A Busy Two Months

14 Jan

Dear Jeff,

A lot has happened over the past couple of months that I know you’d be interested in, so in case you’re not able to follow things as closely up there, I want to keep you up to date.

When you left, the Knicks were 3-3, and starting that very night, they proceeded to lose 5 straight games and were all of a sudden 3-8.  We were all sure that it was the same old Knicks that we had suffered with for the last decade.  But then something crazy happened- they won 7 of their next 8, and in the middle of that streak was a particularly special win.

On November 23rd, I gave our tickets to Brooke, Julie, Ryan and AB to make up for the game you were going to take them to before it was cancelled due to the asbestos scare.  Anish and Andres separately bought tickets in the same section so they could all be together.  That night was all about you.  I met all of your friends for dinner at Cafe 31 (yep, the place right next to the parking garage we always use), and we shared many great memories of you.  We all agreed that It was a given that your spirit would join them at the game to cheer the Knicks on.  And like the Knicks of old, they tried hard to blow a nice lead in the 4th quarter.  But that is when you obviously took over, and they held on for a 3 point win.  And now they are 22-15 including wins over the Spurs, Nuggets, Bulls twice and Hornets.  What a turnaround.

At halftime of the November 23rd game, Evan Sahr arranged to have a message posted on the scoreboard in your honor.  It was beautiful and read “in loving memory of our loyal Knicks fan, Jeffrey Klein”.  Evan has been amazing to us and has talked a lot about how much your friendship meant to him.

Before the game against LeBron and the Heat on December 17th, he took me, Drew and a couple of Drew’s friends down to the court for the pregame warm-ups.  Drew and I even had our picture taken with John Starks at center court.

As we were posing for that photo, I had a vivid flashback to when you were just 4 years old, and the two of us were walking through the little shopping mall in Mt. Kisco (where Target is now).  Remember, as we were walking, we came upon Starks and Charles Oakley sitting at a table signing autographs and posing for pictures ?!   Those guys were huge stars of the Pat Riley Knicks at that time, and I rushed you over take a picture with them.  You were so excited, and I took two great pics.  Great fun !

I think a lot about our last Knicks game together against Portland on October 30th with Mom and Brett.  You wore your SWAT officer uniform to the game for the Halloween party afterward, and you looked amazing, and so official.  We still laugh at how that woman came up to you, showed you her tickets and asked you where her seats were !  I always got a kick out of those beers you got at the games- the ones served in the plastic mugs with a slot in the handle in which they stuck a pretzel stick.  Classic.  Although they played like crap that night, you’ll be happy to know that last night they avenged that defeat by winning in Portland rather easily.

I had to laugh the other night while watching the Knicks-Lakers game.  In your final Talkin’ Sports blog post on September 24th, when you wrote about the new NBA rule regarding the refs’ ability to more liberally call technical fouls for arguing calls, you said ” You know that the league’s prized possessions — superstars like Kobe and LeBron — are going to be given infinitely more free reign to vent than everybody else.”  But that night, sure enough, Kobe was given a technical for arguing !  You would have been shocked and pleased.

The end of the NFL season would have given you tons of fodder for your blog !  I can picture how you would have been screaming at the TV when the Giants completely collapsed against the Eagles a few weeks ago, blowing a 31-10 second half lead, losing as time ran out, and severely damaging their playoff hopes.  I’m so happy that, thanks to Ryan, you got to see the Giants twice this season at the new Meadowlands.  The photos of you, Ryan and Lisa with your Coors Light in tow are precious.

Those pictures took me back to September 30, 2001, when you, me, Mom, Drew and Brett went to the Giants home opener against the Saints.  Remember how the original home opener against the Packers scheduled for 9/16 was postponed due to the 9/11 attacks ?  It was such a dramatic and touching pregame ceremony when the fighter planes flew overhead and they honored the heroes of the WTC attack and remembered those who were killed.  It was our first in-person Giants game together, and they won 21-13 for us behind the running of Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne.  A great day that I’ll always remember and treasure.

Oh, how I would have loved to have heard your take on the subject of whether the 7-9 Seahawks deserved to make the playoffs.  Something tells me you would have considered that to be “egregious”, especially since it happened at the expense of our 10-6 Giants.  But the paradox is that you also lived to see underdogs pull off unthinkable upsets.  And so when the Seahawks pulled off what was possibly one of the greatest upsets in NFL playoff history by beating the defending champion Saints last weekend, I think you would have been in your glory watching that happen, and you would have concluded that the result justified their playoff entrance.

Brett’s varsity basketball team is 9-1 as I write this !   You should know that before their very first game, at home against Ossining, Steve Young asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence in your honor, as a former Greeley student and varsity basketball player.  It was a moving moment, and of course, Greeley went on to win for you.  Father Elias was there, and A.B., who said he wouldn’t miss that moment for anything, was at my side the whole evening.

Speaking of Greeley and A.B., i know you had been looking forward to your 5 year reunion in November.  Elon told me that A.B. gave a toast to you in front of your entire class that night and that it was yet another moving tribute to you.   What A.B. has meant to me since you left is immeasurable.  He truly treasured your friendship, and he has been a great source of strength for all of us.  You said it best when describing him-“Wowwwwww !”

You were blessed with the most wonderful, loving and caring friends.  Thao sent us an amazing package of pastries that she baked for us in your honor for Christmas and has been in frequent touch.  And it was Elon who created this blog, because he felt it was fitting to have an eternal repository for great “Jeff stories” that people wanted to share.  I have also enjoyed my frequent contact with him.  He says that you were more than a friend- you were a brother to him.  Remember the time he stayed with you at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx after you were randomly attacked by that drunk guy on the 1:53 am train home from the city ?  He wouldn’t leave your side until you were home safely. A true friend.

So now that you’re up to date on things, I need to tell you how incredibly proud I am of you.  While that’s certainly not news to you, I have learned so much more over the past two months, specifically about the enormous impact you had on others and the ways in which you touched everyone you knew, that has made me swell with pride and emotion.  In public forums, descriptions of your kindness, humor, passion and warmth have been prevalent.  Patti Gomez called you “one of the kindest people that I’ve had the pleasure to encounter” and “an incredible person to the core”.  Hussein Alramini said you were “on a mission to instill laughter in the life of those around him.”  Nejla Calvo called you “absolutely genuine” and shared stories of your kindness toward her and her friends.

One young woman wrote to me that “Your son was one of the nicest, warmest, and kindest gentlemen I had ever met, and honestly, he is one of the very few people that I felt truly connected to my whole life, and made me feel most welcome and happy at Middlebury across four years.  He was kindhearted and generous and brought soul and passion into everything he was ever interested in.”

Jeff, what more could a father ever want to hear about his son ?  The answer is nothing.

I literally think about you every waking minute.  My thoughts are wide ranging, as you can imagine, but the overwhelming ones involve the boundless pride that I feel over the fact that you are my son.  And yes, Mr. Middlebury, the tense I used is correct.  You are and will always be.  Being your father is a large part of what defines me as a man.  And for that I am most thankful, because I wouldn’t want it any other way.

All my love,

Dad

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