Archive | August, 2011

My Precious Birthday Gift From Heaven

17 Aug
It had been six long months since Jeff last spoke to me in that terrible dream, the one in which he told me, “I can do whatever I want- it’s my choice.”  (see “Still Making His Presence Known”, February 18, 2011).  Since then, and until this past weekend, there had been no further contact of any kind. 
But when he decided it was time to connect with me again, on this past Saturday, August 13th, one day after my birthday and one day before Brett’s, it was about a much more pleasant topic- our beloved New York Yankees.   
On Saturday, I took Drew, Brett, and Brett’s friend Nate to the game against the Rays to celebrate our birthdays.  It was awesome in every way.  We even got to see a special pre-game ceremony in honor of Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit, in which Jeter and his family were presented with gifts from Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, as well as from Mariano Rivera on behalf of all his teammates.  It was heart warming.  It got even better when the Bombers took an early 2-0 lead and Phil Hughes was pitching great. 
In the fifth inning, Curtis Granderson led off with a home run to make it 3-0 Yankees.  Then, Mark Texiera flied out, and Robinson Cano doubled.  The Rays promptly changed pitchers, bringing in Brandon Gomes.  Gomes walked Nick Swisher.  Runners were now on first and second with one out. 
As the next hitter, Eric Chavez, strode to the plate, it happened- Jeff’s voice inside my right ear.  I froze.  “Hey Dad, Chavez is going to walk, and then Jorgie’s gonna juice one- a grand slam.”  He was referring to Jorge Posada.  His voice sounded exactly the same.  It was strong, happy, and even a bit mischievous.   
I immediately told Drew and Brett what was about to happen.  They wore expressions that said something to the effect of “hey, that would be cool”, but they probably thought there was zero chance… 
That is, until Eric Chavez walked on four pitches.  Holy shit.   
The bases were loaded. 
I felt every muscle in my body tense as Posada walked to the plate.  Now understand this- Posada had not played in a week, having been benched by Joe Girardi because he was hitting so poorly.  He was a few days away from his 40th birthday, over the hill in the opinion of many, and the idea of him hitting a grand slam home run at that moment was as improbable as it gets.  Posads had also not hit a home run since June 23rd, nearly two months before. I was nervous, and my breathing was labored. 
Ball one. 
Ball two. 
When Posada unleashed his fury on the third pitch, the ball soared high and deep, and there was never a doubt that it was gone.  With the ball still in the air on its journey to the right field seats, Drew and Brett threw their arms around me, and we jumped up and down, screaming like maniacs.   The crowd went berserk, and they demanded that Jorge come out for a curtain call.  When he finally emerged from the dugout to wave to the crowd, perhaps his wave was also directed far above the stadium to one of his biggest fans. 
As a loving birthday gift in recognition of the countless Yankees moments we shared together over two decades, my son in Heaven had told me exactly what BOTH Chavez and Posada would do in their upcoming at bats.  Believe me, I know how freaky it all sounds, but thankfully Drew and Brett are my witnesses.   I told them everything before it happened.    
And how fascinating it was to find out afterward that Jeff’s dear friend AB was at the game with his Duke friends who Jeff also knew well and loved to hang out with.  It now seems clear that he had deliberately chosen this venue and this day, the one day between Brett’s and my birthdays, to reconnect and give me the gift of hearing his voice again.  Given his deep love of family and friends, I guess this is not so surprising.  The greatest gift of all, though, is now knowing one thing with absolute certainty: 
The kid is all right. 
My precious son is ok. 
-Rich Klein

My Good Bye Letter to The One and Only Klein: Good Bye Bro

8 Aug

Dear Klein,

Broski, how’s life up there? It has been a while since your unexpected passing. I’ve been trying to finish up this letter for awhile, but I’ve been putting it off. Guess I didn’t want to believe it was true, especially since you seemed to be in such good spirits the last time we hung out. I wanted to write you this letter and I know you can read it from heaven. Just know that I miss you my man; you were like a brother to me.

I couldn’t help but be in total shock and denial when R-Dubs called me and broke the news to me. At first I thought it was just a harsh joke, but when he kept telling me it wasn’t I began to realize the truth. My range of emotions has shifted continuously over the last few months from anger to resentment to sadness to acceptance. I was angry because I couldn’t comprehend why you would do something like this. It did not make sense to me why someone with so much to live for would take their life so quickly. People kept telling me it was because of the medication, but a lot of people take medication and don’t commit suicide. I was resentful because you took yourself from the people who loved you. You had so many people who loved and adored you. How could you tear yourself from them and me like that? In many ways you were the brother I never had. And then there was the sadness, from just knowing you weren’t around anymore, and wouldn’t be here to hang out.

