01 March 2011

What is legacy? A Blog Off Post

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "What is legacy?"


These two women were my grandmothers.

That's Marjorie Belle Pfahl-Anater on the left and Guellma Gevene Flowers-Smith-Stewart on the right. I knew them as Gram A and Gram S, although we usually called Gram S by her middle name, Gevene. When I was young I loved Gram A for her intellect and musical talent. I loved Gevene for her scrappy common sense and good humor.

Both of my grandmothers were widowed before I came along and I never knew my grandfathers.

But I knew these two and the older I get the more of them I see in me. My love of classical music is pure Marjorie and my inability to suffer fools is pure Gevene. That's legacy. A legacy of a sort.

For me, the legacy a person leaves is the story of their lives. My grandmothers led lives of high highs and low lows, just like everybody else does. Both of these women dealt with adversity, survived the deaths of children and husbands, and witnessed the enormous, tumultuous changes that defined the 20th Century.

I grew up hearing a lot of their stories and to me, those stories are their greatest legacy. Those women weren't just static characters in a photo album, they were real people. I look at that photo above and I can hear Gevene's laugh and Marjorie's "Good glory!"

I think that people live on when their descendants tell their stories and pass along their legacy. My nieces and nephews, who number in the dozens, never knew those women as the forces of nature they were. But I did. I knew them and I feel like it's my job, my obligation, to those two great women to tell their stories to their great-grandchildren.

In telling those stories, in passing along those legacies, I keep my grandmothers alive for just a little while longer. And not only that, I reinforce (at least I hope I do) that my nieces and nephews belong. In the act of telling, I get to remind myself the same thing.


As the day goes on, the rest of the participants in today's Blog Off will appear miraculously at the end of this post. Keep checking back and check out everybody's postss. You can follow along in Twitter as well, just look for the hashtag #LetsBlogOff. If you'd like more information about about the Blog Off or if you'd like to see the results of previous Blog Offs, you can find the main website here.


  1. My wife had a grandmother that she talks about quite a lot. Her memories are very strong. I didn't really get to know her but I'm glad my wife has the stories to tell.

  2. Thanks! That kind of stuff's really important.

  3. My father was the biggest influence on me, for good or for bad. He's been gone over 20 years, and I still think about him.

  4. I come from a very close knit family. I so wish that I could sit down with each of them and listen one more time to the stories they told. I would appreciate them more now and I would find a way to preserve them for my granddaughters to listen to whe they get old enough to appreciate it the stories.

    Brenda Lynn

  5. Really great post, Paul- I totally agree. As someone that still has three living grandparents, I'm thankful to recognize the awesome resource I'm so fortunate to still have available!

  6. Thank you one and all. Tell your family's stories to anyone who'll listen.

  7. Yes! I love to pass things that my Grandmothers said on to my children, who barely met one and never met the other. The kids might I'm crazy when I tell them "you can't get fresh rabbits for fourpence" or "I'm not so green as I'm cabbage looking" - but I hope something will stick and work its way through to future generations

  8. When my parents split up, Mum went back to her mother, so I was brought up by my Grandma as well as my parents. I am glad I got to spend that time with her, and hear her stories about her parents and her childhood in a rural part of Sydney... which is now inner-city!

  9. Sarah: I love your Grams' expressions. I think I'm going to borrow "You can't get fresh rabbits for fourpence."

    How rustic was life in rural Australia when your Grandma was growing up Chookie?

  10. I bought an oil painting on ebay yesterday. My cousin emailed me about it. It is a painting of my uncle's fishing boat. He had the boat custom built, but he was killed at sea in it while out in the South Pacific several years ago when a sudden storm capsized it in the middle of the night. Tuna fishing is a big part of my family's heritage.

    What is also wonderful is knowing the artist was an animator for Disney. He also animated the Beanie cartoon show. (You'd probably have to be about my age to know of that show.)

    Is the painting any good. Well--it's marginal in my opinion. But the story behind it is fabulous.

  11. Great story Pam. Are you talking about Beanie as in Beanie and Cecil?


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