Hours before my father’s collapse we were trading text messages across the 7- time zones between us about my son’s first sentence, only to receive a call moments before going to bed that he was gone. In the shock and the grief that followed, I was fortunate to know that there was nothing that had been left unsaid between us. However, the realizations that he and I would not be sharing my son’s and soon-to-be born daughter’s journey, hit harder than I could have ever imagined. The only consolation prize that seemed to materialize was the crystallization of the understanding of the man he had become in front of my eyes and the roadmap that he left for me. I have now had a full 365-days to process his passing and make an attempt at putting words to some of his lessons to us.
You may have read some of his work, as he enjoyed writing to clarify his thoughts and he often wrote on monetary topics. It was always my suspicion that he brokered precious metals as an excuse to talk with his readers, and some of you may have known him through his “scribblings” of the last 20-years. I would like to thank the countless number of you who have very kindly called to tell me about the hour-long conversations that you stumbled into with him. What most people outside of his family would not know, is that he led an extraordinary life under what appeared to be the most ordinary of circumstances.
Larry was raised in Louisiana by parents who had survived the great depression and WWII, and were nearly permanently stuck in a “make hay while the sun is shining mode.” His father “played offense” by starting a business and striving to make it as profitable as possible, while his mother “played defense” by keeping the books and serving as the ultimate judgement for all expenses. My grandfather did not often discuss early hard times and his time in the war, but my grandmother took time to explain to her children and grandchildren that economies can break and that the consequences were not small. Both of his parents wore the scars of having their worlds turned upside down before turning twenty, which fostered an intense combination of a “just-do-it” and “always finish what you start” mentality that found fertile ground in my father.
A Pivotal Summer
Despite being inclined to dot “i’s” and cross “t’s”, my 16-year-old father used his summer job money for lessons to attain a private pilot’s license. Besides being a bit ambitious, it was also a bit hazardous as he did it without fully explaining the situation to his mother. His best friend’s father recognized that he had an intense fascination with airplanes and allowed him to use his plane to organize lessons and start making steps towards a career in aviation. In a matter of months he had solo’ed and in a single summer he had cemented his passion for aviation. In that same summer he was helping his best friend work on a boat when he met “the lovely miss Puddy,” (pudding – with a “y”) my mother, whom he often wrote about in his articles. Within a month of meeting her, he told her that he planned on marrying her. Naturally, her first thought was that he may not know what he was saying, but she also knew that he had an unshakable confidence and that as scary as it was, he probably meant what he said. A couple months later they attended her prom, where an ungentlemanly ex of hers casually told my father, “She is just with you until she comes back to me,” to which he responded by swiftly breaking the ex’s nose. Those around them assumed that the uncharacteristic move was part of young love, but with the assuredness that my father seemed to live the rest of his life with my mother, he knew that there was much more at stake there and made that relationship a priority.
In 1976 my father had some choices to make. His transcripts and test scores brought offers from MIT and the Naval Academy, where he may have had a shot at flying jets. The problem was that my mother still had another year of high-school and he refused to put that much distance between them. Despite his mother’s disappointment, Louisiana Tech became the lucky benefactor of a decision to remain close to my mother. The next summer they were wed and over the following 45-years there were plenty of bumps, but my sister and I were given the privilege of witnessing two people that genuinely loved each other.
Lesson – If there is someone in your life that you know in your gut that you want to keep in your life, take the big risks and make the big sacrifices.
They were both quick to say that they were very lucky to have met at such a young age, but it was also easy to see that they worked at it every day. It wasn’t until after his passing, however, that I fully understood how hard they worked on it. My mother shared that they would take on activities like writing each other love notes for 365 days straight or sitting face-to-face with nothing between them and having the tough conversations that neither of them wanted to have. They also built couples habits that were non-negotiable, such as a big hug the first time they saw each other after work and not shying away from holding hands or similar such behaviors. They both fell short in their relationship on multiple occasions, but they both had an unwavering commitment to working towards the other person and their relationship.
Lesson – Hard work pays in relationships, sometimes the time for that work is when things are good and building maintenance habits is easier than recovery exercises.
