Letter to My Grandpa (Part 1)

robert hoffer

Dear Grandpa,

Hi, Grandpa. Happy birthday in heaven. Every March 3, I think about you — and as I have for many years, I wanted to take a moment on your birthday to commemorate you by writing you a letter. 

You may not believe it, but I turned 40 last year! 40 is a milestone. I am old enough to realize that much of what I already chased was vanity. Yet, I am young enough to correct my course in profound ways. But, as I do in my prayer life, I need to start with a confession. 

This year, I have wanted to give up multiple times. I know other people will be reading this letter and I probably shouldn’t admit that. But it’s true. I have felt constantly burdened by the stress of leading a family business. I have seen others leave to do things that seem more fun and less of a grind. I have occasionally felt stuck. The world says, “follow your heart.” But what good is that when your heart is ever-changing? My buoyant mood Monday morning often turns grumpy by Monday afternoon. It changes like the wind, but my responsibility for this business remains constant. 

I know this may sound like I’m whining, and maybe I am. But if I am not honest about my thoughts, they fester. When I write them out, I can assess them, recalibrate, refocus and realign my thinking to my goals. 

My last two years have been about regaining my focus on what matters and persisting when I felt like giving up. 

“Bring Grandma flowers.”

I know I’ve shared this with you before, but I often find myself thinking about one of the last moments I saw you on this planet. 

Lying on your bed, you told us to bring Grandma flowers. This struck me because, after almost nine decades of life and success, you came back to that one relationship. There were a plethora of things you could’ve said — about the business, about your success — but you didn’t. Instead, you pointed to the most important human relationship you had. 

And while it was not your intent, I’ll tell you that it had a huge impact on the development of my character. Sarah and I have observed the same unwavering commitment in our parents’ marriages, and now we continue with ours. We are stronger today than we were pre-pandemic. This has not happened by accident —it has happened because, regardless of how hard life has been, we have ended each day the same way…talking, praying, and then talking some more. Sarah is always on my mind. I can confidently say that I understand why you were thinking about Grandma to the end.

With my home life on stable ground, I have been able to weather the storm at work. Results have been good, but there is much more to it than P&L — or at least there is in a family-led business. This year, there have been times that I have needed to shift my focus from the “burden” of the business to the “privilege” of the business. While business matters sometimes stress me to the point of affecting my sleep, the privilege of seeing other people thrive is greater. 

I cannot emphasize enough the word “other” in the previous sentence. The beauty of the business you founded shines through in the people who made it thrive: Al, Fred, Rocky, and too many other people to mention. They are countless. 

Oh, and I figured you’d want to know that Lap retired in January. You would be so proud of the man he is, the family he leads, and the contributions he made. Sure, occasionally he was a jerk to me, not holding back on letting me know how he thought I was doing. But I became so much better for it! I already miss him and his “performance reviews.” On his last day, he came to my office. We hugged, and I fought back tears. It was probably embarrassing to us both. 

alex with client
What a privilege.
What a moment!

Grandpa, I need to close for now, but I still have much to tell you. I’ll write you more later this week.

Love, Alex