1 year of missing Glen

This week was not only Glen's birthday (he would have been 70 this year), but also the one year anniversary of his death.   We miss him greatly.

Warren wrote this eulogy last year.  I think it's a good time to share to commemorate Glen.   We love and miss you Dad/Glen/PaPa.

To Dad

Fred Rogers once said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

Looking out at everyone gathered here today, and thinking about the calls and emails of condolences and support my family has received since our world was jolted by the sudden death of Dad, it so good to know that we too have many helpers in our lives. The very fact we have such support allows us to find good and blessings in my dad’s death...and for that support and love we are grateful...and so glad that you all are here.

Speaking for me, this has been an emotionally draining 2 weeks...mainly flowing between numbness and shock to sadness and pain. When I take a step away from these emotions, I can also find feelings of joy, gratitude, and love, because I think these “conflicting” emotions are tethered to each other, where I wouldn’t experience such sadness and loss if it wasn’t for the love and positive relationship I had with my dad and what a good person he is.

I do think I am so lucky that I can resoundly say that my dad is a good man, one who truly loved and cared for his family, and would express it in words and action, frequently and consistently. I know that not all sons/children, can say that or feel the same way about their own relationship with their father.

My dad on the other hand, did not have an easy childhood. Without getting into the grit and dirt of his past, I think was safe to say he did not frequently experience positive displays or expressions of affection, love, and support. He witnessed and experienced things in his life that typically did not set one up for a successful, positive, or even functional life. As he once said to me, “If you look back at my life, I should be totally screwed up.”

And yet for some reason, he wasn’t that screwed up person. Far from it. I know part of it was because Dad made a conscious choice to define himself despite his circumstances; to actively choose to live a life that wasn’t shackled to the negatives of the past and create a life that was positive, good, and loving for him and his family. He chose not wallow in the dirt of his past and let it be an excuse for being a distant, disengaged, or spiteful father; rather, he saw the events, challenges, and hardships of his life as lessons learned and opportunities for growth. He carried this philosophy throughout his life, no matter what challenge or circumstance he faced. This attitude got him and us through various challenges in life, most notably his prostate cancer, diagnosis and treatment. Never once did he panic or get depressed; he just stayed focused on whatever the next step was until he came out cancer free.

But what does baffle me and my family is how he had the capacity in the first place to excel despite his past... my mom calls it  a miracle, and I don't think that is hyperbole. I truly don’t understand how he was ultimately able to be the steady, kind, caring, and loving man that he is. There is not a malicious or angry bone in his body. The emotional math doesn't add up to who who he became; so much was stacked against him. And yet somehow he came out stronger and better in spite of, or perhaps, because of what he endured. My sister and I benefited from him and his choice to be a loving and supportive father. He told me this was always a goal of his, to give us the childhood he didn't have, and I can confidently says he achieved and consistently exceeded that goal throughout our lives.

SInce I lived away from my parents, any time we got together, my dad would always greet me, arms outstretched, smile wide, and as he hugged me, he would always say “ So good to see you. I love you.” You often don’t get greeted by an “I love you;” usually we say it, if we say it at all, when we are saying goodbye. If you have been greeted in such a way, you know it is rare and wonderful and special.

My dad was so proud of his entire family. During our own conversations over the phone or or a drink, he at some point would always say something about how he was proud of my mom, sister, brother in law, my own wife, or even our grandkids. And he would often tell me how proud he was of me. This isn’t a humble brag, just recognition of how lucky I am to have a father who makes it a point to say he is proud of me. He was so proud of his family he literally got a vanity plate with our initials on it.

He let each of us know he was our biggest fan. He was our cheerleader, always supporting whatever endeavors and paths we chose to follow. When my mom was ready to go back to grad school for a Masters in Counseling, and this is after years of being a CPA, he never questioned her sanity or dismissed her idea, but instead said something to the effect of, “That’s great. Let's make that happen.”

