What if my eighteen-month-old grandson Xavier called me up on the phone and asked me where I got my identity? Now he's smart, but he's not quite at the point of asking those deep questions.
But he may very well ask that at some point. Just who was or is his Grandpa Thorp. What defined one of the patriarchs of his clan? What made him tick? What gave his life purpose? Where did he find true meaning? What did he accomplish in his life? What was he most proud of? What would he do differently if he had the chance?
I could go the job route. I got a good chunk of my identity from the various jobs I've held. I worked as a reporter at a major metropolitan newspaper covering a big neighborhood in a large city. It was there that I talked to a really big-time mayor, a mob boss and a local minister who became a national political figure.
I spent a chunk of time at a series of smaller newspapers where I covered city council's and township boards right next to another major metropolitan area. My by-line was in the paper multiple times a week. I knew lots of people and they knew me.
At our State Capitol, I reported for a chain of small newspapers through a column that was in 40 plus papers every week. Then I was the pressroom manager for lots of years at the Capitol Building where I served as a conduit between reporters and the legislature.
I could go the family route. I have really enjoyed being married. I love having the title husband on my resume. Doing stuff together, facing life challenges as a couple has been super beyond description. There's a buzz that comes from being part of the synergy of being a couple who love each other.
Then I could tell Xavier about the dad role that I've played for almost 30 years. I love everything about being a dad. What tops it? Nothing, in my opinion? I can remember every moment when his mom was born and I can remember just about every event of her childhood that I was involved with. Same for his uncle.
What about sports and my performance in that arena? I didn't really play any. I tried out for Little League once to get a baseball cap, but I didn't make the cut.
For several years, I played a lot of golf with his uncle. That was fun, pure fun. We had fun trying to get the ball to go where it didn't want to go. I wasn't very good at it. But my grandson's uncle, my son and I, had a grand time.
I'd put being a father in all caps in resume. I have a life's worth of fathering memories. These are pure gold to me.
Next I could point to my various involvements in politics. I got a big chunk of my identity there. My political interests gave me at a young age an entry into the world of my uncles. They would listen to me and I would listen to them. My involvements in this arena grew.
I became a page in the state Senate during my high school years and got to know a lot of legislators.
After college, I returned to the legislature and never left. I retired from there.
There was another title that was part of who I am and that's being a son.
I was a son to my mother and that was important. She was a vital person in my life.
But the other half of that was always a dark hole. It was filled a whole lot of nothingness with the exception of bits and pieces of information about the person who contributed to the other half of me.
I always wanted to be the son of a father. I wanted a dad who could say he loved me and who was proud of me. That meant more to me than anything at certain times of my life.
It never happened.
That hole was not filled in until I was firmly in my sixties.