You Are Never Too Old for Big Uncomfortable Change
After graduating college my parents moved back to Shreveport and my father started working in the family business. Children, life, a tough business climate and 25-years of professional responsibilities, started to ware my father down. My mother could see that he wasn’t smiling as much, and that the victories didn’t seem to have the same lifting affects that they once did. So, when an opportunity came that showed promise for positive change she started pushing. My father would have done almost anything for my mother, but her request that he attend a workshop designed to provide “perspective into your life,” put that commitment to the test. He begrudgingly attended a three-month multi-weekend program that promised to challenge many of the forged assumptions that had governed a lifetime of thinking. The grumbling he was producing in the house was downright unpleasant for the first month, but by the end of the third month my father had come to the realization that things could, and should, be different going forward. Life had not been bad, but it was time that he made some changes for himself and those around him that he loved. The first big change was to fire himself from his operations role and start growing his younger brother into the job while he took on outside sales. His next change was to create a rotation for the emergency services line and his last change was to be home before six each evening. These changes were deeply meaningful and empowered my father the engineer to value how he was processing life on an emotional level and not take himself as seriously.
Lesson – Even if you are 48 years old and have been building in a single direction for the last 25 years, if someone you trust sees that you are headed down a hole, embrace change.
The First Warning
My father’s analysis of the magnitude and the types of changes that were needed were spot on, but his timing might have been a couple years late. Six-months later my father and I were working on a boat when the onions from the hamburger we had just eaten started catching up with him, except it wasn’t the onions. A couple minutes later he looked at me and said, “I don’t think I should power through this one.” We immediately loaded up and were on our way to the hospital, 20-minutes later he coded in ER, 35-minutes later he was on the table in a Cath-lab and three hours later I was explaining to a very drowsy version of my father that the doctors were calling the event a “massive heart attack.” Later my father confided in me that without the first round of changes, he would have powered through with his traditional pack-mule mentality and would likely be dead now. Instead, he had just received his first of three warnings that his time on earth would possibly be shorter than others and that now was the time for any other changes that he may have on his mind.
After that first warning and 4 months of recovery, he decided that waking up at 6am when he was still tired was not a requirement of his life. He decided that not everything had to be sorted out immediately and that there was time for the gym. He decided that fried chicken was good, but not worth dying over and he decided that there were places he wanted to see with the lovely miss Puddy, that needed to be seen. He bought an airstream, a pair of segways and loaded up the calendar with small town festivals. He made more time for my mother; they went to workshops on how to improve their relationship even though things were good and they renewed their vows. He made time for dinner with friends, and he made new friends. He renewed his passport and started leaving the country once a year and started visiting some of you that he had met through SilverTrading.net. Serious work was put into his life, and his smiles were lingering for longer periods of time.
Lesson – When you think you have made big changes in the person you want to be, there is always room for more.
The Second Warning
In the true fashion of our family, my parents were trying to soak up all that they could while on vacation in Canada, which resulted in a run through the airport to make the plane. The ticket clerk at baggage check had issued some form of statement like, “You will never make this flight sir,” to which my father looked at my mother, smiled and the running race was on. The joke was on the ticket clerk as he did make the flight, but despite his recent time in the gym, he had turned gray in the process and the plane was grounded until he got his color back. Warning number two was upon him along with another trip to the cath-lab, and another opportunity for growth.
This second warning was particularly frustrating as huge efforts had been made and great results had been reported, but there he was in post-op again with the evidence that the first warning wasn’t an error in the timeline. This second round of growth involved a trainer for the gym time, a cleaner diet and non-negotiable Friday date nights. He grew a “three musketeers mustache” to make others smile. He got closer to his father, and he became closer to his faith. He read dad joke books to make sure he had an innocent joke ready to share each day. He started a young couples married life program with my mother to bring young couples through trainings that were designed to give them tools for the challenges of being married. He had a refrigerator covered in those couple’s birth announcements. He published the best of his past works in a book to give to clients, volunteered in the community and as a new grandparent there was no amount of spoiling that was off the table for the “girls.”
Lesson – There is an unbelievable amount of joy that can be mined out of this life if you are willing to work at bringing smiles to others.
