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A New Year’s Fantasy

30 Dec

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”

                             –Lloyd Alexander, Author

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A couple of years ago, when I strolled through the Barnes & Noble store in Manhattan before Christmas, I came upon the latest Stephen King novel entitled “11/22/63”, which was the date JFK was struck down by Lee Harvey Oswald. On the book’s front cover was a newspaper containing the familiar headline: “JFK Slain In Dallas, LBJ Takes Oath,” but shockingly on the back cover, a completely different newspaper is pictured. That headline reads: “JFK Escapes Assassination, First Lady Also OK! Americans Breathe Sigh Of Relief.” WOW ! I stood there stunned by the whole concept, and I knew I had to have that book.

jfk cover

jfk back cover

The book’s premise is that a Maine school teacher, Jake Epping, learns from his friend, the owner of a diner, that the pantry in the back of his diner is actually a portal for time travel back to a specific date in the past, September 9, 1958. Step into the pantry, and you can travel back 53 years. Jake’s friend had been using the portal to buy ground beef at 1958 prices, but he offers Jake the opportunity to go back there for a deeper purpose—to stalk Oswald for five years and then prevent one of history’s most infamous events from happening.

The combination of a subject that fascinates me and the sheer concept of going back in time to prevent a senseless tragedy sent my mind into an absolute frenzy that day at Barnes & Noble. I had to sit down in the store’s Starbucks to compose myself. It was because I’ve had recurring fantasies since Jeff died that I actually stopped him before it was too late. These aren’t dreams I’ve had while sleeping. These are wide awake, sitting-at-my-desk-with-the-door-closed fantasies that I can’t stop visualizing.

The Los Angeles Times review of King’s book says:

“This is the conundrum of any time travel story…Every action taken in the past has an effect on the future, which means even the best intentions often have unintended consequences. Jake learns this early in the novel, when he tries to save a man he knows from a childhood catastrophe, only to learn, upon returning to the present, that in the new world he’s created, his acquaintance was killed in Vietnam.”

I don’t see the conundrum. Was it better that Jake’s friend died in childhood, or 15+ years later in Vietnam? My view is that every day of life is a blessing, and I’d have taken another 15 years with my beautiful son in a heartbeat, if that’s all I could have. No brainer. The future is always uncertain, but all senseless tragedies should be reversed if the power exists to do so. I do understand the horrors that people endured serving in Vietnam, and I don’t mean to make light of those. But to have 15 extra years with my son, almost under any circumstances, would be my choice.

I have two very distinct fantasies, one simple and one dramatic. The simple one has me coming home early on the afternoon of November 9th, 2010, and I pull up to the house just as Jeff is backing out of the garage. I say “hey, where are you headed, I came home early so we could grab an early dinner at Michael’s and then watch the Knicks-Bucks game at the bar afterward.”

And Jeff, not knowing what to say, kind of stammers and says, “Oh, sure, ok, great” and he pulls back into the garage. I wonder why he says he needs to go back into the house to get his wallet, while I stare at a $1 bill and his loose driver’s license in his car’s cup holder. There are also a few sheets of paper on the passenger’s seat. I assume he just forgot the wallet while rushing out of the house.

He seems surprised and definitely out of sorts, but he pulls himself together, and we drive over to Michael’s. We then have our typical great time together, talking about a plan for him to regroup and to figure out how to channel his true passions into a career that he will love. And after a few beers, we start screaming at the TV as the Knicks proceeded to get blown out by 27 in Milwaukee.

But in the real world that night, Brett sat between Carey and me on our bed, and we mindlessly stared at that Knicks game on TV, not knowing what to do or say. And we spent at least two hours trying to summon the courage to call Drew at college to tell him his big brother was gone forever. How do you tell a 19 year old middle son that, in the blink of an eye, he had become our eldest ?

In my dramatic fantasy, I also come home early. I don’t know how or why, but somehow I’ve been tipped off to what Jeff was on his way to do, and I speed toward the bridge. I get there in time, and as he gets out of his car, I pull up behind him. I get out, lunge toward him, and wrestle him to the ground, all the while telling him how much I love him and that everything will be ok. I usher him into my car and drive him home.

I tell him that we’ll just tell the police later that his abandoned car had broken down. The next day, I take him to the behavioral therapist he was supposed to see on this day. It goes well, as we expected, and the session gives Jeff the motivation to move forward in a positive way. The meds he had been on the month before completely leave his system by the end of the year, and he feels back to himself again. He is ready to embrace 2011.

The Associated Press’ book review says:

“Revealing how ‘11/22/63’ ends would, of course, spoil the book. But it kind of doesn’t matter, because the lesson is clarion: Don’t mess with yesterday. It may bite. Pulling at the threads of time’s tapestry is done at our own peril, and the conventional assumption that changing one thing about the past would make today better is simplistic. Besides, King writes, ‘The past doesn’t want to be changed.’”

That may be true–the past may not want to be changed—but I would do anything including selling my soul if that’s what it took to bring Jeff back. And changing that one thing absolutely WOULD make today better. It would make the world a better place, brighten the days of many people who have been deeply hurt by losing Jeff as part of their lives , and it would erase the devastation that our family has endured and make us whole again.

There would be no peril in changing the past to prevent what Jeff did. There would only be goodness, beauty and hope. There could be no negative repercussions to bringing back a young man who truly touched people’s lives and who had so much potential to do great things someday. And since his death was an isolated incident that didn’t involve anyone else, reversing it would not alter the natural order of the universe.

The New York Times book review says:

“There is a darker what-if. What if history is too forceful to redirect? What if jiggering the engine produces no favorable outcome — merely a postponement of the inevitable? If he had lived, Kennedy might not have escalated the war in Vietnam, and might have kept America out of a bloody mire. But we don’t know. What if we were headed there anyway? Then our tampering might only make things worse. It is not historical inevitability, but something close.”

I disagree with this passage. I don’t believe there is anything inevitable about any of our fates. We shape them through our actions and our approach to life. If Jeff had gone to his appointment that day instead of to the bridge, he wouldn’t have simply been postponing the inevitable. He would have been embarking on a new path, the right path, to getting his life back on track after the detour he took by leaving his job. And every day that each of us is out there in the world battling it out is a day that brings us new hope and promise. If our destinies were inevitable, why bother trying to shape them? Why bother striving for anything? Of course, that is ludicrous.

