Honoring everybody’s friend, Mike Hinton
I can see it. Uncle has crossed into the pearly gates and is immediately greeted by non-mask wearing Priests of his confessional youth, comrades, family that have preceded him, and thousands of others who anxiously await the legend. Of course, he immediately falls after a few steps and breaks his kneecap, tries to wince but can’t. Gets up and falls again on his shoulder, breaks it and again no pain. He convinces himself that it is one too many Casa Lapostolle’s and the Priests welcome him to Heaven but he can’t fully get in until he tells them the “sonofabitch” fish story. He takes a drag from his imaginary Merit and regales them with his longest version-they are in tears with laughter. They ask to hear it again, telling Mikie they have plenty of time but instead, he goes into the Cadillac that plays musical genres upon request. He gets to that final line with his Amarillo drawl and jowls tightened “somebody hits me from beeehind and I yell ‘Coooooock sucker’ and the radio plays, Ladies and Gentlemen its the President of the United States Bill …..”-Mike pauses and is not sure who's on what party cause he doesn’t want to offend anybody of course. Again, uncontrollable laughter but he’s not done. He goes over to a table and plays Dinger Dice with 5 others and using his “feeling it” method once again is the first to depart the game, puts his sippy cup up and declares its time for a Mexican coffee proceeding to the freezer to see the cut-off styrofoam cup with cold fresh brew and in his consistent style spills it in the freezer and uses the rest to mix him up a drink. Crowd is all in amazement and is thrilled to finally have him in that “big court in the sky” and all remark, “we’ve never had anybody up here like that”.
And neither have we on earth! Heaven got brighter and the earth’s laughter meter goes down. What remains is the stories we can always recall about Uncle Mike and given his vast network of friends, they won’t end anytime soon.
On reflection, I can’t even look at a picture or recall an incident without chuckling, in some cases uncontrollably. I am reminded by several hilarious memories:
- how physically uncoordinated he was. Sitting was an athletic fete for him and he couldn’t do it and remain still
- I can’t recall him ever hitting a golf ball solid or straight-including a putt
- He once was partnered with my youngest son in a game of spades, Mikie went “nello” while holding the ace of spades
- Once in Mexico, he paid a singer not to sing
- He once paid a drummer not to drum and then went and drummed himself
- In gin rummy, he would not allow anybody to cut the cards invoking the Amarillo Country Club rules which calculated the cut time would shortchange two Hollywoods in a lifetime so why bother
- He once told us he only smoked when he drank and that he couldn’t make it through a day without one of his “coffees”
- On golf trips, he was by far the cleanest including corralling the hundreds of cigarette butts outside
- A single visit to a hypnotist cured him of smoking only when he drank
- After one of many falls on the courthouse steps, he went to an ER and was treated by a moonlighting Vietnamese physician. A year later, same courthouse, same fall different limb but same ER Viatneamese physician who lambasted him for his clumsiness
But I am also reminded by his affection, love, remarkable emotional intelligence, empathy, and compassion. His mind was sharp but his priority was on making others feel good about themselves through his compliments, humor, and affection. I would make up excuses to spend time with him in Houston and he was an extremely valued member of our golf group that has gathered in Florida for over 20 years (he missed the right exit every time). By far my favorite Kentucky Derby’s were the ones Uncle attended. One of those Derby’s we all wore badges that had a picture of Mikie on it and he was introduced as the likely VP candidate or cabinet member for George Bush. He even got interviewed by local media about it. I still have the badge.
In a crazy, stress-filled, frustrating world, there was always an outlet and antidote-time with Uncle Mike and it worked 100% of the time. It’s ironic that my book, Called to Care came out just a few weeks prior to Mike’s death as it is filled with examples for caregivers to better re-humanize healthcare-something Uncle did more naturally than anybody I know.
I used to say only half-jokingly that I wanted to commit a white-collar crime just to have him defend me.
For more on Mike and his legal career, please visit this blog post and I invite you likewise leave comments or stories about Mike on this post. It’s the one renewable resource we won’t run out of anytime soon.
It is only fitting that Mikie leaves us during COVID restrictions. The Astrodome couldn’t hold enough of his friends, colleagues, family, and extended family who would attend and honor such a terrific person, friend, confidant, and mentor. Let’s hope, we are all left with a little Uncle Mikie in all of us. We love you and we miss you Mike-but we are not done laughing with you.
Uncle Mikie and his good friend “Tarz”