A Mother's Love Never Leaves Us, A Night with Brad Meltzer

Over the past two years now I have gone to a number of book signing events hosted by Brad Meltzer. In all of the events I have been to so far there have been guest appearances by other authors, radio personalities, and the children of famous celebrities. For Brad's latest book the Fifth Assassin, a direct sequel to his previous book The Inner Circle, I didn't expect anything less. But what we got tonight was something so much more powerful and unexpected. 

Brad looking nice in his suite. I didn't have a great angle for tonight. I was running late and got stuck in the back.

Brad looking nice in his suite. I didn't have a great angle for tonight. I was running late and got stuck in the back.

Brad started the evening with stories about his research, and the inspiration behind developing the presidential assassin in his latest novel. He joked at the fact that he is the only author releasing a book about presidential assassins just a mere five days before the Inauguration. I thought that it was great timing for a release, and makes his novel even more compelling. 

Brad continued on talking about how the previous night in New York he set a world record with the most people in a gathered area using decoder rings. He exclaimed that every other book signing event from that point forward is downhill. 

I peaked at my first event and I can’t top it, because now New York City is so much more nerdier than Washington D.C.
— Brad Meltzer

It was a lighthearted moment delivered in pitch perfect way. His deadpan delivery made you second guess how serious he was really being. He joked with the audience a little while longer before turning over the microphone for questions. For me what came next was the highlight of the night. Someone had asked Brad to talk about his time with the USO. Several months ago he worked with the USO to go overseas and meet with the troops of our nation to thank them for their dedication and service. On the way over, his entourage in itself is the stuff of comedic genius  It consisted of a group of nerdy authors, professional UFC fighters, and the cheerleaders from the Dallas Cowboys. "Just picture for a moment", he said. "This strange gathering of people that have been clumped together to meet our troops."

It was funny to imagine but the purpose of the mission was very important. It was during this time that he was approached by a gentleman who thanked him for helping to get over 30,000 books donated to the USO. Up until this point only a handful of people knew Brad had been a driving force behind this donation. He was very stunned that someone knew this story.

I didn’t publicize it and I hardly mentioned it to anyone.
— Brad Meltzer

Brad told the man who approached him that he shouldn't be thanking him, but a sailor aboard a submarine was the person who had inspired him. About ten years ago Brad had received a letter from a fan thanking him for his books, and how they had helped this sailor through tough times. He went on to mention that their library was so small, and the selection was very limited. After reading the letter Brad decided to call multiple publishers, and ask them if they had any books they could donate to the USO. It was during this time that more than 30,000 books made their way to the USO. After telling the man his story Brad decided that he was going to track down that sailor. More than ten years had passed by at this point, and his email address had change. After some very clever sleuthing Brad was able to find the sailor's phone number. Several weeks ago Brad actually made the call to the sailor, and he reintroduced himself to the man.

My name is Brad Meltzer and ten years ago you sent me an email that inspired me, and I just wanted to thank you.
— Brad Meltzer

He went on to ask the gentleman how he was doing, and to Brad's surprise he said not well. His mother had just passed away from breast cancer two days prior to him calling. For those that didn't know Brad's mother had also passed away from breast cancer several years earlier. He had a moment of clarity and told the man, "I think that I was sent to give you a message." The man simply replied, "What message?" Before Brad told us what he said; he explained that when his mother had died he received all sorts of well wishes and good advice that was really bad at that time. Almost nothing anyone can say will make you feel better when you are grieving for the loss of a loved one. However, there was one thing someone said that stood out and made him feel better.

A mother’s love never leaves us.
— Brad Meltzer

That was the message he delivered to the man on the other side of the phone that day. One letter from over ten years ago got Brad involved in the USO, which than lead to him being on the trip he was on. From there he was approached and thanked for his donation many years ago, which then inspired Brad to thank that sailor, and lead them to this conversation where he passed on a very important message to that man on a day he needed it the most. It's funny how life had a way of bringing them into contact with each other at just the right moment.

It was a powerful moment, but I saved the best for last. That was the last question and story of the night when a man raised his hand. Brad looked at him and before he had a chance to say anything he stood and said, "Can I finally shake your hand?" Brad's face welled up, and the two walked towards each other to hug.  

The sailor from many years ago.

The sailor from many years ago.

