Home Celebrating One Year Passing the legacy of great fathering: the Gibson family

Passing the legacy of great fathering: the Gibson family

Burien News is celebrating its one-year anniversary! Today there are thousands of readers, but many of you may have missed some of the early stories we loved. Over the summer, we will be republishing a few of the best. Enjoy, and thank you to our loyal followers!

by Martin Barrett

For some readers, this story will be something you have tasted and experienced. For most, it will not. For those who read this without any taste of its sweetness, I encourage you to embrace it and resist potential cynicism. While this might not be what you experienced, it can be what you give to the next generation! Every legacy begins with a person of courage who chooses the highest and best for the next generations and boldly presses into the fray, which brings about a better outcome. And so we begin….

“Big Papa” Great Grandfather Russell Gibson moved to Burien in 1956. Fresh out of the Navy, a WWII vet trained as an engineer, he came to work for the Boeing company. Three generations later, this is still home to the Gibson family.

I sat down with three generations of Gibsons. It is hard to describe the sense of affection grandpa, dad, and son had for each other. In the conversation, one descriptor kept coming up in my mind. It was the key value in their family: Generous hospitality, which they practice diligently, not only with those outside the family but with each other. It is a generous hospitality of time, a disciplined affection that creates space for each other and with each other. A space where listening, laughter, and fun are seriously encouraged. It is a hospitality summed up with various words used by each of the 3 generations that said something like, “No matter what, we love you. No mistake you make can change that.”

This generous hospitality has created many traditions. The table has been an absolute. Dinner together, and sharing the day is life to the Gibsons. Friday night dinner together at Angelo’s has been a priority for 4 generations; Saturday morning coffee together. It was evident in talking with the 4th generation that this spirit of generous hospitality Karsten experienced in the home has given him a generous spirit of hospitality with his friends.

(Left to right): Todd, Karsten and Lance Gibson. Photo by Martin Barrett. 

Generous hospitality goes further than the table and the home. Following in the steps of Grandpa Lance, who coached Todd’s baseball teams, Todd has been Karsten’s coach. Karsten said he will do the same when he has kids. This generosity of time and spirit extends to their friends. Karsten brings his friends home, just as Todd did. And Todd engages and likes Karsten’s friends, just like Lance engaged and enjoyed Todd’s friends.
Family trips and adventures have also been a staple. Lance remembers fishing and camping with Big Papa. And Big Papa would take Todd to the Boat Show every year in the King Dome. Today Lance, Todd & Karsten love to take out the boat and fish on Three Tree Point.

Every other year Russell packed the family for a trip back to the homeland of North Dakota, a highlight for Lance. Todd, who is involved internationally, takes Karsten to Africa, Europe, South America, and other places. Sometimes Todd sends Karsten to be with his (Todd’s) friends in other countries. Building a positive adult community around the next generation is a clear priority with the Gibson clan. Todd says: “One of the greatest gifts you can give is your friends.” Todd has been very generous with his friends toward Karsten, “We were not “helicopter parents,” always right there; we encouraged Grandpa and Grandma and our friends to speak into Karsten’s life.” Todd said. Karsten added, “From them, I received encouragement and advice that has made my life decisions better.”

When I asked Grandpa Lance what he sees as the Gibson family values he desires for Karsten to live out, he said, “Faith, marriage, family, friends, and hard work.” It is clear that Todd has embraced these. As I watched Karsten while Grandpa said these things, I could sense in him the honor of carrying on values so noble, which I believe are at the aspirational heart of most men. Being given permission to be truly good and excellent is unusual in today’s society, and I sensed that Karsten was grateful for the permission.

The middle generation can become a hindering block rather than a bridge between the older and younger generations. Clearly, Todd has been a bridge. Karsten regularly goes up to Grandpa and Grandma’s house just to hang out(although I think a well-stocked refrigerator might contribute as well.) Sleepovers for the young kids were a “regular.” Grandparents were always at the games, dramatic performances, b-day parties, graduations … It was clear that all three generations would not consider the event well-celebrated unless all were present.

Years ago, in a conversation I had with a Super-Bowl winning quarterback, he made a significant statement: “Being part of a legacy program of winning is really an honor. But the greatest honor is to the one who had the courage to start it.” A legacy of great fathering is not for the faint of heart or the selfish in spirit! It takes great courage and “other-centeredness.” I hope this story inspires every grandfather, father, and son, no matter what your age or the health of your current family relationships, to decide that today the legacy begins!

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