In many ways, being a parent is about writing our legacy for our children one day, one moment, one act at a time.
How will they remember us? Will they remember we wouldn't let them stay up late, made them eat their vegetables and didn't get them everything on their Christmas lists? Probably, but hopefully they will also remember the example we are trying to set for them in how we move about the world each day and how we treat others in the process.
I had the humble privilege of spending some time with my uncle in Davidson over this past weekend who is in hospice care after a long and hard-fought battle with cancer. Uncle Bob has never lacked for words, and usually greets you with a story the minute you walk in the door before you even have time to sit down.
This time, he was eager to share his theory about "extras" with me. He told me the story from his recliner dressed in pajamas in between deep inhales of oxygen through a tube that was attached to a noisy tank next to his hospital bed. He recollected the plot of a 1988 movie called "Memories of Me" starring Billy Crystal. There was a funeral scene for Crystal's movie father where Crystal thinks no one is going to show up, and suddenly a bus full of "extras" from different movies that his father has appeared in show up. They were regular people, not stars, but the people who had truly made up the fabric of his father's life.
Next, my uncle asked if my cousin and I would go and get him lunch at Taco Bell and said while we were there be sure to say hello to his "extras."
"You mean the Mr. Bob Special?" the cashier asked us as we ordered his lunch and told them it was for Bob.
Upon hearing his name, the manager, Victoria, walked out of the kitchen and up to us at the counter and started to tell us with tears in her eyes how she remembered the first time Bob came in. He told her he needed food that was soft because he didn't have teeth due to the side effects of his cancer treatments.
"We sat there and studied the menu until we came up with the Mr. Bob Special," she said, laughing through her tears.
"It's amazing how many things we worry about and complain about that don't really matter," another employee named Kiara chimed in. "And yet every time he came in, no matter how bad he was feeling that day, he was always cheerful and friendly. Always had a smile on his face. Such a good example."
And so, while we waited for the Mr. Bob Special, Uncle Bob's "extras" regaled us with stories about their favorite regular customer and how he had been such an inspiration to them. They ended up giving us the food on the house despite our protests. When we got home we realized they had written "We love you" on the plastic container.
To be honest, when Uncle Bob first told us to say hello to the staff at Taco Bell, I thought it was a little crazy. Did they really know him?, I thought, being a natural born skeptic. But I was pleasantly surprised to have my skepticism quashed.
When we returned with the food and told him the story he smiled, his blue eyes twinkling beneath his sprigs of white untamed hair.
"I told you they were my extras."
It made me think about who my extras will be? It also made me think that a life with a lot of extras is a life well-lived ...
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.