Under My Umbrella-Ella-Ella

19 Nov

Since Jeff’s death, many of us have found some comfort in recanting – with copious amounts of laughter – our favorite  “Jeff stories.” Often, these anecdotes include some of the most shockingly well-written drunk text messages and start with phrases like “we were so hammered after a night in the city, and…”

And yes – I’ve got plenty of those stories. But when I reflect on Jeff’s character and personality, another instance comes to mind. It’s one that seemed nearly insignificant when it happened, but now only reinforces for me the gold standard that Jeff set with his actions and high regard for the people close to him in his life.

Just days after I moved back to Westchester upon graduating from college in the summer of ’09, I booked an appointment with  my dentist. His office was on King Street, so I parked in the lot behind CitiBank – the one adjacent to Bell School. As I was getting out of my car, it had just started to rain – so I pulled the hood of my Providence College sweatshirt over my head to fend off the drizzle and went to make my way into the building as quickly as possible.

Walking through the parking lot, I ran into Jeff and his mother, Carey, who were heading in the opposite direction, back to their car. I was pumped to see him, the same way it’s always great to bump into a good friend unexpectedly. But our coincidental run-in wasn’t what struck me.

What caught me was Jeff, a then-22 year old guy, carrying the umbrella over his mother’s head with one hand, and, though I couldn’t say for sure, placing his other hand, it appeared, on the small of his mother’s back. It was an action so seemingly nondescript, yet one I noticed immediately. Leave it to Jeff to display in the simplest ways his chivalrous nature – the kind you don’t see very often at this age. Despite the fact that we hadn’t caught up since graduation, he couldn’t talk long, as his attention was clearly focused on his mother.

I’m fairly certain I even remarked to Brooke later that evening that I had ran into Jeff in town, and “how adorable” I found his behavior. And while I’ll admit I was surprised to see a boy my age acting so gentleman-like, protecting his mother from the lightly falling rain, I wasn’t one bit surprised to see that the one doing so was Jeff.

After that, I didn’t think of the run-in again – until over a year later.

I was fortunate enough to land a happy hour date with Jeff one evening this summer, after we had both spent the day at work in the city. We sat at the bar and drank wine (white for me, red for him), watched SportsCenter and PTI, and discussed the expansion of the NCAA basketball tournament from 65 to 68 teams. Just as we left the bar to grab a train back to Chappaqua for the weekend, it started raining. And of course, I didn’t have an umbrella. But Jeff did.

And without me even asking, he opened it and positioned it so it fit the two of us underneath it perfectly as we walked up 42nd Street. This time, I wasn’t surprised at all. That’s just the kind of guy Jeff was.

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