In mid-August 2010, we left for East Hampton for what would be our final family vacation with Jeff. The first day there, I got pretty sick, and by the time we went out to dinner that night, my temperature had spiked to over 102. I almost never get sick, and I guess it unnerved Jeff to see me in that state.

He asked to me to get up from the table so he could speak with me privately. He brought me to the vestibule by the restaurant entrance and said, “Hey, I see what my whole job situation has done to you, and I don’t want you to worry. I’m gonna step up and go to law school.”  He broke into a big smile as he said that.

He was clearly concerned about me and was making a very loving gesture, and I responded by embracing him right there and telling him how much I loved him. But I corrected two things about what he said. First, I told him I just happened to get sick- his leaving a job had nothing to do with it. And second, while I appreciated the sentiment, I told him I only wanted him to go to law school if HE wanted to go. I said I’d rather him step up and strive for WHATEVER he wanted to do. Either way, it was an amazing moment.

Less than three months later, though, medication-induced thoughts led Jeff to commit an irrevocable act. Tragically, when it comes to suicide, there are no “do-overs”.

But “11/22/63” prompted me to dream that maybe there can be a do-over after all. Maybe there really is a time-travel portal somewhere in the world, in some abandoned inner city warehouse, or some vacated farmhouse in the heartland, or maybe even in Atwater Commons at Middlebury, for all I know. I guarantee you this—if one exists, I will find it, even if it takes the rest of my days.

And when I do locate it, I will travel back to the afternoon of November 9th, 2010. If I have a choice when I get there, I will opt for the simpler fantasy of catching Jeff before he leaves our house, and then taking him to that long overdue dinner at Michael’s, so that I can eat, drink and watch basketball with him again. After setting life back on its proper course, I will return to 2015 to find Jeff blogging away about the world of sports, getting ready for a night out with the guys, and talking about his exciting new job working at ESPN.com.

The realist in me understands that I won’t likely find the portal that I seek. But my worldview is always that as long as I’m out there working hard every day to realize my dreams, there’s always a chance that I will. And while writing about Jeff in this forum has been great and therapeutic under the circumstances, I look forward to the day when, after fixing the past and returning to a beautiful present with Jeff in it, I visit and express my gratitude to Elon Rubin (this blog’s creator) for having given me the opportunity to write on the Kleinsaucer blog.

When I see the look of sheer befuddlement on his face, as he asks me what the hell a Kleinsaucer blog is, it will be the most beautiful sight that I have ever seen.

-Rich Klein

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A Christmas Eve Tale: Using Jeff’s Spirit Above To Help Find Our Missing Dog

7 Dec

“Oh, they say, she died one winter,

When there came a killing frost,

And the pony she named Wildfire,

Busted down its stall,

In a blizzard he was lost.”

        –Michael Murphey, “Wildfire”, 1975

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It’s sort of ironic that for a family to whom Christmas has been so important, both spiritually and in terms of being a wonderful time for family bonding, Christmas Eve has not always been kind to us.

On Christmas Eve 2000, the five of us went into Manhattan to go ice skating at South Street Seaport, to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and then to have dinner at Michael Jordan’s steakhouse in Grand Central Station before jumping on the train home. It was a great day and evening.

However, at about one in the morning, Drew, who was just 9 years old, came into our room in tears and in obvious pain. True to his nature, he apologized for waking us up but said that he felt extreme stomach pain. I knew immediately what it was, as it happened to me when I was 11. I asked Drew to point to the exact spot on his abdomen where he felt the pain. He did so, and it was the precise location where the scar from my appendectomy was still visible on the right side of my abdomen.

I explained that we needed to get in the car right away and get to the hospital but that everything would be fine. I told him that Santa would know and would deliver his gifts to the hospital. And so in the early hours of Christmas 2000, Drew had his appendix removed and Carey came to sleep in his hospital room while I went home to be with Jeff and Brett. Drew opened presents in Northern Westchester Hospital on Christmas morning.

I would have thought that one such dramatic Christmas Eve incident would be enough for one family, but I was mistaken. Our evening on December 24th, 2012 was all planned out. We’d have an early dinner out together and then go to Church services. Those plans changed quickly, though, when during our greyhound Dobi’s late afternoon walk, she ran off in the woods at Dogwood Park, in the same direction in which she typically wanders off for short amounts of time. She had always come back in the past within ten minutes or so. Not this time.

At the 20 minute missing mark, Carey and I started getting nervous, as darkness was quickly settling in. Dobi was wearing a bright pink coat, but not only didn’t we see anything in the distance, we didn’t hear any rustling in the leaves either. After a half hour, we started to bellow her name, beseeching this greyhound– whom we had rescued from the racetracks of Florida when our whippet Clif was diagnosed with lymphoma just three months after Jeff died– to come back to us. Dobi had comforted us greatly in the aftermath of Jeff’s death and Clif’s ultimate death in January 2012 (see “Clif’s Coming”, 1/30/12, https://kleinsaucer.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/clifs-coming/ ), and now she was gone. The song Wildfire entered my mind. The forecast for that evening was for sleet and snow, and I panicked at the thought that Dobi could be lost in a storm just like Wildfire was.

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Dobi in her pink coat

After an hour, we had screamed ourselves hoarse with nothing to show for it. It was pitch black, and the silence was deafening. Carey and I agreed that this time she wasn’t coming back. Carey speculated that she had been attacked by a coyote or a deer that she had chased. Or maybe for some inexplicable reason, she had escaped the park onto a road. Not knowing what else to do, we drove home without our precious dog.

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Text with drew xmas eve 2012 2

We had texted Drew and Brett what was happening, and when we got home, the look of disbelief on their faces broke my heart. Again. As we stood in the kitchen, that all too familiar feeling that our family had suffered yet another crushing loss permeated the room. It was surreal–there we were in a warm house while our greyhound was somewhere outside in the very cold night, hopefully still alive. She had been gone over 90 minutes. At that point, Carey verbalized what we were all feeling. We were going to go back into those woods, together as a family, and we weren’t leaving without our girl. We grabbed flashlights and got in the car, all five of us including Carey’s mom.

For a brief moment, though, I stayed behind in the kitchen while they went into the garage. I pulled Jeff’s picture out of my pocket–the one that was given out with the prayer card at his wake. He is wearing a deep blue shirt with a red tie. I keep it with me at all times. I looked him squarely in the eyes, and my rage that had boiled within me for over two years surged to the surface. I screamed at him:

“You owe us for everything you’ve put us through. YOU OWE US. Bring her back, do you hear me? As your father, I’m telling you to BRING HER BACK.”

