He called me a “budding Tony Robbins.” I was 19 years old, living in a hick town, and had no idea what he meant. The nearest Barnes & Noble was an hour away and I hadn’t heard of the Internet. Tony who?
He was the only adult who never told me my ideas were stupid.
I remember my own dad once read a paper I had written. I saw him reading it and nodding his head in agreement. “Who wrote this,” he asked.
He laughed and put it down.
Greg was different.
We’d talk when on break from our jobs at Menard’s Hardware. We talked about real things – the meaning of life, economic policy, and relationships with women.
He was as smart as I and more worldly. He recommended books I had never heard of.
He would look at me with genuine affection and a bit of amusement.
My plan was to get out of that shit hole town as soon as I could, even though I had no way to know that the world was better.
He knew that the world was better, and yet he was the one who would remain. How that must’ve hurt.
Fifty percent of his take-home pay went to child support. He taught me that “deadbeat dads” usually are not guilty of refusing to pay child support, as it’s impossible not to pay child support. It’s deducted right out of your check.
When his hours got cut from 40 a week to 32, he had to pay the same amount of child support. His paycheck was less than mine, a part-time teenage employee.
He was looking at a potential jail sentence during his contempt hearing. He simply couldn’t afford to live off of the after-tax income of $12 an hour at 32 hours a week. His ex-wife didn’t care.
He was an economic libertarian and told me to read Atlas Shrugged. His philosophy was right, but his mindset was wrong.
We talked a lot about women and his struggles with his wife. He had read Women are from Venus and Men are From Mars. He did everything that book suggested, and yet still couldn’t win his wife back.
He was a middle-aged man who lived in squalor.
I went over to his place for dinner. He and his brother and another friend all inhaled plates full of spaghetti. I was a little disgusted as they were all obese.
Looking back, I see why he was fat. He was brainwashed. He did the right things and yet there he was – sitting around in a sweat-stained white t-shirt eating 99-cent spaghetti.
His wife had left him and taken away his children. He had no dignity and no sense of what it meant to be a man.
I was never able to get through to him.
His cultural conditioning went too deep.
Like most people, he wouldn’t want his family to know of his previous association with Danger & Play. His last name is omitted and this is a eulogy his family will never see.
Even so, I loved him and he was kind.
His death was both predictable and preventable. He died of a heart attack at 52.