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Laugh a Little. Correction Laugh a Lot

Recently, I was invited to attend a memorial for one of my client’s parents. His name William Glockner, Senior. I was touched that my client would invite me to be part of his inner circle of family and friends and partake in his father’s memorial. I would attend. I would hear a few stories, I would say ‘I’m so sorry for your loss,’ maybe a meet a few folks, and then I would be on my way. That did not happen. Instead, I was allowed to witness something rather remarkable. Although I had never met Mr. Glockner, I was immediately intrigued by the stories shared by his three sons.

In life we are inspired by many things, a great movie, a fantastic song, a piece of art, the birth of a child. But a memorial service? Really? For 15 years, I have been asked to assist my client with both legal and tax services for him and his family. I’ve served if you will as a “trusted advisor.” During this tenure, I never had the opportunity to meet William Sr. It was only during the memorial that I realized that I had missed a chance to meet such an interesting person for which his very behavior instilled an amazing legacy for his children to follow.

For the past 15 years, I have always been amazed to watch my client chuckle or flat out laugh when faced with rather poor behavior from others. What an interesting means to cope with the challenges of life. It was today, that I realized that this “laugh” platform had been not garnered by attending a prestigious university, or by being enlightened by some type of “self-help’ book. Rather my client had been taught by his father to laugh, and laugh often, and remain humble. These affable characteristics are currently held by my client, and from my brief observation of only a few hours, it was evident that these same characteristics are equally held by his two brothers. But why? Simple. The stories and behavior of Mr. Glockner provided a rather easy to follow and rewarding recipe to living one’s life.

Today This Moment Must Be Captured

As I stood in the quaint chapel and listened to the many stories of Mr. Glockner, it became apparent that I was part of a very special moment. By attending a memorial, we often times push the reset button of our own life. While witnessing the heartfelt loss of a friend’s loved one, while sharing a tear of another’s man grieving, we examine our own life and assess what is important. However, today was different. This experience, this memorial….it was a moment! And thereby it seemed paramount that if these shared thoughts were not written for posterity then the “moment” would be all too soon forgotten. That could not happen.

What stories you ask. Well, I will leave most of the details for the three sons to write their own book and share those stories for upcoming generations. To quote one of the brothers, I suspect that the book may be titled, “William Glockner, Our Dad “He was the bomb!” For right now, I’ll just share some perils of wisdom that were bestowed upon me.

Things to Remember.

  • Self-praise is not praise.

  • In life sometimes it just rains.

  • Self-deprecating humor should be encouraged and embraced.

  • “Maybe a rat will eat the wires.”---- you had to be there to understand.

A Slice of Life

Apparently, Mr. Glockner wrote to his alumni class of Princeton for which he attended many years ago. There was one caption that rang out loud for all to hear. ‘I have enjoyed this slice of life and it gets tastier each new day,’ he wrote. I’m not sure Thoreau could have written it better. I listened to the stories of how the Glockner clan was known to have many of their dinners at a local restaurant where other customers would peer around the corner to see who was causing so much laughter.

I listened intently to how the patriarch, who probably shouldn’t really drive due to poor eyesight, ferried his son, wife, and daughter-in-law through the narrow streets of France on vacation without incident. Well, I suspect that there may have been a few short breaths, but no accidents.

Or, yet another story of how Mr. Glockner was coached by his son that when strolling the streets of Paris not to be duped by the gypsy’s ever popular “Sir, I found your ring that fell on the ground” scam, wherein a pickpocket is launched without a hitch.” And later to hear Mr. Glockner confide in his son by saying “ugh, they got me.” This collection of stories brought out the color of a man who was kind, trusting, and incredibly smart. But more importantly, the stories provided a blueprint of how one man and his ways can set in motion a reoccurring theme that Mr. Glockners’ sons now carry on to the next generation. Hmm. As fathers, we should all take note that our behaviors of today can and will have significant effects on our children.

How to Make Lemons Into Lemonade With Laughter

With all of the stories that were shared, the best story of the day was how Mr. Glockner took what was clearly an inconvenience and turned it into a wonderful outcome. Years ago, the Glockner family lived in Philadelphia along Delancey Street. Their home sat in the middle of a historic district. Flanked by homes from the 1600s, the Glockner’s lived in a home built in the 60s. Many days, tourists would doddle along the cobblestone street in a horse drawn carriage. The tourists would snap a few photos of the historic landmarks, and the horses would invariably provide their droppings on the road for the neighbors to see and smell.

One night as the Glockner’s were having one of their infamous boisterous dinners at home, Mr. Glockner had an idea. Fortunately, a feisty old codger, Mr. Glockner he was not. As the next basket of tourists came sauntering along the road in front of the Glockner residence, Mr. Glockner bounced from the dinner table and sped off to the middle of road armed with a wreath at his side. Yes, he jumped from the table to fetch a large wreath from an adjacent room. I have no idea why the Glockners’ had this large wreath in their home in the first place, however, the prop would be perfect for Mr. Glockner.

It’s early evening, and Mr. Glockner stood in front of the oncoming procession and yelled.

“Stop! You’ve won!” My name is William Glockner, president of the Delancey Street Association and your esteemed group is the 1000th group to pass through these hallowed grounds. This horse is the 100th horse who has bestowed its droppings on our neighborhood street. And therefore, it is with great honor that I present your group with this commemorative wreath in celebration of today’s event.”

Amazed by the award, the driver jumped from the carriage and took a photo with the wreath and horse. The fellow tourists were awestruck by the immediate fame bestowed on their pilgrimage. And yes, the wreath was carried back to the stables and placed above the horse’s stall and left for others to admire for years to come.

Think about it. An annoying group of tourists that is constantly meandering in front of your home with horse dung left as a thank you gift as they pass by. What is your reaction? Many of us would likely be appalled by the actions and would either complain to the local authority or over time would begin to channel Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino and foster an angry sneer muttering “get off my lawn.” But not Mr. Glockner. He laughed and then laughed only louder as the crowd enjoyed the made up awards ceremony on Addison Avenue. What a great story. What an interesting lesson to be learned from someone that I never met. This story and others provide great insight into how laughter is a powerful tool to be used daily and confidentially as shown by Mr. Glockner.

Yes, today was an interesting day. I had thought I was going to attend a memorial and offer my condolences. Instead, I watched how three sons told of their father’s actions and how he made sure to have dinner at night as a family, laugh, and to always look to the positive things in life.

So, thank you Mr. Glockner. Your fitting adieu was truly inspiring.

Tomorrow, I think I might laugh. Correction, I will laugh loudly and partake in my slice of life so that I can say to others ‘it just gets tastier each new day.”

Bill Witt - CPA, Attorney
Entrepreneur, Speaker & Author
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