I didn’t know if he could hear me, but I guarantee you the neighbors did.

No more death. No more tragedy. Not tonight. Not on Christmas Eve.

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We parked the car, and Drew, Brett and I got out with our flashlights and plunged into the dark woods. We each started calling Dobi’s name as loud as we could while shining our lights every which way. Nothing. We walked a little futher in, now screaming in fear, not hope. About five minutes later, Drew called out, “I heard something up there”, and he pointed up and to our right. Brett whipped around and pointed his flashlight at the spot, and we all immediately saw a flash of pink. Instinctively, Brett sprinted toward her, and Dobi started to run away from the blinding lights. I screamed at Brett to stop, and when I called her in as calm a voice as I could muster, she ran into my arms. I had dropped her leash by the entrance, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t letting go until she was back safely in our car. It had been well over two hours since she went missing.

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Clif and Dobi

I don’t know exactly how Jeff got Dobi back toward the entrance to the park while we were driving back there, after Carey and I had searched futilely for over an hour, but I do know that enough things have happened over the past four years–most of which I’ve shared in this forum–to convince me that Jeff’s spirit is alive and that he is watching over everyone he loves. While I don’t think he can control everything (if he could, all his favorite sports teams would win the championship every single year), I believe that God has given him a sphere of influence within which to operate, and he has utilized this to communicate with us periodically, to turn out the lights on occasion at major sporting events, and to guide the dog he never met back to us. I shudder to think about the emotional devastation we would have felt if Dobi had not returned.

Once we returned home with Dobi and fed her, we went directly to Church. Dinner could wait until afterward. Once there, in addition to celebrating the miracle of Christmas under the leadership of our Priest, Father Elias Villis, we silently thanked God about a million times for bringing Dobi home. And I privately thanked Jeff for stepping up for the family and doing his part.

When I opened the Church doors to leave after the completion of the service, the snow was falling fairly heavily, the cars were covered with it, and I had to compose myself while thinking about how Dobi, then safe and warm in our home, could just as easily have been out in this storm with her pink coat saturated, and with her shivering and scared in the woods or elsewhere. I was instantly overtaken, right there on the Church steps, by that feeling of parental helplessness that I was introduced to so abruptly and violently in the fall of 2010, and I was deeply shaken by it.

The bottom line is that whether it’s your dog or your child, you protect them as long as you possibly can, but when it’s time to remove the leash, your parental powers significantly diminish. At that point, all you can do is hope and pray that they are equipped to move forward productively, to make decent decisions and to stay out of major trouble. I have no idea where Dobi was or what she was doing during the two hours we were separated from her, but she somehow found her way back to us. Jeff, on the other hand, who had taken one dollar with him to the bridge on November 9th, 2010, just in case he decided to pay the return toll to come back home, chose not to. And in making that decision, he devastated the family he loved so much.

The story of Dobi on that Christmas Eve was just the latest incident that has made it quite evident to me that incorporating Jeff into our lives as if he was still here is the way to move forward most productively. That is why I made sure that he was central to our search and rescue mission for Dobi. And that is why I continue to yell at him when appropriate, talk to him daily, email and text him on occasion and call him every day to hear his voicemail greeting. I also stay attuned to his signals and will always be open to communication from him.

The path to recovery for me has never been clearer. I must continue to cherish what I do have, which is an incredible amount, while battling my loss by always carrying Jeff with me everywhere I go. Given how he sprang into action the second I called upon him to bring Dobi home two years ago, he obviously still needs me to be his father, and I will never stop being that for him. I miss him dearly, but through emails, texts, photos, videos, anecdotes and special memories, he truly remains alive for all of us.

I have learned not to look too far into the future, but for now, Dobi is home, the holiday season is beautiful, my wife and sons love me, and my friends and family are amazing. 2015 is almost here, and I’m ready to take it on. Things are bound to go awry along the way, but the events of December 24, 2012 gave me a blueprint for how to approach most problems in the future.

In many cases, I’ll pull out Jeff’s picture and sternly instruct him to make things right. And if that doesn’t work, our family will once again come together to brainstorm, and as a team, we will search for and ultimately find the answer.

–Rich Klein

Our Small Christmas Eve Miracle

2 Jan

“Oh, they say, she died one winter,
When there came a killing frost,
And the pony she named Wildfire,
Busted down its stall,
In a blizzard he was lost.

She ran callin’, Wildfire
She ran callin’, Wildfire
She ran callin’, Wiiiiilllllld Fiiiiiiirrre”

–Michael Murphey, “Wildfire”, 1975

It’s sort of ironic that for a family to whom Christmas has been so important, both spiritually and in terms of being a wonderful time for family bonding, Christmas Eve has not always been kind to us.  I’ll spare you the relatively minor incidents that have occurred on that day over the years and share just the two most traumatic ones.

On Christmas Eve 2000, the five of us went into Manhattan to do some ice skating at South Street Seaport, to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and then to have dinner at Michael Jordan’s steakhouse in Grand Central Station before jumping on the train home.  It was an amazing day and evening.

However, at about one in the morning, Drew, who was just 9 years old, came into our room in tears and in obvious pain.  True to his nature, he apologized for waking us up but said that he felt extreme stomach pain.  I knew immediately what it was, as it happened to me when I was 11.  I asked Drew to point to the exact spot on his abdomen where he felt the pain.  He did so, and it was the precise location where the scar from my appendectomy was still visible on the right side of my abdomen.  I explained that we needed to get in the car right away and get to the hospital but that everything would be just fine.  I told him that Santa would know and would deliver his gifts to the hospital.  And so in the early hours of Christmas 2000, Drew had his appendix removed and Carey came to sleep in his hospital room while I went home to be with Jeff and Brett.  Drew opened presents in Northern Westchester Hospital on Christmas morning.

I would have thought that one such dramatic Christmas Eve incident would be enough for one family, but I was mistaken.  Our evening for this past  December 24th was all planned out.  We’d have an early dinner out together and then go to Church services.  Those plans changed quickly, though, when during our greyhound Dobi’s late afternoon walk, she ran off in the woods at Dogwood Park, in the same direction in which she typically wanders off for short amounts of time.  She had always come back in the past within ten minutes or so.  Not this time.