Even though the financial or business world is the one he knew and enjoyed, he always supported my own career goals, which were often counter to anything he experienced. If it was what I wanted to do, he was on board, excited, and engaged. He wasn’t blind with his support; he would ask thoughtful questions that helped me even further understand and explore my own decisions or goals,and after hearing my answers, he would often end it with “Well that sounds great. I'm excited for you.” And he meant it.

You could tell he was always happy to be together with family and friends. He enjoyed seeing us happy, and he would go out of his way ensure that happiness, often through the most simple and generous acts. At the family beach vacation, he was the first up, and would run to the store for doughnuts and coffee. And then he would set up all the beach chairs, tents, and toys...and with four grandkids comes and exponential increase in all the crap you have to haul...which meant taking several trips to bring all that gear to the beach. And in the afternoon, as we would slowly psyche ourselves up to go back to the house, he was already in kitchen, combining deli meats, cheese, and dressings in such a way to make some of the best reubens, roast beef melts, and other sandwich combos which only the bravest of chefs would create...and they were so so good.

A lot of this was the manifestation of how he was the consummate host. He enjoyed get togethers with family and friends...and not just because it gave him an excuse to have couple of drinks (but that was certainly part of it.) Whenever my parents hosted something at our house, you could count on him ensuring that everyone had a drink in hand and would soon be walking around with some tray of meats and cheeses. He loved being the host….but I think he more just liked any social event or party; he would get this giddy, almost spastic energy during such gatherings. Because where else can you tell bad jokes or make slightly or definitely awkward statements.  

Let's face it….my dad was not smoothest of operators; he definitely lacked a social filter at times, and has been know to say a cringeworthy thing or three, but you always knew to it came from a place of good intention...and you could just easily brush it off because that was Glen being Glen. Or we would just call him out on it and give him a hard time. He would often just shrug his shoulders, and give sheepish grin, as a way of saying “I didn't mean for that to come off that way, but oh well.”

Part of Glen being Glen is how he can cut through the emotion of any situation or decision and see it plain site. You could count on him for never overreacting or letting his emotions get the best of him. He rarely raised his voice at me whenever I made poor choices or got in trouble (which was often). When he got a call from me one time after one of my poor choices in college, he first asked “Are you okay and is anyone hurt?” When I confirmed all was fine, he then said, “Well, your mother isn’t going to like this. I’ll call you later” and hung up. No yelling, no telling me I how I screwed up; just silent disappointment...and then eventual support.

I admire that emotional steadiness. Whenever I am overwhelmed with a decision or life situation, I will always try to take a step back and think, “How would Dad handle this?” Even better, I could just call him and know he would be there to listen and call things out honestly and sincerely. Like the time when I was in an essentially dysfunctional relationship with a college girlfriend. When I called him distraught one time, he listened calmly to what I had to say about how bad and unhealthy relationship was, and how I felt stuck. And when I was done, he said something to the effect of, “Well, yes, everything you are saying points to you ending your relationship. But then you’ve got feelings.”

His rationale and clear thinking approach to life never made him emotionally detached, but I can also say that sometimes he would miss the emotional or greater context in a situation….the proverbial failure sometimes to see the forest through trees. I don’t think it had anything to do necessarily with his rational and methodical approach to life. It was more about the fact that my dad can sometimes just get caught up in the moment of his own thoughts and feelings, and sometimes fail to see anything outside of that. This phenomenon would frustrate us as a family. You can see it happen during a dinner conversation, where we would all be talking about a some specific situation and it soon became apparent that my dad had something to say. He was usually polite though, and would wait to get his point across. But the problem was that all that he was doing as the conversation continued was thinking about his point and when he could say it, thus missing most of what was being discussed. And then it was it was his turn to to speak, what he said would be way off the mark, we would tell him so, and then more family fun ensued. That was also part of Glen being Glen...being caught up in himself and in his moment.

