Legacy is what fills the hole you leave behind

What is a true Legacy?

April 07 2024

In my previous post about legacy, I mentioned one of my Grandfathers. I never knew that Grandfather only his legend. His legacy is really whatever I do to try to help others. But ultimately it's a man on a pedestal. It's set in stone. His legend was set in war, in a time of destruction and suffering. It's not something to idolise.

My other Grandfather was a God Parent to me. I visited him twice a week from when I went to live with my father. When my parents were spitting up he took me on a road trip to visit my cousins. When my parents split up, when I visited my father, I'd visit him on a Saturday.

He was a quiet lovely man, who helped out in his wife's church after she died because that's where her community was. He lived in a council estate. In contrast to my other grandfather, I didn't really know what he did.

During the war, he'd been out in Sierra Leone, looking after the big American Jennies there. He had to be sent home for Prickly heat.

His heroism came after the war.

His father had been a Chief Petty Officer and very conservative. Both of his parents were very much part of the system. Voted conservative, were very conservative and were Anglican High Church. Even when that system had thrown his mother out of quarters when she became pregnant with my grandfather, they supported the system. They'd moved up to Scotland and never lost the accent or the attitude.

He was low church. He married a girl from one of the really poor parts of town. He really liked porridge oats that you soaked overnight with salt. My Grandfather, we used to joke "went native."

My Grandfather joined Labour, became a trade unionist and led the Aberdeen Mechanics in the General Strike of 1955. I suspect there was a lot of rebellion against everything his parents believed in.

I'd never got a hint of this. Occasionally someone would phone my grandfathers asking for Jack.

"Who's Jack?" I asked my Father.

"That's your Grandfather."

"But his name's John!"

"Some folk call him Jack."

By then my Grandfather was ready to take the phone.

My Grandfather and others like him, believed in Nye Bevan and the creation of the NHS. He voted Labour all of his life. We'd never spoken about politics, different members of our family voted for the party they thought was best. I think my Grandmother voted Lib Dem. But then she was a teacher.

They both were of a generation who wanted their kids to do well, go to university get a good job. It's a very Scottish thing to do. It's a very working-class thing to do. Which is what both of my parents were. Children of working-class folk.

The legacy of my Grandfather and others like him in Scotland was free Healthcare, subsidised meals and milk for children. Grants and free higher education. I was one of the last people to be able to take advantage of that. I and my cousins were the generation that made it to University. We fulfilled the promise that the family worked towards, under the Conservatives and New Labour. Our opportunities were the legacy left to us. We have a duty to try to not waste it.

Community Infrastructure

When my Grandfather was dying of cancer his mind went. Father went every day. I'd visited a few times, but I found it very hard as he wasn't there anymore. When someone is such a part of your life and dementia gets them, it's very cruel. My Father is seriously so strong, especially when he was dealing with two grieving children at the same time.

Grandfather was frantic one day about being in the hospital, he wanted to leave as he thought it was the 1930s. He was concerned about the cost of the doctors and the hospital bed. Father and the nurse had to walk him around the bed and then he was fine.

Sometimes I think about that. I also think about the times I've been in hospital for weeks as a child for various reasons.

When we had my grandfather's funeral, I was shocked at just how many people from his life attended. Not just from his church, but his working days. He left a hole in that community. I'd never been a part of that community. But I saw the hole and it went beyond our family.

When we go, we do leave holes in folks' lives.

This week the Fediverse lost Craig Moloney[1] to cancer. It's a massive hole. Craig was kind, he was an amazing community manager[2] and in his own words, "A mediocre programmer.[3]" In many ways, Craig reminds me of my Grandfather, a man who served his community. Very quietly, but could when required show strength to right a wrong.

But the communities he built, the people he built up will fill that hole in. We will continue that kindness. But it's why we need to continue, to make a stand to help one another build community infrastructure.

To rebuild our social structures, our education and our healthcare. We need to organise and push for social infrastructure. I think about my Grandfathers last days, worrying about having to pay for healthcare. I think about others having to pay for that at the end of their lives.

It's a sobering thought. It does make me angry. In the UK the party my grandfather believed in doesn't exist now. It's a community that is being ripped apart. It's filled with holes that are unrepairable. I think my Grandfather would recognise the socialism in the Green Party more than Blair's Labour legacy. The Labour Party that he went on strike for in solidarity with others is dead.

We need to build our communities in solidarity with each other. To support each other and yes, to be kind. To push for the human rights of everyone and to stand firm in that. To encourage each other and to support each other.

When we do this, we help each other and inspire others to fill in the holes we leave behind. The holes are still there, but the community survives.

That should be the kind of legacy everyone strives for.

[1] https://www.mug.org/2024/04/sorry-to-report-the-passing-of-craig-maloney

[2] https://www.davidrevoy.com/article1021/goodbye-craig-maloney

[3] https://themediocreprogrammer.com/build/html/the_mediocre_programmer.html