At the 20 minute missing mark, Carey and I started getting nervous, as darkness was quickly settling in.  Dobi was wearing a bright pink coat (very fashionable), but not only didn’t we see anything in the distance, we didn’t hear any rustling in the leaves either.  After a half hour, we started to bellow her name, beseeching this greyhound, whom we had rescued from the racetracks of Florida when our whippet Clif was diagnosed with lymphoma just three months after Jeff died, to come back to us.  Dobi had comforted us greatly in the aftermath of Jeff’s death and Clif’s ultimate death in January 2012 (see “Clif’s Coming”, 1/30/12, https://kleinsaucer.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/clifs-coming/ ), and now she was gone.  The song Wildfire entered my mind.  The forecast for that evening was for sleet and snow, and I panicked at the thought that Dobi could be lost in a storm just like Wildfire was.

DOBI IN HER PINK COAT

DOBI IN HER PINK COAT

After an hour, we had screamed ourselves hoarse with nothing to show for it.  It was pitch black, and the silence was deafening.  Carey and I agreed that this time she wasn’t coming back.  Carey speculated that she had been attacked by a coyote or a deer that she had chased.  Or maybe for some inexplicable reason, she had escaped the park onto a road.  Not knowing what else to do, we drove home without our precious dog.

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We had texted Drew and Brett what was happening, and when we got home, the look of disbelief on their faces broke my heart.  Again.  As we stood in the kitchen, that all too familiar feeling that our family had suffered yet another crushing loss permeated the room.  It was surreal–there we were in a warm house while our greyhound was somewhere outside in the very cold night, hopefully still alive.  She had been gone over 90 minutes.  At that point, Carey verbalized what we were all feeling.  We were going back into those woods, together as a family, and we weren’t leaving without our girl.  We grabbed flashlights and got in the car, all five of us including Carey’s mom.

For a brief moment, though, I stayed behind in the kitchen while they went into the garage.  I pulled Jeff’s picture out of my pocket–the one that was given out with the prayer card at his wake.  He is wearing a deep blue shirt with a red tie.  I keep it with me at all times.  I looked him squarely in the eyes, and my rage that has boiled within me for over two years surged to the surface.  I screamed at him, “You owe us for everything you’ve put us through.  YOU OWE US.  Bring her back, do you hear me?  As your father, I’m telling you to BRING HER BACK.”  I didn’t know if he could hear me, but I guarantee you the neighbors did.

No more death.  No more tragedy.  Not tonight.  Not on Christmas Eve.

2012-12-27_0

We parked the car, and Drew, Brett and I got out with our flashlights and plunged into the woods.  We each started calling Dobi’s name as loud as we could while shining our lights every which way.  Nothing.  We walked a little futher in, now screaming in fear, not hope.  About five minutes later, Drew called out, “I heard something up there”, and he pointed up and to our right.  Brett whipped around and pointed his flashlight at the spot, and we all immediately saw a flash of pink.  Instinctively, Brett sprinted toward her, and Dobi started to run away from the blinding lights.  I screamed at Brett to stop, and when I called her in as calm a voice as I could muster, she ran into my arms.  I had dropped her leash by the entrance, but it didn’t matter.  I wasn’t letting go until she was back safely in our car.  It had been over two hours since she went missing.

CLIF AND DOBI

CLIF AND DOBI

I don’t know exactly how Jeff got Dobi back toward the entrance to the park while we were driving back there, after Carey and I had searched futilely for over an hour, but I do know that enough things have happened over the past two years–most of which I’ve shared in this forum–to convince me that Jeff’s spirit is alive and that he is watching over everyone he loves.  While I don’t think he can control everything (if he could, all his favorite sports teams would win the championship every single year), I believe that God has given him a sphere of influence within which to operate, and he has utilized this to communicate with us periodically, to turn out the lights on occasion at major sporting events, and to guide the dog he never met back to us.  I shudder to think about the emotional devastation we would have felt if Dobi had not returned.

The day before all this drama, on December 23rd, the four of us drove in to the city for the Knicks game.  At the garage we use across the street from the Garden, you can prepay your parking so that you don’t have to wait on line to do it after the game.  Unfortunately, this time after I paid, instead of putting the parking ticket in my wallet, I left it on the counter at the booth.  I realized it only after we had already entered the Garden.  If I wasn’t able to retrieve it, I’d have to pay another $39 for a new parking ticket after the game.

I called the garage from our seats and asked if any kind soul had turned in my parking ticket to the booth.  They checked, and sure enough, someone had done so, and they told me they’d hold it for me there.  I inquired as to who would have the ticket and who I should ask for after the game.  The guy said, “Just ask for Thao.”  Carey watched my face turn ashen.  I asked how Thao spelled her name.  “T-H-A-O”, he said.  Of course, who else would I ask for?  After all, Thao Lam was one of the most important people in Jeff’s life over his last months at Middlebury and beyond.  And she has been a beacon of light for our family since his death.  Jeff didn’t entrust the safety of my parking ticket to just any Tom, Dick or Harry.  He put it in Thao’s hands.  Of course he did.

Jeff & Thao

JEFF AND THAO

Once we returned home with Dobi on Christmas Eve and fed her, we went directly to Church.  Dinner could wait until afterward.  Once there, in addition to celebrating the true miracle of Christmas under the leadership of our Priest,  Father Elias Villis, we silently thanked God about a million times for bringing Dobi home.  And I privately thanked Jeff for stepping up for the family and doing his part.

When I opened the Church doors to leave after the completion of the service, the snow was falling fairly heavily, the cars were covered with it, and I had to compose myself while thinking about how Dobi, then safe and warm in our home, could just as easily have been out in this storm with her pink coat saturated, and with her shivering and scared in the woods or elsewhere.  I was instantly overtaken, right there on the Church steps, by that feeling of parental helplessness that I was introduced to so abruptly and violently in the fall of 2010, and I was deeply shaken by it.

The bottom line is that whether it’s your dog or your child, you protect them as long as you possibly can, but when it’s time to remove the leash, your parental powers significantly diminish.  At that point, all you can do is hope and pray that they are equipped to move forward productively, to make decent decisions and to stay out of major trouble.  I have no idea where Dobi was or what she was doing during the two hours we were separated from her, but she somehow found her way back to us.  Jeff, on the other hand, who had taken one dollar with him to the bridge on November 9th, 2010, just in case he decided to pay the return toll to come back home, chose not to.  And in making that decision, he devastated the family he loved so much.

