Author's Note: Whoa, look at that; I'm alive. In other news, the long-awaited Legend of Korra is coming! I did see the first two episodes online, but I don't feel that there are any particular spoilers in this little tidbit - this just includes facts that have been publicly released. Read away!
The statue is all wrong.
It is a wonderful work of art, carefully constructed so that it watches over Republic City. It can be seen from most places in the city, if one knows how to look, and it reminds everyone of the hero of their age. It is certainly a lovely monument to the Avatar who brought the nations together. But the statue has a solemn expression and distant air, and when Tenzin looks at it, he can hardly see the father he remembers.
Father was always so animated, so vivacious. Even with the weight of the world on his shoulders, he never seemed to stop moving entirely. He was quick with a smile and affectionate gesture, no matter how tired. Nothing ever seemed to wear him down. Father almost learned to carry himself like a respectable diplomat, but he never quite managed the sobriety his statue conveys. He tended to break into bright, accidental grins. He was never a very good politician. Tenzin wonders whether he knew that was one of the reasons the people loved him so much.
And Father returned their love. He was never too busy for anyone. A humble, spiritual man, he guided everyone he came across – his children most of all. If the citizens saw him as his children did, the statue would never have been so grim. Wise though he was, he constantly spoiled the three of them, bringing treats and new games and taking them to see whatever they wanted. "Don't tell your mother" was one of his favorite phrases to them, and he returned the favor by turning a blind eye to some of Kya's and Bumi's more harmless antics. Tenzin, on the other hand, did not find such things very fun; he stayed well away from anything Mother couldn't know about. After all, Mother was the one to fear. She was the disciplinarian, with a quick-flaring temper that made Bumi speculate more than once that she had been born to the wrong element. She was the one who came to scold, and she berated Father as often as Kya or Bumi, though she never stayed angry for long. Father was different, explaining their wrongdoing and the proper path. He was eternally gentle with them.
Tenzin had only seen Father angry once. He caught Tenzin trying to shave his head with a knife. It is one of the few times Tenzin remembers crying, because he was small and had never even witnessed his father's temper before, much less borne the brunt of it.
Years later, Father took him aside for one of his rare serious talks. Tenzin had become skilled at Airbending, but Father confided that he wanted to teach him more. He wanted Tenzin to know everything – the traditions, the food, the dances. He had taught all the forms he could, and now he wanted to pass on the life. Tenzin was not just to bend Air; Father wanted him to be an Airbender. Tenzin took this new duty very seriously – perhaps too seriously, as Father tried in vain to coax him into joking about it. But even then, Tenzin sensed that Father did not feel much like joking, either. Father turned into a different man when he talked of the Air Nomads – someone far away and lost. He handled every artifact with reverent care and demonstrated every ritual as though there were someone beside him. No matter how lighthearted the anecdote, he told stories with an ache in his voice. The worst was when he forgot something; Tenzin could see it on his face, and always hurried him on to something else. Tenzin dedicated years to learning every piece to perfection – not for the ancient race of Air Nomads, but for his father, as if by working hard enough a young boy could erase the hurt of that loss.
It was not until Father was gone that Tenzin fully realized that he was solely responsible for the survival of a culture. Now the duty to pass on this fragile remnant of a people weighs down on him, but he does not regret it. He understands the importance of this task, and accepts it. No, the only thing he regrets is that Father will never meet Tenzin's children. He does not know who to ask about running a city, being an Airbender, being a parent.
And yet all is not lost. Tenzin carries his father's legacy, and in more than Airbending. Everyone knows of the Avatar, the man of great wisdom and power, the one who achieved victory over terrible odds and brought them all together. Tenzin remembers the warm embraces, the airborne trips, the mischievous smiles, the forbidden sweets, the days spent at home. He remembers the man who laughed and loved freely and showed his children how to see the world. He remembers all the things that made Father who he was.
The statue really is terrible. It's a good thing Tenzin has more than that.