So. Today is my 300th post. On my 200th post I amused myself by suggesting people could drop me a note on any topic that they wanted me to write a post on. Well. Today I will tackle the first one (although the capital punishment, about love, American beer, fate and several other great suggestions will follow).
I wasn’t sure what my 300th post was going to be (the 100’s seem like milestones so I like to treat them that way) and then I knew what I wanted to write about to answer someone’s suggestion for “so, who is the greatest person you have ever met?” and it became crystal clear this should be my 300th.
All that said. I have been very fortunate in my life in the great people I have “glanced off” throughout my life and career. My parents were interesting people and put me in a variety of situations where I met or was in the same room with a variety of semi famous some well known smart great people. Then my career has permitted me to meet many others and, well, I am a nomad and my friends are strewn across the world so I have had many opportunities to meet some amazing ‘great’ people. Kofi Anan, Muhammad Ali, Victor Yuschenko, James Patterson, Jean Marie Dru, John McEnroe, Jimmy Johnson, Stevie Nicks, Elle Macpherson, Tom Seaver, Elton John, Spike Lee, several authors, couple of presidents … well … whatever … and a variety of additional celebrity like people. And the list of CEO-like and insightful business people who are business icons but not household names is even longer. Then I have friends who work in US Embassies, are deans in colleges and are incredibly successful in just living life (being mothers, fathers and serving the public).
But. The answer to the greatest person I have ever met.
My grandfather. Gilbert Kane. Hands down. No debate. No discussion.
And I am sure of one thing, probably surer of anything else in this life; any of these people I listed above would have been better people for having met my grandfather.
He was the kindest, strongest, focused, virtuous, ethical most honest and patient man I have ever met. He had a heart of gold. And I honestly struggle to find any meaningful moment or amount of time he was unhappy. And I cannot think of a single time he was ever mean. He taught me patience and kindness.
He was an “encourager.” He was proud of you in the attempt. As long as you stepped up and did your best he had a word of encouragement. And if you actually succeeded he treated it as a natural conclusion to the attempt. I am not sure we ever overcelebrated any success. But he never missed sharing pride an attempt (and his pride was an unestimable prize). He taught me to try. And he taught me that failing was okay. It was the attempt that mattered.
He taught me to play baseball. I think he put a glove in my crib. He was tireless in playing catch and hitting grounders and fly balls until my grandmother would have to drag him back inside. Until the last day we played catch he always wore the glove he played with when he played. One of those old original leather gloves with no basket and almost no padding. As I grew older he would take one of his handkerchiefs and slide it into the palm of the glove so his hand wouldn’t bruise. He made me the baseball player and athlete I became. Every ounce of my ability came through his patience.
A self taught draftsman he worked for the same company for over 50 years. I am not sure he ever did NOT do what he said he was going to do. He didn’t invent anything. He didn’t run a company. But he may have been one of the most successful men I know. He taught me that success wasn’t measured by a title but by pride in what you do.
He was an adventurer (in his own way). He and my grandmother drove my mother everywhere and anywhere to see the United States. He loved to explore. He loved to see new things. He was tireless in his pursuit to experience. And when he actually got on a plane for the first time in his life to move to California (maybe 90 years old) while we (the family) worried he took to it like duck to water. He loved it. And I will never forget the phone call we had afterward when he said to me “now I know why you like to fly Bruce. It is nice that all those beautiful women pay so much attention to you … and they have free food.” He taught me that age never stops adventure. You are never too old to try something new.
He was a man of few words. He was stoic but would cry leaving people he loved but didn’t cry when leaving his home on Long Island after 50+ years. He taught me to measure words carefully and caring didn’t always need words. He taught me people were more important than things.
He was the most polite man I knew. Maybe ever. So let’s say ‘know’ instead of knew. He always wore a hat (not a baseball hat) and tipped it to woman as he passed. Opened doors for women. Held chairs in the dining room. Let’s just say he was a gentleman. He taught me to respect. And truly respect women. He taught me to be a gentleman.
He loved jelly beans. Ok. Anything sweet. I am not sure he had more than 2 cavities in his entire mouth. My mother and I had to have a “talk” when he was about 91 or so when I was giving him pounds of jelly beans as birthday gifts and she discussed that maybe it wasn’t the best for him. I suggested the man had lived until his 90′s and maybe we could let him live a little for whatever he had left (almost another decade or so). This man never turned down a dessert. Ever.
And he lived to be 101+ and up until the last 4 months or so he was “the iron man.” He was indestructible. When he passed it was only a surprise because … well … I don’t think I ever believed his battery would ever stop running.
He made me a better person. I wouldn’t be half the man I am today without him. I can only wish that everyone has the opportunity to have this kind of greatness glance off of their life.
So. This post is dedicated to the greatest man I knew. And, sadly, I don’t think I ever told him. But, in the end, I am not sure he would have felt comfortable hearing it. He just did what he thought he should do. A lesson we could all learn.