make decisions and fight battles worthy of another 80+ years of my life. 

Will I make it to 119? Who knows. But does positioning myself for that opportunity make every moment between now and then a little better, absolutely.