We are taking a little break. For two reasons.
First, we said welcome and hello to our latest addition. Cozette joined our family on May 31st and the entire gaggle of kids joined my wife and me as we stopped our routines in a beautiful mixture of necessity, joy and awe. Out of all the kids, Cozette is our largest at birth. Absolutely a chunk of goodness and creation rolled into fat cheeks and body rolls and a piercing cry. I call her, "Ocho," because she is the 8th child to be born in my personal lineage.
People always think that there is something wrong with this many kids. They say things like, "Eight kids! Wow." And then they shake their heads. They confuse multiple kids with a lack of intelligence. Or possibly a lack of control. They miss the point.
For us, the kids are the gold and the silver. The treasure. No matter how many businesses we own, or how many investments we make, nothing compares to the incredible gifts God gives us in children. What an honor to be a parent.
The other break in preparations comes from an event less joyous. An independent rep from the day gig, and moreover, a friend, lost his battle with a second round of cancer. He was a good man. A good friend. A light in a sometimes dark world. He lived with his beautiful wife in Haddonfield, NJ and I would often fly up to work with him in his considerable territory which spanned multiple cities and states from Hoboken to Northern Virginia/DC. Along the way, we would attend concerts and go check out museums-including the Barnes back when it was still the Barnes. (Watch The Art of the Steal for more on this collection and the war that raged over it.)
When he got the "all clear" on the first round of cancer, we celebrated with a Stones concert in Raleigh. Bartowsky and my buddy, Judson, joined us. I had wished that Scotty G and my friend Tom could have joined us as well. Scotty knew Mike, but Tom did not. But, I was just so stoked. Crisis averted. A good man goes on. Time to celebrate! Everyone should have joined in. And then...
It came back. That dreaded disease. The thoughts and prayers flowed again in a New Jersey direction. The constant questioning came back, too. Wanting to know if the good man was well. If all was still right in the world. If he would beat it again. We hoped and prayed. And prayed some more.
He came down to Raleigh with his wife in January. What an honor to have them in our home. I took a picture of him with Bartowsky. Two good men side by side. Both a lot like the other in ways unknown to either.
And then, far too soon, Mike was gone. He left us in early May. And now, almost a month later, and four short days after Cozette arrived, I find myself in Mt Laurel, NJ with a black suit on a hanger in the closet of a hotel. I find myself not wanting to put it on. Not wanting to say goodbye.
Last night, two other reps, a colleague at the day gig, and I, went to the Library II -a restaurant that I visited many times with Mike. After a day of calls and driving, we would stop in and Mike would order the Surf and Turf and a Perfect Manhattan. He would sigh with contentment and talk about work. About projects. About people we both knew. About his three gorgeous daughters. About his wife. About life. He was filled with energy and advice. Sympathy and empathy for those around him. With kindness.
Last night I was angry. Or just not quite myself. Surrounded by people I know but do not know at all, I thought about Mike and our many meals. But the energy was gone. The friendship and admiration were there, but they were not there in a strange mix of emotions. The restaurant seemed better lit, but much darker. The man that was supposed to be there was not there. And then I slowly unwound. And eventually I sighed with some contentment as we left the restaurant. I stopped on the way to my car and took a picture of the restaurant sign. I am not sure why.
This morning I woke up well rested and thought of my own beautiful wife. I took an early morning drive and found Mike's house in Haddonfield. I rolled slowly past and thought about all the love that emanated from within its walls. I returned to the hotel and started this post. And now, as I sit here in sunlight on a beautiful Sunday morning, I can see the connections as my wife's words come back to me. Speaking about Cozette's character and my father, in conjunction with Mike and this remembrance weekend, she said, "Hopefully she is wise... kind, and a lover of music."
The sun still shines.