What will your legacy be?

I’ve been watching with bemusement as the scandal exploded in the wake of Oregonian Editorial Page Editor Bob Caldwell’s fatal heart attack.

At first, I was really concerned for my own mortality – a 63-year-old man dies suddenly of a heart attack? ACK! He’s in my soon-to-be achieved age bracket, so I might want to step up my own ‘get healthy’ plan in doubletime!

And then I shrugged my shoulders and sniggered a little when it was revealed that he’d been getting a little ‘something-something’ on the side, and said heart attack occurred after an afternoon rendezvous with a 20-something woman who was most definitely NOT his wife.

On one hand, I get it. I’m almost 50 years old – I know the landscape of infidelity, the ebb and flow of desire (or even likeability, for that matter), and the challenge of staying in tune with one single other human for decades. And I know first how fragile and/or flawed we humans are – even while we rush to judgment on others in order to better cover up our own flaws.

On the other hand (and as an ex-wife myself), I empathized with his wife and three daughters, especially after I read the comment on the OregonLive article breaking the scandal from Bob’s daughter, Kate:

I am Kate Caldwell, Bob’s daughter. This is the text of a message my mom sent out earlier today:

“To all of our friends and family:

I fear that today’s news about the circumstances of Bob’s death may have caused you more sadness. I apologize on his behalf. Bob was a kind, loving and fair man. He would have understood why The Oregonian needed to print the story and he also would have regretted the anguish that it caused to those he loves — both outside and inside of the newspaper. We love him unconditionally. Thanks to all of you for your loving support.”

I speak for all my sisters when I say that we loved our dad more than anything.

And then what was entirely theoretical got immensely personal yesterday morning for me when I learned that my Uncle Gordy – at the upper end of the age bracket that both Bob & I loosely shared – lost his battle to live after complications following his second open-heart surgery.

Like Bob, I know my 4 cousins loved their father dearly, as did his wife (my mom’s sister).

And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters – along with the memories we will always cherish, of course. The overall legacy they left behind – and not the way they may have departed, or the momentary less-than-stellar blips along the way.

After wading through the comments on the Caldwell Oregon Live article (oh! the lack of humanity! the bravado that comes simultaneously with the semi-pseudonymous commentary), I came across this gem, squirreled it away, and have adopted it as my own mantra:

None of us is perfect, and nobody gets out of here alive.

I am quite sure the memories the Caldwell family will cherish will endure long after the facts surrounding their father’s death fade away.

Just like I’ll always love the man who used to escape from (the people who I have to imagine were the) often-overbearing in-laws by taking us kids out to the middle of the lake early in the morning in that old leaky rowboat. The guy who didn’t even much like fishing – as evidenced by the fact that his otherwise-empty tackle box only contained chocolate bars that he’d smuggled out from underneath his wife’s eyes (and would then happily share with us). The record exec who introduced me to my first true love and my first favorite song. The man who took me to my first baseball game at Yankee Stadium, shared his copy of Springsteen’s Born to Run with me, and provided a glimpse of life beyond Michigan for both my sister and me when his family would spirit us back to the east coast for visits.

At the end of the day, I could care less about the frailties you may have encountered along the way, or the meant-to-be private temptations you succumbed to. What matters more is who you were in public, how you treated your family, and how you lived up to your responsibilities, each and every day. And I know, I know – in the post-Goldschmidt era especially, this is heresy indeed.

But I’m also almost 50 years old. There are things in my own life that wouldn’t hold up to overly-moralistic public scrutiny, either.

So I’ll keep chanting my new mantra:

None of us is perfect, and nobody gets out of here alive.

And tonight, I raise a glass to my Uncle Gordy (and my snarky foremother, my Aunt Janice – who once called me to boast that “I just had lunch with David Cassidy and you didn’t get to!”). I hope your tackle box is always full with the finest chocolate around, sir – you definitely earned it!

And I leave you with this, the first gift (but by no means the last gift) my Uncle Gordy ever gave me:

I Think I Love You


  1. Kari Chisholm

    Well done. “None of us is perfect, and nobody gets out of here alive.” Ain’t that the truth.

    Sorry about your loss. Sounds like Uncle Gordy lived a good life.

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