It happened a few months back. My father-in-law celebrated, to our great joy, his 88th birthday. There was no pomp or circumstance involved. He abhors that. Because he is among the most beautifully well-mannered people I have ever encountered, he politely took all the calls though he really wished we would just treat it as another day and leave him alone to watch the news channel.
He’s not just 88. He is the best 88 possible. He is healthy, in possession of a good mind and still a regular weekly golfer at his country club, where he plays with his long-time pal, Mike Connors (who, I might add, I had an enormous crush on at the age of 8 when he played the detective, Mannix, on television).
In honor of the occasion, I asked for and received a flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol on his birthday in recognition of this remarkable man. The flag arrived with the commemorative statement: “Flown over the United States Capitol on Jan. 11, 2014 for Grant A. Tinker, in celebration of 88 years of service to America and her people.”
This is no overstatement or embellishment. If anything, it is understated. I know because many people approach me or Tink to ask about this man I presumptively call “my Grant Tinker.” And, without fail, each one will say, “Please say ‘hello’ for me. He was always so kind to me.” At least half of them will say, “He gave me my first job.”
We laugh about the fact that he gave first jobs to many people who yearned to work in television, some who were children of his friends but he never gave a first job — or a job of any kind — to his own sons. They, he believed, should make it on their own. And that they did. Tink and his brother, Mark, with great bravado, stepped up to the plate, coming back to bat until they hammered it out of the ballpark. Both have been nominated for countless Emmys with Tink winning one for best drama writing and Mark toting home three for best directing.
That is something that will make a father smile with pride — as well as the knowledge that his rule of “no nepotism” was right.
“I really admire that,” I said to my Grant Tinker one day while visiting. “You could have made it so easy for them, but yet you didn’t. Because of that, you made better men out of them. You allowed them to have self-earned pride in their accomplishments.”
He shrugged the way he always does when a compliment is lobbed toward him. He is a modest, humble man, the likes of which Hollywood has rarely seen.
“Well, I don’t know about that,” he said — a comment to be expected because acknowledging that he was right would be, in his estimate, a brag on himself. “But I thought it was how it should be.”
And it worked out. Though my dear Grant Tinker staunchly believes that pride should be avoided at all costs, I see a flicker of it in his eyes or hear it in his voice whenever he engages in conversation with one of those two sons about their current television shows. I call him to check in and, unfailingly, we talk of Tink’s work, which often leads to Mark’s, as well.
He is the recipient of the Emmy and Peabody awards for Lifetime Achievement though he shrugs those off, too, saying, “All I did was hire good people who did the work.”
Awards aside, what makes me the proudest are all the people — some are stars, but most aren’t; most are just hard-working common people — who credit him for their first chance in a business that is so difficult to crack.
Admittedly, that makes me realize that he isn’t “my” Grant Tinker. He belongs to many.
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