I don’t even know where to start. Literally. I am typing this sentence not knowing where it will lead me, where I will end up, what I will say or what point I want to make.
There is just too much swirling around my head in the days since my former boss — my friend and my mentor — Frosty Landon died July 19 at the age of 87.
Frosty had been essentially bed-ridden for the last couple of years due to his Parkinson’s Disease. I frequently wondered what was swirling around his head while he was cooped up in his care unit. He had scores of visitors and devoted care, but what did he think about between visits, or in the darkened hours between sleep and wake?
Did he dwell on the things he’d left undone, regret things he’d done? Were there endless replays of “Rosebud” moments from his childhood? Or did he bask in the satisfaction of a life spent touching and enriching the lives of so. many. people?
That is where I hope he spent most of his alone hours.
Remembering the big moments. The principled stands, the bold decisions, the impassioned speeches. There were many of these, and I was lucky enough to see some during his post-retirement career as VCOG’s first executive director. And though I was not around for his life’s-work in journalism, I was at least lucky enough to meet and mingle among those who did know him then and were able to regale me over lunch — or, better, over a Scotch on the rocks — with Frosty-as-editor, Frosty-as-reporter stories.
But I hope even more that he was able to move around within the recollected collection of small moments. For this is where he left his most deeply engraved mark on the souls of those who circled around him.
I hope he smiled with the knowledge that he backed the right horse: A reporter who came through on a difficult story he’d assigned; a lawmaker he rightly guessed could be swayed to vote on a bill he backed; or an unsteady old house he could envision as a family haven on sun-soaked summer days.
When he reflected on those gambles, did he also remember just what it was that caught his eye, that convinced him that this one was the one? The one to take a chance on?
This question haunts and fascinates me because I didn’t know then and I don’t know now what it was he saw in me that moved him to respond to my cold-call email in January 1998, to invite me to a VCOG board meeting that day, and to hire me the day after that to carry out a project he’d secured a grant for.
Yes, maybe at that very moment it was all about the practical. Here was someone who could do the work that one of the volunteer board members would have otherwise been saddled with.
But that doesn’t explain the next moment. Or the next project, or the ones after that. It doesn’t explain how he wrangled the VCOG budget to start paying me by the hour to do all-things-VCOG kinds of things, and then hiring me as a part-time assistant. It doesn’t explain how we became a team, where I was more than happy to play a supporting role to his face-of-the-organization one.
It doesn’t explain how he persuaded the VCOG board to gift me and my new husband with a mini-honeymoon at the Tides Inn or how we stood in my kitchen one morning drinking coffee and sharing notes about our various cats and dogs. It doesn’t explain why he drove across the state to see me perform in a community theater play. It doesn’t explain how glum he was when the VCOG board first passed me over as his replacement in 2007, or how gleeful he was when they hired me a year later to be the full-time director.
It doesn’t explain how even after he pushed back from VCOG’s day-to-day operations, we continued to correspond day-to-day, about VCOG and about nothing.
It doesn’t explain how my husband, son and I found ourselves at his 80th birthday weekend at the Tides Inn, where I was given a moment in front of scores of family and well-wishers to tell a story with a punch-line derived from that kitchen conversation over coffee.
In his quiet times of late, did he remember what it was he saw in me? I still don't understand it. But I am forever grateful that he did.