It was the sailor from the story Brad had just told, and everyone in the audience had a tear in their eye. It was a very special and magical moment, and I am privileged to have been there tonight to witness it. I walked into the bookstore tonight unsure of what surprises or people there might be, and I left with something so much more than I ever expected.  

I wanted to thank Brad for putting on a nice evening, and I am looking forward to reading his latest novel.

Till next time thanks again and take care!

- Robby Silk

IMG_0888.jpg

Oh and for those decoder rings he mentioned. Well I forgot to get one. Maybe next time!

A Night with Brad Meltzer, Alexandra Reeves, and Family

A little over a year ago I attended my first book signing event with Brad Meltzer. I documented my night that evening, and I had a great time meeting Brad and hearing what he had to say. I was very moved that night and became inspired to work harder towards my own goals, and to help others the best I could. In my life I have been shifting through the good, the bad, and the ugly to find out who I want to become. What I've found is that thinking about who you want to become is easy; the hard part is putting in the work to become that person. Since then I have continued to do my photography and share my writings with others through my website. I have also since then started working on a novel for nearly the past year. The part about success I took from Brad that evening was that there is no easy path or sure fire way to become successful. There is only one simple way, and that is through hard work and perseverance.

Very powerful pose here.

So fast forward to this year, a new venue, and a new book from Mr. Meltzer. Tonight's event was about his latest book Heroes for My Daughter. When my son was born this past November I purchased his book Heroes for My Son, and I wanted to bring it in for Brad to sign as a gift for him. For any parent that has not read either book I have to suggest that you pick up and read it to them today! Seriously...Go! Not only does it teach great lessons for your kids, but it contains very important lessons for everyone of any age. One of the most touching moments from his book are how ordinary his final heroes are...his parents and grandparents.  

Much more relaxed.

This to me was such a great way to end the book, because lets face it, for most of us our parents have been there everyday of our lives teaching us literally everything we know. The amount of hard work and sacrifice our parents have done for us really doesn't become apparent until we ourselves become one. Since becoming a father I have a brand new appreciation for everything that my parents have done for me. What was most striking to me about what Brad had to say was that I finally got it. In fact everything I have ever needed to know I have already learned from my father, mother, and grandparents. They had already taught me these valuable life lessons I just needed to finally understand it. 

The evening was very touching as Brad started out talking about what he wanted his daughter to learn and take from this book. And he mentions that there is one word in particular that he uses over and over again through out the entirety of the book, and that word is fighter. Because he doesn't want his daughter to be a princess in distress waiting for prince charming to come save her. He wants her to become a fighter and to stand up for herself, to take on the bully, and stand for what's right. And with that he then introduced the inspiration for his book his daughter Lila. In fact not only was his daughter present but both sons and his wife as well. It was family affair and Brad put it very eloquently, "what was I supposed to do leave them home during their spring break?"

Looking the part of a very proud father.

The most touching and moving moment of the night was when Brad had his daughter introduce the daughter of one of his greatest heroes Christopher Reeves. Everyone knows about Christopher Reeves and how he broke his neck and became paralyzed, but what made him so special was not the fact he played superman, one of the greatest heroes ever, but because he was the ordinary Clark Kent. He was fragile, delicate, and susceptible just like every single one of us. His daughter Alexandra went on to thank Brad and read the passage about her father from the book. His accident would have crushed the will in most people, but Christopher Reeves wasn't like most people. In fact when the doctors told him he would never feel anything again he proved them wrong when regained partial control of his fingers and toes, and again when he regained most of his sensation throughout his body. He became an advocate and spokesman for spinal cord research and treatment. He fought for new research, lobbied congress, and refused to stay down. There wasn't a dry eye in the crowd, and this was one of the most unique and special moments I have been privileged to witness firsthand.

A very touching moment.

She was such a cute little girl!

Alexandra reading the passage from the book about her father.

Brad finished up the night by taking some time to talk about his charity Ordinary People Change the World. And of course after that he started to meet everyone that came out to see him and sign their copies of the book. It was a great evening and I felt very special that I got to attend it. I decided to wait towards the end of the line so the parents with children could go first, and I was very glad that I did because one of Brad's cast mates from his show Decoded was there. Scott Rolle lives nearby the DC area and he made it down to the event to meet and sign autographs as well. This was the second time I have had the chance to talk with him, and I wanted to thank him for taking the time to talk with me. It was very nice and I even got to take a picture with him!

Me and Scott!