Sometimes I regret not being around more recently to hang out with you. You visited me at school many times and we had a lot of fun. And I made a few trips up to Middlebury to see you as well. A lot of my buddies from Maryland especially my fraternity friends express their condolences for your passing. They thought you were such a friendly, down to earth guy. In fact I’ve never heard anyone say anything to the contrary. You were probably the most approachable guy I have ever met and had the pleasure of knowing. We bonded the last two years of high school and grew quite close those years as well as the first few years of college. When I started out in college, I grew quite homesick often and it was always nice to talk to you Klein on the phone and see you when I came home. And I came home quite often and each time we would hang out and catch up. As I grew more comfortable at school, and eventually joined a fraternity and made new friends I didn’t come home as often. The last few years we have slowly grown apart. My life was in Maryland, while you were growing closer to some people back home and that was alright. I remember one of the last times we truly hung out, you came to Maryland to visit me for a weekend. We had an absolute blast. We had a beer b q in my backyard, hit up every college bar in my town (4) before three in the afternoon, took a nap, and did it all over again at night.

We had so many good times when we hung out. It wasn’t just the numerous road trips we took together down to random places, but the camaraderie we shared. The moments I will always remember and cherish between us, weren’t any of the times we went on a road trip to a place far away (Montauk, Atlantic City, Turningstone), but simply the times we ventured into White Plains. We went to White Plains to go bar hopping, but for most of the time we were down there we just sat in a secluded park, drinking 40s and talking about life. No doubt we were bros and talked about girls, sports, etc, but in those moments in that park we truly opened up to each other. We both discussed how much pressure we felt growing up in Chappaqua, and how uncertain our futures were. We both had a lot to talk about when it pertained to these topics. You talked about how you had this job at a law firm, but you didn’t really like it and you hated the long hours. I talked about my uncertainty after college and we both talked about how we wanted to do a job that we actually enjoyed going to. We discussed how what we wanted from life was pretty simple: a nice cute wife to come home to, a nice house with a white picket fence, a few kids and the American Dream. We both had such high expectations for our lives after college and our fantasies were a lot prettier than the reality sometimes. We both expressed how much it would suck to have a desk job that we hated and that we wanted to work, but that we both didn’t want work to interfere with what was truly important. And that was our real lives, our families eventually, and living life to the fullest and having a blast.

Guys usually don’t talk about deep stuff, but in those moments sitting side by side in the park in White Plains, we let go of all of our worries and struggles. I always enjoyed those moments in the park with you bro, and I hope you know how much they meant to me. Sipping on 40s we let go of all the stresses and pressure from real life for those few hours and just talked about life.

The moments I also won’t forget include our times playing in beer pong tournaments together (team name- the Asian and the Geek- was supposed to be the Asian and the Greek but the guy misheard and you complained the whole tournament haha), obviously the road trips, visiting each other at school, playing ball at Club Fit, playing racquetball (where I kicked your ass haha), going to Friendlys and McDonalds when there was nothing else to do, our endless discussions about life over drinks, watching the Yankees and Giants together, playing poker, etc.

I want to thank you Klein. You’ve made me see how valuable life truly is and how much it should be cherished. Every minute, every moment should be lived to the fullest. I knew you pretty well and if you were here you’d probably tell me: Chang, find a job that you enjoy going to. Find a girl who doesn’t stress you out and isn’t too whiny (we both hate girls who nag a lot) and just be happy. Just to give you an update on myself since the last time we hung out, I finally started working. I’ve actually been working a lot. Currently I’m working as a financial analyst, but I’ve been working hard and trying to move up to Senior Financial Analyst. Haha you couldn’t see me working at a desk job M-F 830-530 could you? Yeah I’m slaving away, but I figure it’ll pay off eventually. I got to pay my dues first. This office work isn’t really for me, but it’s a job and I need the money and experience at the moment. I’m also going to night school. Hope your proud of me bro.

I’ll miss you my brother. At first, I kind of hated you for what you did. I thought you were the most selfish bastard in the world for taking yourself away from so many people that loved you. But then I realized maybe I’m the selfish one for wanting you around when you were hurting and never seeing it. I’ll always regret not being there for you at the end man. Instead of being wrapped up in my own world, I should of reached out to you, like a true bro would of. Hope you forgive me Kleinsauce. I hope the girls up in heaven are gorgeous, the beer is free flowing and you are finally happy and content with life. I hope you have no worries or struggles, no fears or desires up there. And if you can put in a good word to the Big Guy for me huh? I need as much help as possible coming up there, but hopefully we’ll be reunited one day and we’ll have some deep discussions over some 40s again.

Your bro always,

Chang Yu