"I actually wake up thinking, 'How am I going to make a difference today?' It's wonderful that I can do that."
Sean Geddes and I met down town and began discussing the challenges of his work in juvenile court.
Q. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A. "I guess it would be… a family, a dog that behaves and seeing more people do good deeds and treat people with respect. I don't see that enough."
Q. What is your greatest fear?
A. Softly he responded, "Being alone. Old and alone."
Q. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
A. "I'll show you!" he responded nearly before I finished asking the question. He reached inside coat pocket and pulled out a box of cigarettes. "The worst mistake of my life. But you know, both of my parents smoked." He digressed into a story. "On March 20, 1975, I was 15 years old, the youngest of four kids, and my mother had a stroke. Doctors gave her 24 hours to live. She ended up living another 12 years, but she never walked again. She needed help with everything. Being the youngest, some of the responsibility fell on me in my younger years. It was rough, but I guess it had its benefits: I got to know my parents really well and I got to live rent free for a long time," he joked. "My mother was 63 years old when she passed. When my father and I went to see her at the funeral home I remember my dad saying to her, 'you're as beautiful as the day I married you.' I thought to myself, 'Dad, she looks 103 years old. I hope she didn't look like this on your wedding day.' But I kept my mouth shut. It was a beautiful moment to experience."
Q. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
A. "Dishonesty. I hate it when people lie."
Q. What is your greatest extravagance?
A. "The past 13 years I have been hosting poker at my house every Friday night, occasionally on Saturday. My 31-year-old son and my 11-year-old granddaughter who live with me graciously tolerate us. We will play until 2 or 3 in the morning!"
Q. What is your favorite journey?
A. "I don't know, I don't have one really." I challenged him with the question of where he would go if he could go anywhere. "Anywhere?" he mused. "A poker tournament."
Q. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
A. "Being what society thinks is good looking. It is far more important to be a good person inside with good character rather than be 'good looking'."
Q. What do you dislike most about your appearance?
A. "Too skinny," he said immediately. "I'm not done! I have a list!" he announced. "I am too skinny, my bald head, and this mole," he said as he pointed to his chin. "I hate this stupid thing."
Q. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
A. "Ham-and-egger, Jenn will get a kick out of that, and okie-dokie."
Q. What is your greatest accomplishment?
A. "I think I am real lucky being happy with what I do. Being an attorney, I mean, I actually wake up thinking, 'How am I going to make a difference today?' It's wonderful that I can do that. I have been stopped at gas stations and grocery stores by previous clients or parents of clients just to be thanked for what I did. They might say how their life changed or how their child's life changed for the better."
Q. What is your greatest regret?
A. "Smoking cigarettes. I started when I was fourteen years old. My mom and dad should have whooped me for it."
Q. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
A. "I might get in trouble for this one. Her name was Lynette. Oh, it was 20 or 30 years ago. She probably doesn't even know, but she influenced my life greatly."
Q. When and where were you happiest?
A. "I am always happy. Even though bad things happen to me, bad things happen to everyone; you just deal with it. Of course, the day I received a letter from the State Bar saying I passed that test wasn't a bad day either. I knew at a young age I wanted to be an attorney. In my day, kids played outside until the streetlights came on and then you had to go home. Well, daylights savings time came around and I was outside playing and the city did not change the timing on the streetlights so I lost an hour of playtime. The next morning, I called the City of Palo Alto to say, 'What the heck?' and the very next day they were out there changing the lights. I was nine years old."
Q. Which talent would you most like to have?
A. "It's a combo. Playing the drums; I do play, but I suck at it. And be better at baseball." He told me about how he caught a Wille Mays home run baseball when he was a kid. The next day, while playing at the neighborhood field, the kids lost the baseball they were playing with so he ran home and got the Wille Mays home run baseball to play with and the kids promptly lost that one as well.
Q. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what would you like to be?
A. "You know the Charlie Daniels Band? Well, they have a song Long Haired Country Boy where they say there's a blue tick hound lying in the shade; I would want to come back as someone's dog, a dog who is treated well."
Q. What is your most treasured possession?
A. "I'm gonna say a football signed by the entire 1972 49ers team. It was given to me by my best friend's dad after my friend passed away from cancer. I was an alter boy at his funeral and his dad gave it me along with a coach's jersey saying, 'Jimmy would have wanted you to have this.' I have only let two other people touch that ball, and they only touched it once, and that was my son and granddaughter. It is still in the same box it came in."
Q. What is your favorite occupation?
A. "Attorney! I really enjoy what I am doing."
Q. What is your most marked characteristic?
A. "Oh, I don't know. Perhaps that I have a good sense of humor or that I am caring."
Q. What do you most value in your friends?
A. "Honesty and loyalty. And I know I have that in my friends."
Q. Who are your favorite writers?
A. "I don't read much, but I'd have to say Grisham, and did you know he is really involved in youth baseball in Florida? But if I am reading, it is most likely law. "Oh!" he interjected, "And poker books! Lots of strategy."
Q. Who are your heroes in real life?
A. "My mom, dad, brother and two sisters. My parents made a vow, till death do us part, and they were married for 49 years and my mother died sleeping in her bed next to my dad. Their love was powerful. My brother and I are kind of the opposite, but he was always sickly as a kid and he had a heart transplant two years ago. He is still alive and doing great. My sister took over cooking and raising the family after my mom had a stroke. She quit attending UOP to come home and take care of us. She worked at the White House; she is married with kids and grandkids. She never missed a day of elementary school or high school; perfect attendance! And then there is my oldest sister. She is nearly exactly 10 years older than I am and even though she lives in Texas, she still is taking care of her little brother," he concluded, pointing to himself. "I could have chosen someone famous, but my family were true heroes to me."
Q. What is it that you most dislike?
A. "In the world people are hating and killing each other for no good reason. I also hate the racial profiling I see sometimes."
Q. How would you like to die?
A. "Peacefully in my sleep with everyone taken care of."
Q. What is your motto?
A. "I guess there a few: live and let live, judge a man by the content of their character not by the color of their skin. I try to teach that philosophy to my grandkids and live it myself. That's taken from Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech." He paused for a moment. "and treat others as you would like to be treated… except in poker!"