I wanted to conclude this journal entry with a quote from Brad's book, and a very special thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your hard work and inspiration will help spark the change this world needs:

Thank you again Brad for putting on a very nice event!

When the first superman movie came out, I was frequently asked, "What is a hero?" My answer was that a hero is someone who commits a courageous action without considering the consequences... Now my definition is completely different. I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. They are the real heroes, and so are the families and friends who have stood by them. - Christopher Reeve

Mean mugging for fun. I apparently didn't get the memo!

Brad Meltzer Heroes for My Daughter book signing event!

Brad Meltzer is in town tonight promoting his new book: Heroes for My Daughter. Tonight: April 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm he will be at the Barnes & Noble book store located in Bethesda Maryland. He will be giving a short talk and reading several passages from his book. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Brad he also has a television show on the History channel called DeCoded. I went to one of his book signing events last year and documented my time with him that evening. You can read about it here. Heroes for My Daughter is a follow up to his previous book Heroes for My Son which was released a couple of years ago. I purchased this book when my son was born earlier this year, and I must say that I greatly enjoyed the stories and message the book presents. I don’t have any daughters yet, but I am going to pick up a copy of this book tonight just in case I have a daughter one day! I hope to see all of you out there tonight!

Philosophical Thought of the Day

I wanted to share the Eulogy of Brad Meltzer's father. I thought it would be a nice way to share his legacy with others.

- Robby Silk

 

Just felt the need to share this -- and share him.  It may be the thing I'm most proud of writing:  here's the eulogy I wrote for my father.  And yes, feel free to share with others.

Fighting the Lightning: A Eulogy for Stewart Meltzer  
by Brad Meltzer        
 
My father was struck by lighting.  And so was his father, my grandfather.

That's not a metaphor.  They were both actually struck by a flaming bolt of lightning from the sky.

And though this is my father's funeral, to fully paint him, I need to start with my grandfather.

My father's father was the kind of dad who...let me just say it...he wasn't a good father.  My grandfather was a well known boxer in the military, and the sad truth is, he put those fists on my Dad.  I don't tell you that to elicit sympathy or make you feel bad.  I tell you because it explains the core of my father -- and what my father wanted to be:  He simply wanted to not be like his own father.

It wasn't easy for my Dad.  When it comes to bad habits, we're so often taught them. 

And that's how life is, right?  As adults, we all know right from wrong, but no matter how hard we try, what we see as children colors how we see the world for the rest of our lives.  We can try to escape, but fate has a way of making us like our own parents, whether we like it or not. 

And so, back to the lightning. 

When my grandfather was in the army, he was struck by a bolt of lighting.  The resulting burns -- and whatever mental damage came with them -- led to his eventual discharge from the military.

A generation later, my Dad (as a boy) was at sleepaway camp, bouncing on his bed at Camp Na-Sho-Pa when another lightning bolt came from the sky -- I swear, this is what was told to us -- and hit my father, who sank to the floor.  They thought he was dead.  They even put a sheet over his head.  He was dead!  And then, in his first (but not last) moment of death-defiance, Stewie Meltzer sat up and blurted, What's everyone looking at?

Two lightning bolts.  Two men.  Father and son.  If I wrote this crap myself, my editor would tell me no one would believe it.

But there it was:  my father's destiny.  One lighting bolt hits.  Then another follows.

To be clear, for much of his life, my Dad doesn't do much to step off the path.

When he was born, it was because my grandmother fell -- and it was the fall that sent her into labor.  When my Dad was little, his grades were bad, but when his teachers picked out the occupation he was suited for, they said he should be a mayor.

As a teenager, he was exactly what he was till his last days:  a loud-mouthed, sports-obsessed super-fan, who only took his eye off the ball to look at a passing pretty girl.  His number one sidekick was his cousin Harvey.  Harvey was the pitcher.  My dad was the catcher.  And let me say, my father was an superb athlete.  He wasn't good.  He was fantastic.  A star, who almost played minor league ball, except for those bad knees. 

During summers, my Dad and his cousin would travel camp to camp...challenging and trying to take on whole teams.  The camps would look at these two guys and say, "Sure.  We'll take that bet."  And then Harvey would throw his smoke, striking out everyone -- and him and my Dad would walk away with the day's money in their pockets.  And if there was a bad call...or an argument that they were being suckered?  That's when Stewie's temper would erupt.  Could my father and his cousin fight an entire baseball team?  They tried.  A lot.