One of my favorite stories of Glen being Glen was when I ran the Richmond Marathon. A big part of marathon training is just convincing your mind that while it is a stupid thing to run 26 miles, it is something you can and want to do. One of the major things that helps you get through a marathon, outside of practice, is crowd support. And, even more so, when you know that certain friends or family will be at specific mileposts, it gives you something to look forward to and helps break up those 26 miles. So my dad, being the planner, told me which mileposts he was going to be at, including somewhere around mile 24. More surprising, he even said that he might even come out and run with me for the last few miles. I said no way you have to have to do that. I know he hasn't ran in years and he’s got bad knees, but he insisted that he was serious about coming out on the run.

So when I got to mile 24, I spotted my dad in the crowd and then next thing I know he is running next me. RIght by my side is my dad, who I haven’t seen run any race since I was a kid, just keeping right up with me (not that I was really running that fast at that point anyway.) His presence next me gave me that extra boost I needed. So, my pace started to pick up, and his pace kept pushing me along, and the crowd was cheering us on, and I was just feeling so good and happy. And I think he was feeling good, because he kept running, and started running faster...and faster...and faster...until I just said, “You should just go ahead.” So he left me behind to run the last mile by myself, only to greet me at the finish line with a smile on his face and saying, “Boy, that was hard!”

He was true to who he was and for better and worse, he always was the same Glen in any situation.

My dad played golf. Notice I didn't say he loved golf. He did love and looked forward to his yearly golf trip with his friends. He would talk about the trip months in advance, and I know he relished planning every aspect of that trip as much as he enjoyed just going on it. But in terms of actually playing golf, mastery always seemed to be just way out of his grasp. Anytime I would ask him about how his golf game was going over the 20 plus years he played, I would usually get the same response, “Well, golf is a tough sport. I played okay/decent/crappy this week.” I don’t think I ever heard the words “I had great week of golf.”

His tireless pursuit of this sport was just an example of how he approached anything he was passionate about, particularly his work. He has one of the strongest work ethics I've seen. He loved his job and he worked hard at it. He enjoyed getting deep into a spreadsheet and the wonders of pivot tables; would even pull me in his office when I was around to show off his latest spreadsheet master piece. He took pride in his work and relished the times when he was recognized for his contribution by his colleagues and bosses. He found a profession and work that he loved to do; and I use that as barometer for my own professional pursuits, making sure that I too have a job that would inspire the equivalent of spending all day on a Saturday delving deep into financial data, graphs, and excel formulas.

My dad also at times would play the stereotypical father and pull me aside some times to give me advice. Good advice - ones he may not remember giving me, but ones that I have intentionally or subconsciously incorporated into my own way of living, and passed on to others, such as:

  • Goals are important. You should always set them so you can plan your live accordingly.
  • When making a decision, choose options that give you more choice.
  • Never pay credit card interest. If you can’t afford it now, don’t by it.
  • When you’re cooking, clean up as you go.
  • Be organized and plan for the worst.
  • Start a 401k early. Maximize your company’s contribution.
  • Compound interest is your friend.

I think for each of us of who knew Glen well, we can glean something positive from this experience and who he is, and in some way incorporate that into our own lives. I think that would be the way he would handle such loss. Not get stuck in the sadness but find the good and a way to grow from it.

And so here I am, here we are, faced with this sudden loss of man, whom my wife described as genuine, caring, loving, fun, generous, smart, the best host, thoughtful, honest, quirky, and someone who loves good food and wine, a good atmosphere, and the company of his family.

As I said earlier, whenever I face such an emotional time, I think of my dad and how he would handle it. Taking a step back from such heavy emotions of loss and sorrow, I can still find such hope. And while he is gone and won’t be a physical part of the memories we make as a family in the future, I do know he is and always will be with me and us. Not necessarily in some spiritual or corporeal sense, but more in our hearts and minds and how we choose keep him with us.  I realize so much of me is a reflection of my dad, his values, and ways of life. While he may not be part physical part of my kids’ lives, I also I know that I can pass all that is good about my dad on to them. So...I will be the father who gives his kids financial advice, lives with no filter, grows from life's challenges, plans for everything, makes the best sandwiches, enjoys playing host , and cherishes every moment with friends and family, and let them know how much I love them, every chance I get.