The story of Dobi on Christmas Eve is just the latest incident that has made it quite evident to me that incorporating Jeff into our lives as if he was still here is the way to move forward  most productively.  That is why I made sure that he was as central to our search and rescue mission for Dobi as we all were.  And thus I will continue to yell at him when appropriate, talk to him daily, email and text him on occasion and call him every day to hear his voicemail greeting.  I will also be attuned to his signals and will always be open to communication from him, such as when he told me the Celtics would beat the Heat in overtime during their playoff series last season (they did).

The path to recovery for me has never been clearer.  I must continue to cherish what I do have, which is an incredible amount, while battling my loss by always carrying Jeff with me everywhere I go.  Given how he sprang into action the second I called upon him to bring Dobi home, he obviously still needs me to be his father, and I will never stop being that for him.  I miss him dearly, but through emails, texts, photos, videos, anecdotes and special memories, he truly remains alive for all of us.

 I have learned not to look too far into the future, but for now, Dobi is home, Christmas was beautiful, my wife and sons love me, and my friends and family are amazing.  2013 is here, and I’m ready to take it on.  Things are bound to go awry along the way, but the events of December 23rd and 24th have given me a blueprint for how to approach most problems in the future.

In many cases, I’ll pull out Jeff’s picture and sternly instruct him to make things right.  And if that doesn’t work?

I’ll just ask for Thao.

-Rich Klein

Christmas Memories

22 Dec

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Dad > Jeff, 12/22/08, 12:08pm: “The things she always likes are books and crossword books.  I would google Sharper Image and Brookstone in Westchester to see where they are located and see if they have any kind of cool back-scratcher device or electric back massager.  I think she would find that fun.  I bought cards for your brothers.  I know you usually make your own.”

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I don’t think anybody personified the joy of Christmas morning like Jeff did.  After going to Church on Christmas eve, he loved opening presents on Christmas morning.  I could never resist taking videos of the boys on Christmas, and here are some great clips of Jeff:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeT0M-ypD6A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQg69F5UtDo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apbFwxnP6yI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6VSWQmRiAE

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Merry Christmas, Jeff.  We are holding you in our hearts, remembering all the beautiful times that we had together, and carrying you with us everywhere we go.  Love you so much.

My Brother-Part 2

23 Aug

It’s been about eight months since I was sitting here in the same position, in the same place, writing my first blog post – My Brother (part 1). It is still an unfathomable, outrageous, and absurd feeling. In that last post, I went on and on about how unique Jeffrey was in so many ways and how he brightened and touched so many peoples’ lives. And I plan to continue those thoughts and share more hilarious stories with the readers of this blog. But it’s not just those stories and anecdotes that comprise the purpose and true meaning of this post. It intends to delve much deeper, giving insight on how he basically DEFINED our family, gave us life, and why that makes his loss even more tragic.

Well, Brett was certainly attached to Jeff from the start, and one of the things Brett got the most enjoyment out of was the way he mocked Jeff’s love of food, by declaring him “Fat Jeffrey”, even though Jeff had a very strong, slender, and athletic build. Brett always proclaimed him Fat Jeffrey during instances, for example, when Jeff would order curried goat from a fast food counter at a mall upstate! Whenever he did something like that, the rest of us would all sing along, “And that’s why they call him… Fat Jeffrey!” Obviously, this was all a big joke and sort of caught on due to Brett’s silly nickname for him in the first place, but if you ask me, not many kids his age would be ordering curried goat from fast food counters. Any random trip to the mall could be shaken up and funny due to something like this that Jeff might do.

Sticking with the subject of food, Jeff certainly had a thing for the hottest and spiciest foods known to man. One summer, I was doing a summer college course program at Ithaca College, and when everyone came to visit me, we all went to a Thai restaurant. Of course Jeff ordered the hottest possible wings that they served there, an item on the menu that most customers would never think of getting because there are warnings on the menu about how hot they are. Even the waitress asked Jeff if he was sure he wanted to order these. But of course, that was right up Jeff’s alley! While most consumers of these wings would be running for the bathroom, he would just smile and keep chowing down! An amazing (and hilarious) sight to watch.

My favorite line about Jeff’s food-related adventures was written by Elizabeth Mo in her blog post from November 30, 2010 (“What’s Your Favorite Organelle?”). She wrote, “I do remember Jeff putting a brick of wasabi in his mouth. I was both impressed and horrified. Wasabi ain’t bland.” That was my brother, alright.

The list could just go on and on with memorable things Jeff said and did. I was a witness so often to this first one and I couldn’t stop laughing every time this happened. When my mom was in the kitchen and Jeff was in his room or anywhere else upstairs, she would call out to him if she needed him for something: “JEEEFFFFFF……”, and after a full two or three second pause, he would reply: “OOOOOOUUUUUUIIIIIIII!!!!!”, as in the French word for yes – this was his actual response! Let’s just say that whatever Mom was planning on telling him, she would be laughing so hard that she was unable to remember.

Speaking of one-in-a-million voices, Jeff had a favorite scene that he always imitated from the movie Bruce Almighty, that even had Brett unable to control his laughter. This is really saying something, because Brett was typically impatient with Jeffrey’s childish goofiness. He imitated an elderly lady in the most convoluted and outrageously funny voice that you could ever imagine. I don’t think I – or anyone – could come close to imitating Jeff’s version of this. It went like this:

Elderly Lady: “Man from Health Department say he find rat pellet in our pastry, but I say ‘No, it is big chocolate sprinkle’.  But man shut store down.  So we clean up, make big COOKIE, for to bring customers back.”

Bruce: “Well, I admire your candor.  Let’s try that again, shall we?  So tell me, Mama, why make Buffalo’s biggest cookie?”

Elderly Lady: “So the children of the neighborhood will be happy?”

Bruce: “That’s right.  It must be wonderful seeing the smiles on their little faces.”

Elderly Lady’s Son: “I work in back.  I see no smiles.”

