Monday, June 26, 2017

Legacy Activities

Father’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the influence, attitudes and customs passed on from our dads. I saw my Facebook newsfeed flooded with images of fathers and children during memorable times and events, many of these pictures clearly taken back when Kodak was still selling rolls of film in the checkout line at the supermarket. Whether for mothers or fathers, children declare there appreciation for parents often by recalling some specific activity in which the immaterial DNA of the parent’s influence were passed on to them. For Mother’s Day memes about how “mom let me lick the spoon” were commonplace and heartwarming. 

These times we spent with the parent, focused on their presence and influence, make significant contributions to the legacy they bequeath to us. Legacy activities can take the form of routine or non-routine tasks, but it’s the way we specifically associate it with them that makes it so powerful. For my mother, many legacy activities could be listed, but the one that springs most quick to mind is tennis. Playing tennis together (at 75, she’s still a court regular) afforded her opportunities to affirm her confidence in me as a young man, critique my character or laugh over life’s lessons. Tennis holds that special place in the category dedicated to “mom memories.” 

For my father, the legacy activities are also too numerous to give a comprehensive list. Chopping wood, lake vacations, watching him demonstrate genuine piety in church all make the “top ten,” but probably the most potent would have to be hunting. Through the ritual of deer hunting (and all the ancillary activities it requires: hunter’s safety course, range time, packing, travel, hiking, camping, woodsmanship, shooting the deer [most often missing], cleaning the deer and eating it at home), I got to see the various aspects of my father’s character when no one was looking. I can say that the man who sat faithfully in the pews of North Valley Baptist Church was the same man that held me as I shivered in the morning cold, awaiting the sunrise atop Ycatapom Peak. The Trinity wilderness brought out no such “other side” of him that could supposedly emerge when no one was around with whom he had to maintain appearances. The man just - flat out - had integrity. 

I noticed it as a young lad, and am still unpacking it to this day. Hunting was the chance for me to see what my father was “really like,” and it did not differ in the least from what the church folk or business associates saw. My admiration of him was grown and cultivated in the rocky crags and lush forests of the Poison Canyon basin, removing our hats to pray each morning before the day’s hunt or when meals were ready at camp. To this day, if my faith seems unreasonably unshakable, you can blame it on those shivering mornings on the ridge as the sun peeked over the eastern horizon. It was then that my father would wave his hand at the mountain range before us, gesturing that I take it all in, and admonish me to remember the awesome God that made it all. The legacy activity of hunting was the “classroom” in which my father delivered among the most powerful and lasting lessons. 

After moving to Texas, I wanted to do the same for my two sons, but Texas hunting is a very different animal than it was in northern California. Public land hunting is few and far between, so without incurring the expense of a deer lease (or having a landowner friend), the legacy activity was going to have to be something else altogether. Enter…Spartan Race!

Although prior to 2012 we had done some camping, and visited pretty places outdoors, we hadn’t fully immersed ourselves in an activity that would repeat over time to really bond over. In December of 2012, we volunteered at our first Spartan Race and ran our first one the following year. Since then over 20+ occasions have seen my kids and I braving the various obstacles that the course designers could erect in our way, along with mud and fire to create both dirty thrills and epic pictures for social media. I became aware that this was becoming our “Legacy activity” when we weathered a Spartan Race “Hurricane Heat” together (a four hour compilation of endurance and team-building tasks that truly tests each individual at physical, mental and even spiritual levels). 

Before my son, Joshua, went into the U.S. Navy in 2015, my father generously provided a hunting trip for himself, me, Joshua and Elijah to enjoy together. The four of us traveled to a ranch in the Texas hill country for a controlled hunt wherein the boys were able to harvest their first deer (one buck and two does each). It was such a fantastic time, and was very meaningful for all of us. It was, however, my father’s legacy activity provided for them. This diminishes it in no way at all. We all enjoyed ourselves completely, and I was particularly proud of the boys for the marksmanship and maturity they showed during the entire time. 

In June of 2017, however, I had the chance to provide the boys a special time of MY legacy activity: Spartan Race. My older son, Joshua, was home on leave from the Navy, and my father was visiting as well. The timing was perfect. This is was also the final Spartan Race that I’d have an opportunity to do with Elijah before he entered the United States Marine Corps in just a few short months. Three generations of Otts attacked the course, and I was amazed how strong my 77 year old father showed himself to be. We started and finished together. 

Spartan Race has provided those moments with my boys that I once upon a time ascribed primarily to hunting. By becoming a legacy activity for my sons and I, it created chances to share values of endurance, attitude, resourcefulness, patience, discipline and servanthood. This time my father joined us, making it a monumental memory that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. Thank you, Spartan Race. You did us right.  

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