My Last Time with Jeff Klein

15 Nov
So as of last Wednesday, a full year has come and gone since the passing of my dear friend, Jeff Klein. Since we’ve reached such a monumental “anniversary” (I don’t like that word because it usually signifies a joyous occasion), it felt like the right time for some more reflection. Rich posted a beautiful series of pictures on this blog that really highlight what an amazing life Jeff had, and what he will be remembered for. What I took from the pictures is that he really did leave an amazing life, and he was just so HAPPY in every single photo. This is how I always remembered Jeff: Happy, laughing, smiling to the very end.
To prove this point, I’d like to retell the story of the last time I spent with Jeff Klein. It was the weekend of November 5, 2010, less than a week before he died on the 9th. Horace Greeley was playing in the football Section Finals against Harrison, and since I hadn’t been to a Greeley game all season, I felt motivated to check out this big game. As always, I knew Jeff would be down, as he too was a big fan of all things Greeley. When I asked him to go, he respond in his typical down-for-anything voice, “Yeah! Why not?”
I also asked our buddy Eric Dubs to go to the game too, and he obliged, which is somewhat surprising since he’s not a big sports fan, but I think he preferred just to hang with Jeff and me than the actual event we were attending.
The game was a defensive struggle as I recall, and think the score ended up being something like 6-0, 9-3, or somewhere around there. The details of the game don’t really matter (I know we lost by less than 1 touchdown), but it’s really the time with Jeff that I remember the most.
To be perfectly honest, he seemed FINE. He was enjoying the game, we explained to Dubs the intricacies of what was going on, I shared my anecdotes about what it was like being on the team 6 years prior and we had a generally great time – as much fun as you can have in a losing effort with next to no scoring. We joked, we laughed, we talked football, high school memories, and began the process of planning our night out in the city that evening.
A bunch of my Fraternity brothers had invited me to go out with them Downtown, and I asked Eric and Jeff if they wanted to join. Once again, of course Jeff was down for it all. The 3 of us drove back from the game together and discussed what train we were going to take, and how we were all going to shower and change very quickly in order to catch the 8:46 train from Chappaqua into the city.
When I got dropped off at home, it wasn’t long until I received a text from Jeff. It read something like this: “AB, I know I’ve been acting really out of it for the past few weeks, but I just wanted you to know that I truly appreciate your friendship.”
When I got this, I was totally confused. Out of it? Appreciate my friendship? What was he talking about? I hadn’t noticed anything amiss, except that Jeff seemed to “disappear” for a number of days a few weeks prior. When I asked him about it over our weekly Poker game, he told me there were complications from the sleeping medication he stopped taking, so he had to be briefly hospitalized, but he brushed it aside as no big deal. I took his word for it – especially because he seemed to be in fine spirits, always accepted my invitations to go out in the city, to play racquetball at Club Fit, to hang with friends, to do whatever.
This text was a rare showing of emotion from Jeff, and I had no idea of the magnitude of the dark ideas that were floating through his head at the time. I thanked Jeff for his text, assured him that I appreciated his friendship as well, but told him that all was good and I hadn’t noticed him acting different in any way. Knowing what he would do to himself just 3 days later makes this text come into clearer focus for me, but at the time I was puzzled to say the least.
At this point in our 23 and a half year old lives, it wasn’t common for a guy to tell his buddy “I appreciate your friendship,” (we would be more inclined to act a little more “macho” and say something like, “you are the fuckin’ man,” or “you are fucking hilarious”) but I am now so glad he told me this. It gives me closure that he truly did enjoy what we had together as much as I did, and he appreciated what I (and the rest of his friends) must have been doing for him – getting his mind off of his dark thoughts and keeping him going and having fun until the very end. I truly think as Jeff’s good friends and supporting family, we extended his life longer than it would have been had we not been there for him. How long, I have no idea, but even if it was for one day, I am glad to be a part of that.
After this little text exchange a few minutes passed and I got another text from him. Jeff told me that he hadn’t been moving as fast to get ready as we all agreed to, that he still needed to shower, shave and change, and that he wouldn’t be able to make the train with Dubs and I. “Maybe I’ll catch the next train an hour later and meet up with you guys.”
