Our son’s name was inspired by a truly great man…a man who was an absolute gift to me both personally and professionally.
If only our son could meet him. Oh, how he would love him.
Dick Jackson was a giant bear of a man with a voice and a laugh that are forever etched into my memory. 25 years my senior, he would loudly call out my name whenever he saw me (slightly mispronouncing it as an inside joke). He loved children of all ages and poured his heart and soul into being a teacher. He was one of the best.
During my first few years as a school administrator, Dick Jackson was my rock. He believed in me. More importantly, he believed in our mission as educators and inspired that passion in others. With his support and encouragement, we accomplished amazing things together. I’m eternally grateful for the support he provided me as an educator, but what I remember most about Dick Jackson is that I knew he loved me. He was the kind of man who told you he loved you and meant it…but he didn’t have to say it because you could feel it.
I honestly don’t know a single person who didn’t adore Dick Jackson. People were simply drawn to him. He was the first to celebrate accomplishments and the first to brag about you to your friends and colleagues. His ability to calm a crying infant was simply magical (we called him “The Baby Whisperer”).
If he was proud of you, he told you.
If he disagreed with you, he told you.
And, if he was sorry about something, he told you.
The world lost Dick Jackson to heaven nearly a decade ago. I still think about him often and wish he was here. In choosing to name our son Jackson in his honor, I hoped he will grow up to be even the tiniest bit like his namesake. If he does, he’ll be a truly wonderful man.
I am beginning to realize more and more how important it is to keep the memories of lost loved ones alive, especially for those of us who have children later in life. When I think of the unique experience of being an old new mom, although the benefits far outweigh the concerns, the people we will never meet is an unavoidable aspect that I hadn’t considered.
For our son, I often think about the people in my life who are gone, but who would have loved him. Grandparents on both sides – especially my Grandma Rew (with whom I had a very special bond). My great Aunt Sarah. And, of course, Dick Jackson.
While it’s natural to reminisce about those from the past who are gone, I can’t help but also think about the role maternal age plays in generational overlap. My own grandmothers were 35 (paternal) and 38 (maternal) when my parents were born. Amazingly, both lived into their mid-nineties and were able to meet their first great-grandchildren. I was the third child of four born to parents who were in their 30s, so I was still in college when they passed away. They would have been 107 and 110 years old when our son was born. And so, it was more likely their own advanced maternal age (not mine) that solidified the fact that they would never meet him.
And what about the future? I wouldn’t change a thing about my path to motherhood, but my heart still aches when I think about the people I probably won’t meet due to my age.
The other day, I saw a picture of my mother holding her great-grandson. I thought, wow, what a gift. Four generations in one picture – my mom, my sister, my niece, and my newborn great-nephew. It reminded me of a very similar picture of my own grandmother in 1992 when she became a great-grandmother.
Forget the fact that chances are extremely low that I’ll ever be a great-grandmother…at this rate, I can only hope that I’ll live long enough and be healthy enough to enjoy being a grandmother. This has obviously made taking care of my health an even bigger priority. Of course I want to do everything I can to be here for our son…but I also want to be around for our future grandchildren and, who knows, maybe even our future great-grandchildren.
As for the people our son will never meet, it will be our job to make sure they live on through our memories. My husband and I will have to be intentional about taking time to show him pictures, to tell stories about them, and to make sure he knows just how much they love him…because I feel that they do.
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