Now, I know there are many people in this room who think they've seen my Dad's temper.  You are wrong.  You've see Stewie mad when he was in his forties, fifties, or even sixties.  That was nothing compared to the hurricane force that was my father's temper when he was in his twenties.  And again, he learned it right from his own father.  My Dad rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers; my grandfather rooted for the Yankees.  There was the perfect metaphor.  Opposite teams; bitter, hateful rivalry; and both from the exact same home.

Burning with that anger, my father took the abuse from my grandfather.  And he took extra hits when he was trying to protect his younger brother, my Uncle Jeff.  It was that burning anger that my Dad brought everywhere.  One summer at the bungalow colony, in a burst of it, I remember him being so mad, he flipped over a pool table.  A pool table.  It took four of us to lift one of those. 

And when I was growing up in Brooklyn, nearly every door in our apartment had a huge, deep dent right at the center of it: from where my Dad, in whatever fight he was having, punched a hole in it.  His bedroom...every bathroom...they all had a hole.  But y'know what room was never touched?

My room.  It was the room I shared with my sister.  He would never lay a hand on my mother or any of us.  And he never punched a hole in our door. 

So here's where the lightning story takes it's turn.  My father may've never been one for introspection, but when I was born, he recognized the choice in front of him.  Indeed, until that moment, as much as he didn't want to be like his own father, my Dad was on my grandfather's path:  My grandfather was a salesman in the garment industry, working with schmatas; my father was a salesman and buyer in the garment industry, working with schmatas.   My grandfather was a natural charmer, able to sell air to a fish; my father was a charmer, able to sell air to a fish. Two lightning bolts; one following right after the other.

But when I arrived, my father made his decision.  For all his faults and bluster and repetition of his father's faults and bluster, my Dad was more determined than anything in this entire world to be the most loving father on this planet.  And that is where my father beats every single person in this room.

My first memory of my father is him coming home from work when I was little.  He'd pick me up and put me on the top of the refrigerator, my little feet dangling over the freezer door.  And in that moment, I realize he had the two things he loved most in life together in the exact same space:  his family and food.

As I got older, when I started writing and I asked my first editor, "How do books sell?" he told me that books are very different than movies.  With movies, if you like the preview and the big star, you go see the movie. But with books, it's usually because someone says to you, "You gotta read this book."  So he said to me, if you want your novel to sell, one of two things has to be true:  either you know lots of people.  Or you know a couple people with really big mouths.

Now let's really talk about my father.

He was a big guy -- big presence -- big voice.  As a dear friend said, you knew when he entered the room, any room, whether it was nearby or not.  People just took to him.  They were pulled to him like gravity.

And with that voice.  Howyadoin?  What'sitmakeadifference?  His first impression was that of a mobster.  And for those who hated him, I'm sorry to break it to you, but he hated you too.  He was a giant ball of chaos and emotion, and it never mixed well with those who demanded too much order in their lives.  But at the center of that chaos was always one thing:  a blind, animalistic devotion.  No one was as devoted and as protective as my Dad.

When I was nine or ten, back in Brooklyn, I remember when a group of older boys pretended they were my friends and said, "C'mon, come hang with us."  These were the cooler kids, so I was excited.  But the moment they had me alone in the little jungle of trees behind our old apartment building, they took handfuls of prickly itchy plants and rubbed them in my hair, where they knotted and were unable to be taken out without cutting.  I ran back to my apartment, hysterically crying.  But it was father who found me.  I remember his rage as he asked, "Where are those boys now?"  I remember following right behind him as he plowed downstairs, raced up to them and literally grabbed the main bully by the neck and lifted him physically off the ground.  The threat was a real one:  "You go near my boy again and I. Will. Kill. You!"  I remember being thrilled my father was doing it, even though I was just as terrified that he was really going to kill this boy.  That's not an exaggeration. 

My favorite thing is that, in the past few days, a dear friend reminded me of when we were sitting at a Marlins game a few years ago and I saw a group of boys starting to bully Jonas and Matthew and Nicholas.  He reminded me that I exploded, threatening to beat up these little bastards who were messing with my boys.  As my friend said, "That's not a Teri influence, or a Flam influence, or an NMB influence.  That was pure Brooklyn Stewie."  I'm proud to carry that ruthless protective spirit in me.  It is what makes me who I am to this very day.  And I thank you, Dad, for showing me how hard a man should love his family.

