Rancho Cucamonga, CA
My father passed away two years ago, and because he’d lived such a long and amazing life, he’d outlived anyone in the local area who would have noticed an obituary in the newspaper.
So, I wrote this on Facebook at the time. Nearly everyone who knows me, or my family, and is active in social media was able to see it. In many ways, Facebook has become the new “local newspaper” for things like this…
… and, because of the way your newsfeed works, these kinds of posts are actually seen by more folks than would normally see a published obit.
I’ve decided to republish it here on the blog again, because I still marvel at the man.
For everyone who sent condolences, thank you. I hope, however, that I have adequately explained just how much I appreciate that Pop was around for so long, with his mind intact and vibrant (despite his body slowly falling apart)…
… and that, at 95, the family he left behind prefers to celebrate his long life rather than grieve over his passing. He was ready to go. We’d discussed it for years, he and I, and we were not afraid of the final moment.
Anyway, here’s the post, once again. I’ve written tearful farewells to my mentor, Gary Halbert, to my good pal Scott Haines, and to Steve Jobs (who influenced so many of us) here on the blog… and Pop deserves to stand beside those men in the archives. I can only hope, when the time comes, someone takes the time to a little something for me…
I am the man I am today, because of the man who raised me. Pop’s life is one for the history books — born in the Industrial Age (and he mastered several difficult crafts), witnessed the birth of the Nuclear Age (while fighting the Hun in WWII), and actually grokked the snarling new Information Age even as a very old man. (We Skyped with each other weekly for years.)
He enjoyed his relatively quiet life — after surviving the Depression as a teen and the Battle of the Bulge (Hitler’s last surge) as a freaked-out 22-year-old infantryman, he was eager to limit the serious drama for awhile — and lived well as a happy working-class warrior… not counting the years he patiently endured the raucous and painfully awkward entry to adulthood of his youngest son (me).
Along the way, he never ceased doing the right thing, always. Even when it involved heavy sacrifice. He put his back into his work, and his heart into family life — his best friend was his brother-in-law, his favorite activities time with the relatives.
He never actually sat me down and said “do this, don’t do this”… which made the lessons difficult to decipher. But eventually, I realized it was the greatest way to impart real wisdom. Making me figure it out forced me to look outside myself, and compare how other’s behavior contrasted to what I saw in Pop. God knows I wouldn’t have listened to a lecture, anyway.
It’s god damned hard to live a life dedicated to being fair, to sharing the wealth, to actively support and fight for the success of other people. We all have a nasty little selfish sociopath hiding inside, and it takes effort to crush the little bugger.
But that’s how you become a bigger man. A better man. Someone who will help shoulder the burdens of life with you, in ways that help you grow.
One of the best tributes I’ve heard the past few days came from a pal of mine from the wild days of our youth. He reminded me how my parents made our house a sanctuary for everyone — nobody ever went hungry around Mom, and every kid (even the raw bastards-in-training) got a fair shake from the old man. So many of my friends had parents who refused to allow visitors, who loathed kids, who had little or no time for their own progeny… and our household showed a different way to do it. An inclusive, safe place where messes were tolerated (but cleaned up), mistakes were shrugged off as learning experiences, and the pleasures of company outweighed the occasional impositions of visitors.
It took me a loooooooong time to grow up. I had to bungle my way through my entire twenties and a few early years of my thirties before I had the epiphany that launched me into the biz world as a freelance copywriter.
And you don’t survive the kind of misadventures I went through on that path without some serious support from someone like Pop. He would have preferred I’d just pick a profession and get busy, but he held his tongue. He suspected I’d eventually get it together, and instinctively knew a little patience (no matter how much he had to grind his teeth) was going to pay off.
He and I talked and wrote to each other, faithfully, for decades. He taught me how to hit a short pitch shot (as well as an inside fastball), and I shared what I learned from Boomer culture about meditation, expanding your consciousness, and getting past hang-ups. He showed me how a man faces adversity, and I gave him a peek into entrepreneurship (which fascinated the hell out of him).
He worked hard, played hard, and never took his eye off the ball. His goal was to live a full life, and he did that. The last good day I had with him, when he was 95, we laughed until our bellies ached, and he beat me 4 out of 5 games at rummy. His body was falling apart, but his mind was as sharp as ever.
R.I.P., Pop. You’ll be missed terribly, but you continue to live in my heart, and my actions, every day.
Edwin Carlton, 1920-2016
"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."
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Indeed, a beautiful tribute to your father. Very moving.
Great read John, great read.. Tears me up a bit and makes me miss my own father who’s passed away for almost 8 years now.
They taught us to be better men and it will be cherished forever.
Take care John.
Awesome post, John. I never knew my father–I can only imagine the feeling of loss.
Nice tribute to your father.
Just buried my Mother this weekend. I wish her mind was sharp until the end but the funeral would have been much harder. She fought a battle with Parkinson’s Disease and as a side effect had Lewy Body Demetia. Last 3 years in a Nursing Home with behavioral issues. The dementia changed a sweet lady into a person we didn’t know or recognize anymore. For us it was a blessing that she finally died. It was hard seeing her struggle and suffer at the end but I am at peace now that she has passed. She is in a better place. We don’t get to choose how our loved ones die but it sure is a blessing if their minds are sharp and you can express your love for them and know they understand.
You are truly blessed to have had such a wonderful man for a father. The fortunate ones are the ones that can go through adversity and come out a better person. They are also the true hero’s.
That was a wonderful piece John. I’m sure your Pop is just as proud of you – as you are of him. Congratulations for being a part of such a wonderful family.
Dave.. up in Vancouver/Canada
My father recently passed away at the age of 93. Love the post. Thanks very grateful.
I can only hope one day that I reach the level of respect and awesomeness of your dad or of my grandfather (who raised me).
Men like that are rare and are to be cherished.
Great tribute John
Re: manifesto for a great life
Great email ! I can see why Gary & Dan thought so highly of you as a copywriter.
I am currently reading a book by Ernest Hemingway about writing .
My takeaways so far are:
1) Write first thing in the morning for 6 hours and then go get drunk
2) Each day – always start at the beginning and tweak and edit until you get to
where you left off , from the day before
3) Always stop on a high note when you are in the groove- not when you’ve run out of things to say.
4) Write about how it made you feel so the reader can take the journey with you.
5) Write true and clear sentences. Adjectives are for Sissies .
6) Writing is hard work. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,