I have a wonderful friend who is going through hell. He’s battling cancer, 1,200 miles away. How do you tell that friend that you love and support him? Here’s a start:
To fully appreciate Marvin has always required an exercise in understanding his worldview – his thought process, his loyalty, his optimism, and his good nature.
When I first met Marvin in the fall of 1991, I thought there could not be a further study in contrasts. He was born in the plains of West Texas – I, in the urban jungle of Chicago. Raised a Baptist, Marvin would later become an adherent of a different Protestant denomination. I was once and forever a Catholic. Marvin drawled that sweet West Texas twang that I could barely understand, at least in the beginning. Me, I have no accent (nasally Chicago voice excluded). One Irish, me, the other seemingly steeped in a Heinz 57 variety of deep Americana roots.
There’s more. Marvin is a fierce conservative. I had never met a conservative. My wife Bridget is my age, the two of us having met in the 3rd grade. Marvin married his second ex-wife when she was in the 3rd grade, I believe. (Kidding aside, he always did go for younger women.) Marvin is an extrovert, I, an introvert. Worst of all, he was a Cowboys fan, until I later converted him to be a Bears fan.
I was Marvin’s manager and initially, I wasn’t sure that this work relationship would succeed. Aside from arriving in San Antonio at the same time, both from different locales, I thought we had nothing in common. Boy, was I wrong.
Beyond the thin veil of seemingly huge differences, Marvin and I are very much alike in spirit and have forged a wonderful friendship that has spanned several decades.
I don’t believe that I have ever met a more loyal and giving friend. Whenever I’ve needed Marvin, for a favor, to lend an ear, or for moral support, he has been there. When Bridget had emergency appendectomy surgery that lasted well into the night, Marvin was there not only to offer continual moral support, but also to physically take care of our dog, our car, and our house. When I was going through some challenging job issues, Marvin was there to listen and to offer advice. Never judgmental, he was there mainly to support and encourage. Marvin was also there in happier times, at our wedding, my graduation, weekend excursions, concerts, countless birthdays and anniversaries.
Each year, without fail, I can still count on a phone call from Marvin, congratulating me and Bridget on our wedding anniversary and letting us know how proud he is of us. He never forgets the important milestones in other people’s lives. He is a true gentleman.
Some of my favorite times with Marvin were during the San Antonio holidays and just plain old Saturday night get togethers. A good dinner at the house would typically be followed by equally good conversation, usually philosophical, ethical, or moral in nature with our share of disagreements, of course, followed by good music, lots of laughter, and more wine. Or, in Marvin’s case, more hops, malt, and barley. The festivities would often last late into the night, and the fact that we rarely agreed on an issue had no bearing on our friendship. In fact, it probably served to strengthen the bond between two people who respected and truly cared for each other, despite our philosophical differences.
When Bridget and I moved back to Chicago, we would talk to Marvin weekly and he was always offering encouragement, especially during tough times. If I hurt, Marvin hurt. If I had an accomplishment, Marvin had an accomplishment. That’s the type of friend he is – empathetic and caring to the core.
Marvin is a brother and member of our family.
When I think of Marvin, I always harken back to the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Like Del Griffith (John Candy) in the movie, Marvin is the “Genuine Article, the Real Deal.” Part of a vanishing breed, Marvin isn’t a phony. With him, there is no flash, no glitz, no pretense, no arrogance. Marvin would speak the same way to the President of the United States as he would to you and me – he would speak the truth, as he sees it. Marvin is a profound lover of life who adores people -- all people -- and judging by the number of friends he has, they also adore him. His infectious laugh and optimistic spirit naturally attract people to him.
I also love Marvin’s understated humor. On one of Marvin’s visits to Chicago, we went to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play. On that sun-soaked September afternoon sitting in the bleachers, lots of pretty women graced our presence. After the game, we wandered to a couple of nearby watering holes where even more beautiful women paraded into the establishment. Marvin, speechless, could only shake his head in amazement. Finally, in that inimitable West Texas voice, he spoke: “Son, I’ve got to move here.” Pure Marvin.
Perhaps above all else, Marvin is a survivor who will survive his current battle. He came from relatively humble means, and has scratched and clawed much of his life. Nevertheless, he has always supported his family and has raised two wonderful sons, who are the real reason for his existence. Make no mistake about that. Marvin loves his children above all else and has done everything possible to raise, nurture, and support them. Marvin also had sole custody of his children at a time when that scenario was rare in Texas – this was no small feat. His paternal commitment includes raising both a newborn and a toddler as a single parent, and never making a fuss over it. He has walked the walk.
What more can you ask for in an individual -- a devoted and selfless father, a person of deep faith, a lover of life, and a loyal friend. Marvin, thank you for the incredible friendship, brother, and hang in there. The bleachers are calling.