As time went on, that protectiveness found new outlets.  When I got into Michigan and he knew he couldn't afford it, he said to me, "You're gonna go there," determined to never let me down. 

When my first book came out, it was my father who was the one who took it from the bottom shelf in the store (where it was filed alphabetically) and put it right at the top, where he thought it belonged (fuck alphabetically).

It was my father who'd go into the local Barnes & Noble and say, in that raspy ridiculous voice, "Yes, I'm wondering if you have the new Brad Meltzer book?  He's my favorite author in the world!"  And the clerk would say, "Mr. Meltzer...we know he's your son.  We know."

And I remember when my second book came out and my father was going in for hip replacement surgery.  To be clear, he was terrified of this surgery because when he was eighteen years old and had knee surgery, he died on the table.  He flatlined.  And they brought him back to life.  So now, he knows he doesn't have the body of an eighteen year old, so he's terrified that he's going to die on the table.  These are his last moments on earth!  And his blood pressure is raging so hard, they have to give him tranquilizers just to calm him down before he can even get the anesthetic.  So they calm him down; they take him upstairs.  And he's up there for an hour...an hour and a half...  I'm saying, "Please, God, let him be okay."  And after two hours, they finally bring him down, and the doctor says, "Do you wanna go see him?"  Of course I wanna see him.  And I go into his room...and he's totally out of it.  He's filled with tranquilizers and all the anesthetic...and he opens his eyes...he has no idea where he is, and -- this is a true story -- he says, "I love you."  And then he says, "I sold a dozen books up there."

And I said, "That's what you're thinking of when you're this close to death?  That's what you're thinking of?"  And I asked him, "Did you tell them about the paperbacks?"

When every book came out, we'd make a t-shirt or a hat.  But it was my Dad who turned it into a regular part of his wardrobe.  He'd be wearing one of my novels on his hat, and a "Brad Meltzer" t-shirt, and still going up to people and say, "Have you heard about the show Brad Meltzer's Decoded?  He's my favorite author."

The truth was, I was his only author.  He read eight novels in his life:  The Tenth Justice...Dead Even...only the ones I wrote.  I'm not making that up.  Like my sister said, all he cared about was us.  And no one sold us better than my Dad.

In fact, a year ago, when he was going in for heart surgery and we were interviewing doctors, we went to this one doctor at Mt. Sinai who said, "When I do your heart surgery, we don't cut you open.  We do a small incision, and it doesn't hurt, and you'll be up in a day..."  And we know he's lying to us, but my Dad's happy to hear it.  Then we go into the next doctor's office, who says, "Oh, your name is Meltzer.  You're Brad.  I like your books."  Of course, I thank him.  And then he explains, "I do the surgery the old-fashioned way.  I crack your chest...I cut you open.  It's painful.  It takes weeks to recuperate.  And I've lost people on the table." 

So as we walk out, and I swear this is true, my father says, We found our guy.  The old-fashioned one.

And I say, "Are you insane?  Didn't you hear what he said?  They crack your chest...it's painful...you can die on the table..."

"Yeah," my father says.  "But he buys the books."

For me, one of the best came just a few months ago, when I brought my Dad to the Decoded filming here in Florida.  I introduce him to the producer and cameramen and sound and makeup people.  I give him a place to sit.  And I tell him that once they say "Action," he has to do one thing:  be quiet.  Have you ever asked my Dad to be quiet?  Now...it's a two minute take.  Two minutes.  That's it.  But as I start speaking, I can feel it. It's like a black hole has opened on the side of the room and my father is shaking, fighting the urge to blurt something.  It's physically killing him.  And then, the instant they yell, "Cut," my father unleashes, telling the producer something vitally important, like where the best new Chinese restaurant is that he just found on Oakland Park Boulevard.  Looking back, it's the perfect analogy:  my father, Stu Meltzer, could never be contained.

Everything else in my father's life was unplanned.  It was chaos.  Like when he lost his job and decided to move from Brooklyn to Florida.  He was 39 years old, but this was going to be what he called the "do-over" of life -- he was going to start his life over from scratch.  In 1983, he put me, my sister, and my Mom in the car, and headed to Florida with no job, no place to live, and only $1,200 to his name.  My Dad left it all to happenstance.  To his dying day, he couldn't fathom consequences.