You can forward to the 1:13 mark of the following link to hear this clip.  But trust me, Jeff did it better!  Brett, Jeff and I used to watch this movie all the time on long road trips, way back when, when we had a built-in DVD player with a screen that hung down in the back seat of our car. Jeff always imitated this scene when it was happening during the movie, and every time the rest of us would be more entertained by him than the movie itself. What an amazing memory.  http://www.metacafe.com/watch/an-YU6l2YYhbJmm/bruce_almighty_2003_giant_cookie_report/

Then there was the time my dad took Jeff, Brett and me to an interleague Yankees-Mets game at the old Shea Stadium.  It was probably around 2007. There was a short rain delay before the game started, and there was this middle-aged guy with completely white hair sitting in front of us who took the opportunity to take a little nap during this time after a beer or two (or more).  The funny thing, though, was that when the game finally started, this guy continued sleeping and snoring away!

All of a sudden, a guy sitting diagonally behind us and the white-haired guy, who was probably in his 20s, and who definitely used the rain delay to guzzle some beers, noticed the situation and began chanting “Wake up, white guy” in a sing-song kind of voice.  He was referring to the sleeping man’s hair, not his race. Jeff, of course, lost it and thought this was the funniest thing ever, so after the guy chanted again, “Wake up, white guy”, Jeff responded by clapping his hands in that familiar sports event rhythm—clap, clap…clap, clap, clap.

This gave the chanting guy the fuel to keep singing, “Wake up, white guy,” with Jeff responding with the appropriate clap, clap…clap, clap, clap, while laughing hysterically.  But then, before we knew it, our ENTIRE SECTION was chanting and clapping, with Jeff leading the way.  Even my dad got into it.  And the best part was that Mr. White Guy didn’t even stir! He kept sleeping right through it! It HAD to be one of the funniest experiences I can ever remember, and it’s a great example of how not only did Jeff define our family, but he also defined a whole section at Shea Stadium that day.

Again, it just makes zero sense that a man who could elicit laughter and joy from anyone, especially in THESE WAYS, is no longer here with us.

It sure drives me nuts just thinking about the possibility of him still being here. As I wrote about in my last post, what if I hadn’t locked my door all of those times when I was in high school? Maybe Jeff and I would have had countless moments, like the ones mentioned above, where we would be laughing together, just the two of us. I would do anything, even if it just meant for him to be able to come into my room one last time, holding a Petri dish of his ten freshly cut toenails, with a proud grin from ear to ear, which he thought was hysterical. He actually did this frequently.  He definitely had a unique sense of humor.

I wish I could just relive some moments from that family trip to Paris, seeing him pose just one more time in front of some knight in shining armor, making the knight the fourth guy in a photo with the three of us. Or walking up to the top of the Eiffel Tower again together. Or having him use his French vocabulary to help us order in restaurants or get us directions to where we were heading in the city. Anything.

On typical summer weeknights, Brett, I and my parents will often gather in my parents’ room before we all head off to sleep and head to our jobs the next day. We’ll talk about current events and things about our own lives that may be interesting to everyone. But of course, it’s just not the same without Jeffrey being there. This is an extremely obvious statement, but still so difficult to convey the pain to others at the same time.

And I know he would just love the fact that at the job I had this summer as a camp counselor, my campers in my group happened to be so diverse in terms of both behavior and background. He always loved to hear stories about the challenges I had with different campers (not so he could rub it in my face, but just to hear how needy and naggy some of the kids are at these camps). But the more “classic Jeff” story, that I remember so clearly, was how he used to count what number day of school it was during the school year. So now, I can only picture him asking how my 63rd or 92nd day of camp was on that actual day. What a shame that such poignant memories are merely dreams and imaginations now.

Well, all I can say now is that every time I use my car, I am at least reminded of these things. That’s because I have an actual photo image of him engraved into my keychain which holds my car keys, and it serves to remind me to live out each and every day for him and for our family.  And although Jeff’s cell phone will never be used again, my dad still pays the bill every month, so that we and anyone else can still dial his number (914 – 450 – 5601) and hear his voicemail greeting, even if it only is a few seconds long. This will always be possible to do, because my dad says he will be paying this bill for the rest of his life.

Anyway, it’s just inexplicable how much Jeff will be missed, especially on certain days like annual holiday events. When our family goes to church for services, afterwards there is a coffee hour where coffee and snacks are served. But every Christmas Eve, there is always a guy there who Jeff would call “the egg nog man” – because all he did was walk around with a large container, offering egg nog to everyone! He LOVED seeing this guy there every year, and he obviously made a huge joke of it to me and Brett – Jeff would imitate how he imagined this guy must slurp down the egg nog and then act drunk as a result. And of course, Jeff would try to keep going back and take as much as he could for himself! This is another example of how he always found a way to make a great, festive night even better and more memorable.

Now is the part where I attempt to digress and try to convey the more prominent meaning of this post – why it’s been nearly impossible to withstand the loss of Jeffrey, and why I mentioned in the beginning that he “defined our family”.

Holidays are the toughest. When our family takes the trip down to Church of Our Saviour every Christmas Eve, there is a gaping hole in the center spot of the backseat – where Jeffrey would be and should be sitting every year. I’m tearing up thinking about it now, just as I tried to restrain my tears this past Christmas Eve. He should still be sitting back there every year, making us laugh with joke after joke, story after story, bellowing out Christmas carol after carol in that hilarious half-mocking bellow of his. Every Christmas carol I hear, I can’t think but hear Jeff’s voice singing along in the background. Seeing the egg nog man doesn’t make me crack up anymore like it did when Jeff was around. This is what I mean when I say he “defined” our family; in other words, he determined our moods and how we felt, always the shining center of attention – he gave everything LIFE.

I remember that on November 6th, 2010 – it just seems like a few days ago – I was beginning my tenure at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, and I received a text from Jeff. I was a little confused, as it didn’t really make sense to me at the time. It said: “Drew man I feel like we’ve both gone thru some rough times in our lives… we gotta stay close and stick together, ok?” I just didn’t understand the nature of this text completely, because although I’ve struggled with a few trivial things in my lifetime, Jeff was always upbeat and optimistic about everything that was going on in his life – or so it had seemed. I was always away at school, and didn’t know the magnitude of his struggles, which had been only expressed to our parents.

Anyway, I obviously would have given anything to know that this simple text was an indication of what was going to happen just three days later. And I think, relatively speaking, that everyone (friends, family, and extended family) is still mulling over what we could have done to prevent the final drastic step that Jeff took on November 9th.

