My Two Old Men

My uncle died. We shared no blood, but he was family.

When I was 5-6 years old, my Dad moved from Ohio to California. Shortly after, I moved out with him. As a kid, it was a great adventure. I flew out with our dog, Barkley, the world’s greatest dog, and we moved in to a tiny house with three ‘rooms’ (but not really). It was a ‘side’ house attached to a bigger house, and we lived there for a while before moving into the big house. My cousin later moved into the little house. But for a couple years, it was me and Dad… And Arthur.

Arthur wasn’t blood related to me. The first thing we shared in common was being Jewish. In fact, that’s how he and Dad met. Epstein and Freedman, the “only two Yids” at the company in SoCal in the early 1980s. Dad worked in Risk Analysis, Arthur … I actually have no idea what the heck he did.

I know from helping him with his bio a couple years ago that he was “considered a thought and practice leader in Organization Development, and consultation as well as Action Learning.” And as a kid I had the vague idea that he told you why your company was sick (i.e. poorly managed/organized). He had a lot of thoughts about ‘the man’ and how ineffectual most companies were at scale. How they didn’t care for the individual.

When it came to the work he and Dad did back in the 80s, I had the impression that Dad addressed the mechanical and mathematical risks, while Arthur handled the personnel ones.

But you know I was a kid. I didn’t need to know that stuff.

What I remember isn’t that. What I remember is Arthur, painstakingly recording Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood, on BetaMax, making sure to cut out commercials, because he was going to be babysitting me. And he had no idea what the heck to do with a kid, but he knew I liked the book. So he recorded it, and as he loved to tell me, got pissed off. Kid me was clambering all over the furniture, playing with my toys when it was on. And then after, he fed me dinner and asked how I’d liked it, expected me to be a kid and all ‘dunno.’

Instead he got a breakdown of how it was different from the comic, the classic comic, the book, and the Disney movie (which I said was more accurate than one of the comics). Per Arthur, that was the moment I went from “my friend’s kid” to “this interesting person” in his mind.

Arthur moved away to Chicago when I was still in grammar school, and I didn’t see much of him. When I’d fly to Ohio to see family, I regularly changed planes in O’Hare, and Arthur was always there to walk me to the gate. It was the 80s, folks, things were different. When I was in college, I came out to Chicago to see him for a while, and loved it, loved the city, and when he and Dad suggested I moved out there, I did.

The first two biggest moves of my life were bookended with Arthur.

I used to go to dinner with him and listen to stories, tease him about never cooking, watch the Air Show from his apartment. He was beloved. When he moved to DC, I made sure to see him every time I was in town. He met my girlfriend (now wife) and her mom. He came to some important ceremonies. He gave me advice on saying no, and on investing, and on being a corporate cog without losing your soul.

I was supposed to see him in 2020. I had tickets. I planned to introduce him to some of my best friends in the universe, who were going to be there for work with me. I was going to see the cherry blossoms and meet his lady friend.

And then.

And now.

And now.

Arthur Michael Freedman – November 14, 1937 – May 5, 2021

I will miss you for a very long time, Uncle Arthur. Likely forever. I love you. I’m glad it was quick. I’m sad, but I understand why you didn’t want me to worry. I would have come out there, damn the risks, and you knew it.

In accordance with Arthur’s will, no funeral or memorials are to be held for him. Please make a Donation to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute IN MEMORY of ARTHUR FREEDMAN; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, P.O. Box 849168, Boston, MA 02284 or via http://www.dana-farber.org/gift

My family at my father’s 60th birthday in Paris
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