Yet on the very day I was born, my father went to the liquor store, and bought a bottle of Dom Perignon, which he planned to open up on my wedding day.  Indeed, when we got in the car and drove from Brooklyn to Florida, most of our belongings -- clothes and furniture -- that's the stuff that went in the moving van.  But the items you don't trust to the movers -- the items you take directly in the car with you -- that's not stuff.  That's your life.  And the ONLY items I remember in that car with us were the two bottles of champagne that sat behind our backseat headrests, rolling back and forth and baking in the sun.  My Dad knew nothing about taking care of champagne, but those bottles were us.  We were his life.

It was the one plan my father made.  And the only plan he never gave up on -- the only plan of his existence:  Being that loving father to me and my sister.  Making sure that if he had to sacrifice himself and take it square in the chest, the lightning would never strike twice.

And of course, that extended to his grandchildren.

I will be blunt here:  I know my Dad loved me.  He loved me as much as any father has ever loved any son.  But.  He loved his grandkids more.

He knew the sports gene skipped my generation.  But it didn't skip his Jonas.  My father never missed a game.  Never.  A few weeks back, his health was so bad, he could barely stand at the baseball practice.  So he drove his car up near the fence and simply watched from the front seat of his car.  And this was just a practice.

It was the same with his Lila.  He couldn't walk a few months ago either.  But that didn't stop him from taking her -- alone -- to Aventura Mall, where he let Lila walk him from the Disney Store, to the opposite end of the mall, then back again when she finally picked out what she really wanted.  You've seen my father walk -- the way he'd hurl himself forward with each lumbering step.  I know that walk hurt my father.  But he made it for Lila.

And same for Theo, named after his Teri.  Just yesterday, we found even more cars and presents and little videos that my Dad had stashed away just for him.  It is why, in his coffin right now, my father is wearing a baseball cap.  It says, "Best Pop Ever."

I know where he first learned how to be that kind of Dad:  he saw it in my mother's father -- my Poppy Benjamin.  Like my father's father, Benjamin came from nothing.  But instead of an angry, permanent chip set into his shoulder, my mother's father was filled with calm and satisfaction -- content with the richness that came from nothing more than a loving family.  To this day, I believe that relationship -- between my father and his father-in-law, my Poppy Benjamin -- was as vital to my father's existence as his own relationship with my Mom.

And I know he learned it from my Mom, who loved him as passionately as he loved her.  I know the word "passion" is an overused one, especially when describing a marriage.  But that's what my parents were.

When they met, my Mom actually had a date with another boy that night.  My Dad said to her, "Let's go talk."  Three hours later, she broke the date.  Even back then, my Dad was the sensei of schmooze.

But it was a perfect match.  Neither of them apologized for who they were.  If they loved you, you knew it.  If they hated you, you knew it too.  They loved hard, and played hard, fought hard, and went out to Studio 54 until three in the morning back in the Seventies.  They had high times and low times, but man, did those two love each other -- which is all any marriage can hope for.  And in the end, especially the way he missed her, they died like any other rock stars: disappearing young rather than fading silently away.

Without question, my Mom always knew that the big-tough-Stewie may've been the role he was taught to play...but deep down, it was the big soft mushy-hearted guy who was really at my Dad's core.

Still...to be truthful, in those early years here in Florida, my dad was still a salesman like my grandfather.
He was a loudmouth. Like my grandfather.
He had a temper. Like my grandfather.
But somewhere along the way, my father started building his own life.

I remember just a few years after we moved here, going on an insurance sales call with my Dad.  The entire way, he told me about the people we were going to see...what their family was like...what Italian restaurant they told him about...where their kids were going to school.

My father didn't just come to sell you (though, yes, of course he did that).  He came to get into your life.

Of course, that's the reason people kept buying insurance from my Dad.  If you wanted cheaper prices and good, informed service...he wasn't your best bet.  But thousands of people paid more and spent the little bit extra on their insurance just because their plan came with that added benefit:  my father.  

For Stewie, as everyone called him, that ability to talk to you -- or any stranger -- was primal.  And yes, it'd be easy to say that it came from a need to connect...from a hole that was never filled by his own father.  But y'know what my Dad would say to that?  "That's a buncha bullshit."

What made my father different from every person in this room is that my Dad loved to connect.  He loved to kibitz.  My father is in the Guinness Book of kibitzing and making friends.  Don't believe me?

