Tuesday, June 10, 2003


Ame's grandfather, Sven Langmack, passed away last Wednesday, after a battle with cancer. We were in Cleveland as her extended family mourned his passing and celebrated his life. Ame held him as the dearest, sweetest man, and although I did not know him long, I came to share the sentiment.

I only knew him as 'Grandpa', the guy Ame loved to cuddle up to during our frequent visits. I had a vague idea that he was a fairly involved and successful businessman. I had the realization just a few days before he died that he is the only man I've ever known whom I'd never heard a negative word about. I had no idea the scope of his impact.

My favorite anecdote: Sven was in D.C. participating in a conference on world trade. During a break, he went to the men's room, and found himself next to Henry Kissinger at a urinal. He glanced over at Kissinger and said, 'You know, I think that at the moment, we're the only ones who know what we're doing'. Kissinger glanced over and said, 'You know, Sven, I tink you are correct'.

I was struck by the burial at Lakeview Cemetary. I know- it isn't immediately the most uplifting imagery, but you had to be there and to know where I sitting to fully appreciate it.

As I sat, I looked past the casket and the minister and saw an obelisk rising through the trees and towering above. I used to sit at the foot of the obelisk on occasional lunch breaks, when I happened to be in the neighborhood. I would eat my sandwich and daydream of a Cleveland of yore, when smokestacks and trains dominated the landscape. When I rose to leave my lunchbreak, I would place a dime on the stone marking the grave of John D. Rockefeller.

Right of the towering monument watching over the great industrialist's family is a stone building. Sometimes after lunch, I would enter the building and hike the narrow, winding stairs to get to the balcony, which offers one of the finest views of the city. In the lower floor, visitors pay tribute to slain President James A. Garfield, whose body rests under an American flag.

To look about the area of Sven's grave was to realize that he had been placed among the greats. Other family names are familiar to you for the products you still use. Glidden (paint) and Otis (elevators), for instance, were right behind me.

The thing I liked most about Sven was that he was still terribly in love with Ame's grandmother, Virgie. After 62 years, and at his age, he still had a twinkle in his eye for his girl. When I stood in their living room this past Christmas to announce that I had proposed to Ame, and that she had accepted, Sven followed with an announcement of his own. With some difficulty, he rose and announced that 61 years before, he had done just I had done, proposing marriage right around Christmas. Given the chance, he'd do it again. We moved the date up, hoping Grandpa would make it to our wedding. Although he missed by just over two weeks, there will be a continuity. Ame and I want to have the kind of love that Sven and Virgie had, ever romantic, even if the aid of a walker is necessary. We're going for at least 70 years together. I figure that medical science being continuously improving, I should make it to 105 easily enough.

As for the other stuff... I figure it will be sufficient tribute if I have a girl cuddling up to me on the couch, calling me Grandpa.

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