I remember exactly where I was at school, both when I received the text and responded to it. I simply said, “Yea, u got it”. I felt at the time that response was simple and reassuring enough for Jeff to hear, but I guess not. I wish I knew how things were at his end, because I just know that the two of us, and our parents, could have worked everything out together. If only he just let me know. At first, I thought I was the only one who had regrets about what more I could have done. But after speaking with my parents, I know that despite their incredible efforts, they continue to come up with “what if” scenarios. As for me, I just wish he came clean to me directly. If he had, I would have been totally there to help. Unlike in high school, this time my door would have been wide open for him. 

-Drew Klein

Aside

All I Want For Christmas…

20 Dec

It is hard for me to go through the holiday season without thinking of Jeff.  Strange, I know, seeing as neither of us have ever even spent a Christmas in the same state.  As I write this, Jeff will have been physically gone for almost as long as I’ve known him, and yet, he is still here with me.  Rich told me once that the duration of the time I knew him was not important, but the profound impact that we had on each other was, and that is something that is totally and unequivocally true.

I met Jeff in April 2009 and we grew to be quite close.  Even with the knowledge that he was graduating and returning to New York while I went back to Virginia, preparing to jet off to Paris for a year abroad, our friendship did not suffer.  So what if there were a few states and an ocean between us?  I spent that Christmas going from Rome to Venice to the French countryside, but Jeff and I stayed in touch, as we had been that entire summer.  I would go into a cafe and speak mangled French with an Italian accent in order to get access to the internet, and then, if/when I succeeded, I’d open up facebook.  And there would be a message from Jeff.

As Jeff is wont to do, he talked about his greatest passion in life:  “anyway, i just got back from the knicks game tonight. they are the worst professional basketball team i’ve ever seen in my life. i’m not even joking. i wish i could make $8 million a year for being a lazy ass bum.”

As I am wont to do, I countered with mine:  “the bread and cheese are great, but I would kill to have some spicy and/or American food right about now…”

And so we continued.  He discussed his job and I told him about my experiences abroad.  He told me that January and February were apparently slow months at work, so he’d be able to come home by 5:30 (in contrast to the multiple all-nighters that he’d pulled before).  Not gainfully employed like he was, I told him about my bohemian life and how I almost got peed on while walking down one of Paris’ poshest boulevards.  (I knew he’d be jealous of *that*.)  Just another day in the life of Jeff Klein and Thao Lam.

Christmas 2010 was radically different.  Tragically, Jeff was still not there with me.  At the same time, he was right by my side, just as he’d been the year before.  After finishing up my finals, I made a little detour and stopped by NYC to attend Brooke and Julie’s holiday bash.  I spent a night out on the town, hanging with Jeff’s nearest and dearest, people whom I’d never met until recently and yet had heard so much about.  They quickly became my friends, too, though, and I am grateful that they are now a part of my life.  We spent that night reminiscing and drinking, all in honor of a dearly beloved friend.  And of course Jeff was there with us.

This Christmas will once again be different.  NYC does not appear to be in the picture for me, but I think I will still be able to keep Jeff’s spirit alive.  Little things and random events still remind me of him, and I know they always will.  Knowing Jeff’s love for traditions, I am hoping to continue a few of my own.  Sports-wise, I am not quite sure what is going on with the NFL–or football in general–since I no longer have Jeff here to patiently explain things to me, but I will root for the Giants (?) in his honor.  (The fact that my little brother is an ardent Patriots fan will be an added bonus.)  I will smile every time I hear about the Knicks.  And I will always, always root for the underdog.

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So Jeff–here’s to you.  I am reminded of you when I eat something too spicy.  I watch basketball now because of you.  One day I will even understand other mainstream sports, all in your honor.  In the spirit of the “jeffklein, please come back into my life” texts that I have sent you at various times, I have a couple of favors to ask of you while you’re hanging out up there.  Firstly, that text still applies.  Secondly, I know you’re already watching out for me, but try to keep me from doing too many stupid things hokay.  Finally, make everyone move down to DC so that I can see them more.  With love, Thao.

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Note: I’ve always regretted that Jeff and I had so few pictures together.  Thus, in the spirit of the holidays, I’ve asked one of my best friends, a Nickelodeon animator extraordinaire, to remedy that situation.  She gifted me with not one, but two, pictures.

Jeff’s Christmas List: A Reflection Of Who He Was And What He Stood For

15 Dec

A classic Christmas-related email exchange from 2008: 

12/4/08, 9:42am, Dad > Jeff:

“I’d really like to get an email out to the North Pole asap with your combined lists.  Can you send me one today?”

12/4/08, 10:45am, Jeff > Dad: 

“Today is going to be an awfully tough day.  Can I do it tonight ?”

12/4/08, 11:01am, Dad > Jeff: 

“Of course.  Any time !  Even in a bad economy, Santa is always busy.”

12/6/08, 10:11am, Jeff > Dad:

1.    “I’d love some kind of Giants jersey, because the ones I currently have are Jeremy Shockey, Michael Strahan, and my own customized one, but I want someone currently on the team.  My first choice is Kevin Boss, but this is a problem, because apparently they don’t make Kevin Boss jerseys right now.  I don’t know if I should just wait it out until they do start making them or ask for someone else.  Put it this way, the only other one I’d want at this point is Amani Toomer, and I’m not sure if they even have those available.

2.    Knicks jersey, David Lee or Chris Duhon, whichever one Brett does not have / is not getting.

3.    The early ‘90s movie House Party.  This might be pretty hard, since it wasn’t in stock the last time I checked over the summer, but maybe Santa could work his magic.

4.    White athletic socks, NOT the ultra low-cut.

I think that’s it for now, I’ll let you know if I think of anything else.”

 

12/22/08, 11:33am, Jeff > Dad,  Re: One More Small Christmas Gift:

“If it’s not too late, I’d love a couple more yearly sports calendars (Giants and Yankees, or Giants and Knicks), for Middlebury and home.  I feel like I’ve been getting those for years.”

I share this with you, primarily because I can’t think of a better example of the type of down-to-earth, non-materialistic person Jeff was.  In a high-tech world in which most college kids from comfortable homes were probably asking for the new iPhone which had hit the market in June 2007, the new iPod Touch, a new expensive laptop, or other high-priced contraptions, Jeff was perfectly content with some sports jerseys, a DVD movie, some socks and a couple of calendars.  Amazing.  This makes me very proud, I must say.