- In the history of the state of Florida, my father is the only person wearing a baseball cap in his driver's license photo -- and that was even before he had the scars on his forehead.  He talked the DMV into it.

- At his dentist's office, they told me that even when they had the tools down his throat, he was still talking.

- When he went into the hospital, his beloved Jennifer, the waitress from Bagel Cove, visited multiple time to see how he was doing.

- He then, last year, got invited to the wedding of the receptionist at the dentist office.  Did you hear that?  Y'know that receptionist that everyone walks right past?  My Dad got invited to her wedding.

- Over the years, sure, my father made lots of enemies.  But look around.  He made far more friends.

I know.  My father was a walking contradiction.  The first to point out the hot girl at the baseball game...and then he'd go home and watch his favorite movies:  chick flicks like Must Love Dogs.  Serendipity (his favorite). He raised me on Cannonball Run and Three Stooges, but as he got older, my Dad loved sappy crappy movies.  In one moment, he was loud and cursing and telling the most offensive dirty jokes...but then he'd be bringing everyone in the dentist's office chocolates on Valentine's Day (which he did -- how else do you think he got invited to the wedding?). As my Mom knew, he was a mush at heart.  And it was that soft mushy spot that was the most attractive part of him. THAT'S what let him connect the way he did.

Yes, he could turn on a dime, and had that temper, and he was always his own biggest worst enemy -- but if you watered him with kindness, no one -- repeat -- no one produced more love.  He had a never ending well of generosity that he shared with anyone he could possibly engage, from the haircutter...the dry cleaner...the dentist...the valets who parked his car...the motherland of Bagel Cove...if you flew with him, he'd walk the aisles of the plane, working the crowd, and by the time he landed, he'd have sold fifty books and have half a dozen new people that he'd brought into his life.  You think they were just acquaintances.  They were friends.

It became even clearer after the past few weeks and news spread that he was sick.  Every single day, there'd be a new person in the hospital, visiting him.  I didn't know any of them -- and I certainly had no idea of the impact he'd had on their lives.  But they all knew about Jonas and Lila and Theo and me -- and they all came -- all of them telling me how much they loved Stewie.

I always knew he was a family man.  But until recently, I don't think I ever appreciated the role he played in this community.  When I walked into Bagel Cove a few days after my father died, they were passing out photocopies -- dozens of copies -- of the funeral details since so many people had asked.  On the back of the paper placemats, one of the waitresses said that she was collecting phone numbers of people who wanted updates on my Dad.  As she unfolded the sheet, it was filled with names and numbers.

And so, thank you to all of you -- the people who looked out for my father all these years. I appreciate every single one of you in a way I can't express.  It takes a village to raise a Stewie.  But it also take a Stewie to make a village.

A special thanks to those who took care of him after my Mom died:  Jennifer and all his pals at Bagel Cove, where, yes, they will be naming a daily special after my father.  All the valets as his place.  Plus my pals Mike Lemont and Wayne Pollak, the two doctors who looked out for him and all of us.

In the end, during my last real conversation with my father, I knew he was on his deathbed.  We'd decided not to tell him to go be with my Mom -- we knew he was too scared of being sick and didn't want to panic him.  But when everyone left the room, I told my Dad two things I wanted him to hear.  And one of them was this:  That as my Dad, he was never like his own father.  Never.

To this day, I know where my ability to kibbitz comes from.  And my love of dumb comedies.  And my ability to curse.  And fight.  And lose my temper, especially if you mess with my family.  And love my kids with such intense, blind love that I swear I can outshine the sun.  
I know that any strength or confidence I have comes from that love my father -- and mother -- built as a foundation in me.
I know that that love will never recede, especially when he said to me, a few years ago when things weren't going well, the words that I repeat to myself every day:  "You're still our little boy."

I know my father gave me my best parts.  But no one gave him his.

Stewie Meltzer found his own best parts on his own.  He hunted and collected them and found them in his wife, in her family especially my Poppy and the Katzs, in us, in the Flams, in my Uncle Jeff and Aunt Debbie and of course, in every single one of you. 

Everything my Dad got in life, he fought for. Especially when it came to kindness.  But that was also the very first thing he gave back.

He lived loud, and proud, and always with his heart out on his sleeve.

But best of all, he proved once and for all that love is a far more powerful force than lightning.

I love you, Pop.