I stopped in Los Angeles to spend a few days with one of my oldest friends, Mike Hand. Mike and I met in 1990 when he was my client, a rising star in the marketing department of Procter & Gamble. We were kindred spirits, blue collar kids from small, factory towns on opposite ends of the Pennsylvania rust belt. We were the products of parents who struggled with myriad demons, yet managed to patch together some semblance of a family life for us.
Mike moved West, earning a coveted MBA from Stanford and settled in Los Angeles, where he now runs a successful corporate health insurance brokerage. Along the way he met a women who gave him three boys. I urged him to get married, to make it official for the sake of the boys. He did and never forgets to remind that my counsel was for shit.
I've never met his boys until my stopover in LA. Henry is 17, a senior. The twins, Edward and Anthony are 14. They are, like their father, loud, cynical, brash, wholly inappropriate, opinionated and argumentative. Oh, and spoiled. Mike's home is like a frat house, with no less than six, big-screen, HD TVs, pizza boxes, donut boxes, clothing, backpacks and books strewn throughout. It was a glorious weekend of football and trash talking.
It would be easy to criticize Mike's parenting style as lax and overly indulgent. But I witnessed a father who is loving and affectionate...and who gives his boys the freedom to be their own person, to express themselves regardless of what the world may think of their mode of expression.
Then there are Sundays. Mike and the boys prepare bag lunches, a sandwich, fruit, maybe a snack. They then distribute the lunches at one of the many homeless encampments in West LA. The boys grumble, especially on NFL weekends. But Mike is deaf to the grumbling, knowing that the humility gained through this simple act of charity will pay dividends for his sons. At some point.
One thing I didn't know, that Mike forgot to mention, was that two years ago, he and his new wife Kelly, adopted a baby girl, Samantha. She is a dream. One assumes that little Samantha will grow up NOT possessing many of the less endearing personality traits common to her father and siblings. But then again, knowing Mike, I could be wrong.