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The Simplest Thing I Ever Had to Write

This is a personal post, but as the title of blog notes, I am not limited. On May 1, 2012, a Father, Friend and Grandfather to many was lost. Below are the words I shared at the memorial service.

Dad_MeToo often we wait to reflect upon something until after it is complete, done and the last chapter is written. I often wonder why that is the case. Is it because we need to evaluate an entire experience as one thing? It is important to remember that the perception of experiences is skewed by that which is most recent.

If we stop to consider the moment, is the moment gone? During the past few months I began to reflect upon on my dad. There were things I wanted to understand and a person I wanted to know better.

There is no one way to describe who Arthur was to me; Father, Fan, Friend, Critic, all of the above. My experiences with dad covered the spectrum, it was not one thing, they were lots of things. These experiences are mine, what I am left with. Many I will cherish, some I will consider for years to come. Near the end, dad and I came to an understanding – that we really did not totally understand each other – do not confuse that with our love, caring, nor mutual respect; just we are each complex. I am good with it, it was decided with a laugh and we moved on.

About the Man       

If you really want to understand the man, look no further than a deck of cards. Arthur was a poker player – not a gambler, a poker player – there is a difference. There are some very interesting life lessons hidden inside the game of poker.

Poker requires focusing on making decisions based upon incomplete information. It is the quality of the decisions, not the outcome of the hand that matters. (In the year since I wrote this, I find this to be more and more true everyday)

Poker challenges you to deduce information and recognize patterns; peoples behaviors, habits, body language and tendencies, deducing what they want you NOT to know. The more complete the information, the better the decision making process.

Luck is part of the game, but out of your control. It is about the discipline that is required to ignore bad luck and move forward to the next hand and never to dwell on lucky or unlucky outcomes.

Finally, poker is fundamentally a social game, centered around group dynamics in a competitive situation; playing with a diverse group of people, some skilled, some not. Looking sometimes for the weakest at the table, exploiting the weakness, capitalizing on an opportunity – it is a metaphor for entrepreneurship.

Dad treated many facets of his life like a game of poker; no disrespect meant, quite the opposite.  It worked to great effect in his ability to negotiate, litigate; and dare I say, intimidate. My memories of dad include riding the train from Westport to NYC, watching him play. It was never about the money, that just made it a bit more real and a bit more fun – it was about something else.

Poker was dad’s social network – no Facebook or Farmville for him. It is where he went to relax and learn. Looking back, there is no doubt in my mind that he took the lessons from the poker table to the board room, court room and living room (the original version had a few other rooms, but there were kids in the audience).

I began to write this many weeks ago, as I sat with my younger brother while he worked through the final months of law school. I have spent time with all of my siblings during the recent few months and given the distance of our homes, this in itself is a worthy feat, and worth every moment. We were united in the beautiful things, St. Maarten, Sam and Jeff’s wedding – as well as the not so fun, his illness and …. Other things.

A Contrast of Simple and Easy

The author Robert A. Heinlein stated: “Do not handicap your children by making their lives too easy”.

This is the balance that dad tried very hard to keep. As I parent, I can assure you that this not as ‘easy’ as it seems, it is different for each child and grandchild. His efforts to abide by this sometimes caused dad conflict; as he always wanted to provide, according to need, but the needs were not always clear.  As a parent we always want things to be ‘equal’, but what if the needs are not equal? I am not talking about money, rather something much more valuable – time.

To his grandchildren, grandpa did not always have the time to let things take a natural course. Where he tried to lead and guide his children; your parents, aunts and uncles, he began to run short of time and took a much more direct approach with many of you. He wanted to, needed to, get his point across in a sometimes uncomfortable way.  To extend the poker metaphor, he did not know you as well as he would have liked – another conflict. He loved each and every one of you, in a way only a grandpa could.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

What Einstein was getting at is that when describing something one should reduce it to the smallest ‘pieces parts’ required to make the point. Any less, and the point does not come across, any more and complexity is reintroduced. Few people can walk the fine line, Dad could.

Dad believed in both of these concepts, and could walk the line; but they are sometimes at odds, a paradox.

In this family simple is not always easy, and easy is not always simple.

Dad – these words are a reflection of you, for you, for me, my siblings and your grandkids. It would not be fair to stand here and say you were perfect; I might have a credibility issue if I did; that said perfection is not something you sought. What you wanted was to live life on your terms – it was a hard fought negotiation, the terms nebulous at times, but true to form, you won.

This is what I learned; some from you and some from the person you helped me to become. In more ways than one,  physical and logical, you taught me how to put the pieces together:

Reflect upon the past in as much as it can help us to prepare for the future. Take from the past what we need to move forward. Dwell on the past, and it will be like a 4-wheeler tied to a tree.

Most important – I have a great family and when push comes to shove I know my back is covered, and my siblings know I have theirs.

Dad, this was simple to write, but it was not easy.

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