The Third Warning
The third warning was a mild warning and came ten years later after a morning in the gym with his trainer. My father sensed something was off, didn’t push himself and left halfway into his hour. My mother saw that he was home early and asked what the story was, and then calmly called an ambulance. At the hospital everything checked out and looked good, but his doctor wanted to hold him for 24 hours to see if later enzyme tests developed results that evidenced high levels of heart stress. The next morning the enzymes confirmed there was a problem and the resulting die-test showed that there were 9 blockages around his heart. While the doctor presented the images, he used phrases like “ticking time bomb” and “widow makers,” and that under no circumstance would he recommend leaving the hospital. After completely falling in love with this life, he was on his way to the OR again as his condition did not seem to be improving. He called the people he needed to call and made the decision himself, that bypass surgery had the strongest odds for extending the clock for another 20-years. While waiting for the rest of the prep-team, my parents said all they needed to say to each other, which apparently was heart-warming as the nurses that were in the room broke into tears and asked for a minute. Moments later, he was wheeled away.
Things don’t always go as planned and unfortunately the bypass procedure fell into that category. The mechanics of the surgery were reported to have gone extremely well, as my father went on a short walking trip before nightfall after the procedure, but the electrical side of the heart started showing trouble a couple days later and took much longer to settle in. The recovery took 18-months with various rehabs and an aggressive IV therapy protocol. All of which seemed to drive home the point that whatever he wanted to do and whomever he wanted to become, the time was now. So, he repeated his pattern and endeavored to grow more.
During the first six-months after the bypass his color came back, but his endurance was still low. A trip to the mailbox became enough of a workout to warrant a nap. Which meant that this next round of growth would involve less gym time and more time with those around him. He developed even more patience for issues at work. Netflix was discovered and date nights were spent on the couch. Grandkids were a fixture in my parent’s house as much as they were in their own home down the road. My brother-in-law was given more freedom to grow into his role in the family company and family dinners were 4 out of 7 nights. Covid came and all of the routines became more digital. Our ten-minute international calls turned into hour long international calls. He became a regular skype guest for my son’s bedtime stories in the Middle East during the middle of his workday morning. And storytime with my nieces became an outright hazard for my sister, as my father refused to stop the stories as long as his little audience could stay awake. He would easily turn a five-minute bedtime read into an hour-long theatrical reading adventure with different voices for each character. Once out of covid, he was able to experiment with different IV therapies and a particular regimen started to work! His endurance almost matched his levels from before the bypass, and the plan going forward became a very simple one – “Do this for another 20 years!” However, this was not in the cards.
On the 30th of August 2022, my father was having what can easily be called an extraordinary day. He woke and decided to put on a seersucker suit with saddle oxford shoes, a favorite costume of his that he wore on rare occasions. He went to work that morning at the drilling company and closed out the month of August to learn that they had just completed the single best month the company had had in over two decades. He had his regularly scheduled Thursday lunch with friends to discuss scripture and he was heading to the Silver Trading office to meet with an old client and friend for a quick appointment, that would have inevitably evolved into an hour-long discussion. Unfortunately, this was his day.
On the way to the elevator, he collapsed and despite paramedics being on the scene in a matter of minutes, a catastrophic failure in his plumbing had occurred, and just like that, he was gone. He went out doing what he loved, on a beautiful day, in the uniform of the southern gentleman from decades past, wearing a three musketeer’s mustache, that inevitably made several people smile even after his passing.
Besides his involvement in the family businesses, my father’s obituary listed a shocking number of civic activities. On top of these activities, he also maintained a habit of reading for an hour or two each morning on a broad range of topics. His brothers knew him as a history buff, people he sailed with called him a world-class storyteller, customers who called Silver Trading knew him as someone familiar with monetary policy and monetary history, his lunch friends knew him as a biblical scholar, his young married couples knew him as a walking relationship toolbox, his employees knew him as a friend and often a parental figure, many local businessmen knew him as the person to call when you need to think your way out of a business corner, little ones knew him as a joke-teller, almost everyone knew him as a gentleman, my mother knew him as her best friend but my sister and I just knew him as a really great “Dad.”
For those that read his work and may have enjoyed a conversation with him, please know that he deeply loved the Silver and Gold world and the thousands of people he met through it. In the coming months I will start uploading his articles at www.TheSophisticatedChimp.com, along with my own articles for those of you that would like to read or reread his work.
The Keyboard Chimp