A very good, longtime family friend was tragically taken last week. He had 5 daughters and was on his way to work.
To say he was a cool guy is an enormous understatement. He was the essence of cool. To my brother and I, he was The Fonz. We would constantly be talking about him, the cool thing he said the other day, the funny thing he did, etc., and it was something that my brother and I bonded over while growing up. We wanted to grow up to be just like him.
We saw him like a hippie, a modern-day pirate, a vagabond of sorts, who had somehow ended up in the suburbs. He was world-weary, worked very hard, but you always got the sense that he totally lit up a fat one the moment the kids went to bed. Or that he had spent 10 years somewhere building boats or something. He had this air and this look to him that said he’d been a real shit-kicker before he calmed down.
His family became like our extended family. I practically lived over there in the summers while I nannied their 3 kids. That family became so important, and he and his wife were such hugely significant role models at a very important time in my life to have a role model. I was bookish, I was shy; I was really not okay with who I was.
He was always trying to dig in, figure out how to bring me out of my shell, how to get me to act and be a bit more confident. He asked a ton about my life and would provide honest answers. He laughed about everything, and most heartily at himself. He was kind, very patient, and earnest. He told me to stop whining, to relax and to have a beer. He adored his kids, and was so lovely and kind to his wife.
I clearly remember a conversation, that has really stuck with me. I was telling him about all my school commitments and my plans. I’m sure I mentioned some 10 year plan and where I wanted to live and the specific job I wanted to have, like a damn idiot. He sorta gave me a look when I was finished, and laughed to himself. After I asked why, he explained: “how can you POSSIBLY know what you want at this age? You’re 17.” And I said, easy, I know (*groan*). He replied, “the only thing you should know at 17 is what you want to do 3 weeks from now. Everything else will figure itself out.” We then had a long conversation, where he told me that I needed to focus on just living it up and being 17. Go be crazy, go party, go travel, go do whatever you want; you’ll end up a lot happier. Essentially, to shut up – careers are overrated and wtf do you know about anything in life.
That’s always stuck with me – shut up and just have fun. The essence of Mr. Klein.
So in honor of a man who taught me a lot about doing what YOU want, giving life hell, and the end of the day, throwing your hands up and cracking open a beer, this beer’s for you, Mr. Klein.