It never took much to make him happy-  give Jeff the company of his family and friends, some chicken wings and cold beers, a TV with a game on, and he didn’t need much else.  Till his last day, Jeff still used the same 2005 laptop that he got before starting at Middlebury.  It’s a relic, but it worked ok, and he never felt the desire to replace it.  And as Tarzan said in his October blog post, Jeff had an old school Motorola cell phone, and he was perfectly content with it.  I specifically asked him before Christmas in 2007 if he wanted the hot new iPhone, and he said he couldn’t justify having us (or Santa !) pay that kind of money for features he didn’t feel he needed.

Here’s another great example of Jeff’s down-to-earth, unassuming nature.  When Carey and I went with Jeff to do some car shopping at the end of his old lease in late 2009, he settled in on the Mazda 6, which he liked and felt was in his price range relative to the salary of his new paralegal job.  We encouraged Jeff to go for a spoiler on the trunk of the car, since we thought it looked really cool.  He felt the spoiler was unnecessarily flashy and resisted getting it.  After we pushed a little more, Jeff finally agreed, but on one condition. Since it would cost an extra $25 per month on his lease payment for a feature he didn’t really want, he insisted we pay that amount each month !  Classic Jeff- he would have been a great negotiator in whatever field he had chosen.  Of course, we paid the $25 per month with no argument.

Jeff's car with the spoiler on trunk

Jeff’s choice of jerseys is also very telling and speaks volumes about the kind of people he respected and about the things he himself stood for.  Notice he didn’t ask for any of the biggest names or outspoken stars on either the Knicks or Giants.  No Plaxico Burress or Eli Manning.  No Al Harrington, Eddie Curry or Zach Randolph.  Jeff rooted for the unheralded, hard working guys who were class acts on and off the field/court.  Kevin Boss is one such quiet, tough, hard-working guy who plays the game the right way.  Jeff liked the unselfishness of Chris Duhon, who was no more than a back-up guard before joining the Knicks.  Amani Toomer was a fine receiver, but more than anything, was known as a team-oriented, class act all around.  And David Lee is the consummate professional-hard working, unselfish and underrated in Jeff’s view.  All of those guys stayed out of the limelight and just quietly did their jobs.  That is what Jeff respected so much.

In light of all this, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, as I noted in a recent blog post, Jeff’s favorite Christmas present of all-time was probably “The Book Of Basketball” by his favorite sportswriter, Bill Simmons.  He received this on his last Christmas morning in 2009, and once again, it was a simple thing like a book that gave him the greatest joy.

I can’t emphasize enough how much enjoyment Jeff got from reading articles by Simmons, the self-proclaimed “Sports Guy”.  The following email that Jeff sent me on 3/14/07 will give you an idea:

“Bill Simmons is the funniest person on the face of the earth.  He wrote an article about the 65 teams in the tournament and the order in which they will be eliminated, counting backwards.  Here’s the part on Virginia Tech (I still haven’t stopped laughing):

12. Virginia Tech (5)

They’re good enough to potentially rattle Bill Self’s toupee in the Sweet 16. And since I have nothing to add, here’s an idea for a terrible sports movie, courtesy of Villanova reader Sean McCloskey: “I was watching the selection show with my brother yesterday and he had the greatest idea. They should make a movie where someone holds the committee hostage on Selection Sunday. It could be the alumnus of a really crappy team and their demands are that their alma mater gets an invitation into the tournament. So they announce it on Sunday and Greg Gumbel goes, ‘The 3-seed out West is … the Bethune Cookman Wildcats?’ “

And just three days later, Jeff wrote to me:

“Sir- Bill Simmons did a running diary of the first round of March Madness.  If you get a chance this weekend, read it.  You can’t get any funnier than this.”

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/NCAA/dayone&sportCat=ncb

But perhaps Jeff’s greatest reaction to a gift occurred on Christmas morning 2008 when he received the official New York Giants Super Bowl DVD documenting that year’s Super Bowl season, which culminated in a huge upset of the previously unbeaten Patriots.  I was fortunate to capture Jeff’s reaction on video that morning:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeT0M-ypD6A

It is quite surreal that just a little over a year after Jeff’s passing, we are already about to endure our second Christmas without his physical presence.  His spirit, on Christmas and always, is with us in a very palpable way.  Last year, Christmas came less than two months after he left, and we hung his stocking as we always had.  The sight of that empty stocking, to me, was unbearable to look at, and so I don’t know what we will do this year.

We certainly don’t need a stocking to remind us that Jeff will forever be an integral part of our family unit.  By the same token, if he is looking down upon us (which I believe he is), I would never want him to misinterpret the lack of one hanging next to ours as a sign that we have moved on.  Dear God, no.  Never, Jeff, NEVER.  We are only able to march forward by carrying you in our hearts and minds every minute of every day.  You are never apart from us.

As if we don’t have enough angst already, decisions like whether to hang his stocking are always here to torment us.  We don’t know how to do this, how to live without one of our cherished children, nor should anyone ever have to.  Especially under these circumstances.  And so I let my instincts guide me toward the things that make me feel like I’m honoring Jeff and keeping his memory alive.  For me, those are things like writing on this blog, creating a Facebook group in his honor (please join if you haven’t already), and walking in the Out of the Darkness Community Walk this past October 2nd.  These types of things make me feel better, and so I will continue to do them.

And to my son-

I wish you a most peaceful Christmas, Jeff.  I know that, in the end, you were just searching for peace, however terribly misguided your thought process was as to how to achieve it.  I also understand that you weren’t intentionally trying to hurt us.  And knowing you as intimately as I do, I know that your 2011 Christmas list would read something like this:

1)  The Knicks in the NBA finals in this shortened season, just as they were in the 1998-99 shortened season

2)  I wish for the Giants to stop yet another second half collapse and to find a way to sneak into the playoffs

3)  Please get me another one of those sports calendars- I’m tired of looking down at the 2010 Yankees one on my bulletin board

4)  A beautiful Christmas for my family and friends.  I’m all right.  I need all of you to be too.

 

As was the case in 2008, this year’s list would cost very little and yet would easily satisfy some of the basic needs that were most important to you- sports, family and friends.  Well, as you alluded to then, Santa did have a way of working his magic when it came to you, so maybe he can do it again.  He can’t help with number 4, though, and that will be the hardest of your Christmas wishes for our family to fulfill.   But I do know how badly you want that for us, and so I assure you we will do the best we can to make it beautiful and to be all right.  No promises, though.  It’s just not that simple. 

 

-Rich Klein