Even through the text I could sense a certain sluggishness in his tone that I didn’t like, so I called him immediately.
“Kleinsaucer! What the hell man! Let’s DO this. Who cares about showering or shaving! Get your ass in high gear, throw on a shirt and meet us at the train station in 20 minutes. You can still make it!”
This must have been the boost that Jeff needed to shake him from his malaise, because he did get his stuff together and just barely made the train. He didn’t shower and didn’t shave (he was sporting a health beard). “I didn’t even get the chance to do my hair!” Jeff half jokingly exclaimed at the station, but I didn’t really care. We were all together, about to go into the city to have a great night with new and old friends.
And a great night we did have. I introduced Jeff and Dubs to four of my fraternity brothers, and shocking to no one, Jeff got along great with them. Jeff has always had the amazing ability to connect with just about anyone, in little to no time at all. We chatted sports, girls, drinking, college stories, everything you would expect from a bunch of 23 year old dudes getting together to go out in the city.
After pregaming at my brother’s place, we all went out to a nearby bar. Jeff ended up getting Jack to meet us there too, and it was great to see him. Good times were had by all, and once again, nothing seemed wrong. If I remember correctly, Jeff even had a lengthy conversation with a good looking girl he happened to meet at the bar. We were all impressed with his skills.
Jeff was having such a good time with us all, he decided to not take the last train back with Dubs, but to keep partying with me and his new friends. We both decided to stay and sleep at my brother’s apartment. The last text message Jeff ever sent to his dad actually was a message indicating that he wouldn’t be taking the last train, but that he was going to stay in the city with me and my buddies. A picture of this text has actually been posted on this blog a couple times.
After a great (and late) night in the city, Jeff and I took the Metro North train back to Chappaqua together. Still feeling the residual effects of the night before, we recounted the entertaining moments of the night before on the train. Once again, all seemed normal, and there were no signs I could pick up on that he was anything less than satisfied with his life and the fun we were having.
When we got off the train, I asked him if he wanted to get together to watch the Jets game after we went home and got our lives back in order. He thanked me, but told me he was probably going to take a nap, but he’d call me when he woke up.
We shook hands, said bye, and I never saw him again. He never called. This was the last interaction I ever had with Jeff Klein.
How he ended up doing what he did 2 days later, like Rich has said, is something I will never fully be able to piece together. A combination of misguided medication, a less than ideal job situation, uncertainty where his career would be taking him and a stubborn inability to open up about his feelings and what he was going through, thus appearing “weak” in his mind to his friends, created The Imperfect Storm that drove him to his end.
I will never understand how this all happened, but I take comfort in that I have almost no regrets. I feel I did the best I could, and was the best friend I could have possibly been to him. I tell you, the way he hid his feelings, no one could ever know what was going on inside his head. And even if I could see into his thoughts, what could I possibly say? Probably nothing that Rich and Jeff’s family hadn’t already said to him, as they had a better idea what was going on.
Maybe some people just can’t be saved. I don’t know. I have no experience with anything like this. These are all unchartered waters for me and so many of the people in his inner circle. But what little comfort I ever get, when I think about Jeff, is that I felt that I did the best I could for him, given the circumstances.
And I sure as hell am glad I convinced Jeff to get his act together and come into the city with us that night. If I hadn’t I would’ve missed out on My Last Time with Jeff Klein.
Andrew Becker

One Response to “My Last Time with Jeff Klein”

  1. kleinsaucer November 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    AB- I remember that weekend like it was yesterday, especially getting the text from Jeff that all was good and he was staying with you guys in the city. It was the last text I ever received from him, and like so many others, it will be stored in my phone forever. I’m glad you were the one that he spent that last Saturday with, just as you guys did so many nights over so many wonderful years.


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