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Project Bald

21 Jan

cawfee_pic1

This year, to commemorate Jeff’s Birthday on March 2nd, we’ve set up a charity fundraising event that goes a little like this: 

On the ‘international’ set date: 2nd March 2013, individuals across the globe (anyone who is willing!) will be shaving their heads* for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) – the same charity for which the walk in memory of Jeff also raised money. The event will take place throughout the day (a Saturday), with the head-shaving process hopefully shared through a live video-feed from an online website. We want to have multiple events organised by participants of Project Bald, which should also include the likes of bake-sales, art-sales, book-sales, busking, etc. where the proceeds all go towards AFSP and suicide prevention. 

*Although entitled Project Bald, the fundraiser does not necessarily need to go completely bald. In order to raise the potential number of fundraisers, any drastic hair change that will encourage friends and family to donate is within the scope of Project Bald, including head-shaving, long-term hairstyling, hair-dying, eyebrow-shaving, armpit-hair knitting, etc… at the fundraisers’ own will. For those who do cut their hair, if it is longer than 10 inches, the hair can be donated to wigmakers catering to the needs of alopecia sufferers or cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy, and in the case that the hair is sold, the proceeds can go to AFSP. 

We’re hoping that many of you reading this will join our list below in helping raise money for a cause which is so close to all of our hearts, all of us having tragically lost someone so special and unforgettable in Jeff Klein. By the end of his birthday this year, Jeff will have more gifts of hair than he will know what to do with. 

Will you shave your head for Project Bald? 

Our fundraisers so far: 

Tarzan: going completely bald (London)

Mo: going completely bald (London)

Ozan: going completely bald (Cameroon)

Matt Bradley: going completely bald (New Zealand) 

Remember, going completely bald is not a necessity – anything you can do that is a sponsorable gesture and is hair-related goes. Please join the list (just tell Rich) and/or sponsor us to help raise money towards suicide prevention and for the memory of an inspirational young man. 

http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.personalCampaign&participantID=400220 

All our love, 

Tarzan and Mo

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The Not So Amazin’ New York Metropolitans

4 Dec

The Mets use to have a saying - "we can't lose if it is raining."

As Kleinsaucer readers are probably aware, Jeff was an avid sports fan, and a gifted writer. He had a blog, Talkin’ Sports, where he would write his thoughts about trends in sports, most memorably about his disdain for David Stern, NBA’s Commisioner. He also was a sports writer for Middlebury’s newspaper. I always admired his passion for sports, and how he translated this into flawless prose. (It’s not hard to believe this given how well Rich writes. As AB says, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”)

So, out of respect for Jeff, I thought I’d chime in on the New York Metropolitans.  As many of you will probably soon find out or already know, Jose Reyes, a homegrown All-Star Shortstop, signed with the Marlins for 6 years, 106 million.

To put this in context, Jose Reyes leaving the Mets is similar to LeBron James leaving the Cavs (you can read Jeff’s reaction to the Lebron signing here). The difference is that the Cavs had a spine, and gave their best shot to keep LeBron. The Mets, on the other hand, are spineless and heartless. I never thought I’d say it, but Jeff was right, I should have been a Yankees fan.

Fans of this “franchise” know how hard it is to root for this team:

Late Season Collapses

The Mets had historic late season collapses in 2007 and 2008.

Horrendous Signings

Bonilla signed a 5 year, $29 million contract in 1992 with the Mets. His production didn't measure up to the contract, and Mets fans consider it one of the worst signings in franchise history.

Egregious Errors

Luis Castillo dropped an easy pop up on June 13, 2009 in a Subway Series game with the Yankees, costing the Mets the game.

Questionable Management

The Willie Randolph hiring for the 2005 season didn't end so well after several disappointing seasons.

And, while it has been tough, we could still wake up in the morning and look ourselves in the eye. While we did not have luck, we always had heart.

An unofficial Mets motto is "Ya Gotta Believe." After tonight, I don't believe Mets' Ownership could dare allow Reyes to leave.

What transpired tonight is unforgivable. Since most of the readers are probably (and rightfully) Yankees fans, think of Derek Jeter at 28 going to the Blue Jays or Orioles (I don’t say the Red Sox, because the Marlins are like the Mets’ Blue Jays) for slightly above market value (I’d say somewhere in the ballpark of 20-21 million a year). How would you feel? Reyes left not because of an outrageous contract demand, but because ownership’s unwillingness to spend any money. If Reyes signed a 6 year, 120 million dollar contract, I may be more forgiving. But he didn’t. The Mets will pay 15 million a year for Jason Bay, but not 17.5 million a year for Jose Reyes?!? Are you kidding me?!?

As Jeff would say, being a sports fan is not as mundane as it sounds. With an allegiance comes passion, heart and commitment. I’m through. What Wilpon is doing to this franchise is criminal. And, to take a card from Jeff’s playbook, Bud Selig, MLB’s Commissioner, should stop helping Wilpon vis-à-vis loans and other financial support. If he knows what is best, he will quietly pressure the Wilpons to sell the Mets, and restore dignity to this New York Franchise. I will not support this circus as long as the Wilpons continue to own this team.

On a larger note, Jeff taught me the value of passion. It’s important to be passionate about the things you care about. I am not saying it should rise to the level of hubris or arrogance, but passion is what gives color to the world. It’s a shame that I will not wake up tomorrow morning to read Jeff’s take on this sports travesty. I write this post in his honor.

Lonnie

A Winter Storm In October Adds To The Harsh Winds Of Autumn

30 Oct

This used to be my favorite time of year, when the temperatures cool down, the air becomes crisp, there are a few days of Indian Summer that tempt you to head back to the beach, and the colors are breathtaking in New York’s northern suburbs.

But as I walked our dogs over the weekend of October 15th, the strong, harsh winds on both those days blew in the painful memories of autumn a year ago.  Walking into the wind, it felt as if I was taking a peppering of left jabs to the face as I recalled the exact two month period to which I’ve made reference many times on this blog, from September 9th to November 9th of 2010, when Jeff’s morale took a turn for the worse and never recovered.

And as if that’s not enough, I am looking outside at close to a foot of snow on our deck, the result of the first winter storm of this magnitude in October since 1869.  The meteorologists call it a “perfect storm”, an anomalous confluence of events that may never occur together again for another 150 years.  I call it cruel.  And bitterly ironic.

My backyard-October 29, 2011

It is ironic because just one year ago, it was exactly the same type of “perfect storm” and bizarre confluence of events that led to Jeff’s tragic demise.  The combination of a brutal job that he could no longer stand, a flawed decision to try medication and a decision made too late to cease taking those meds, created the tempest that proved to be too daunting for Jeff to withstand.  I’d even include an inexplicably postponed Knick game that Jeff was scheduled to attend on November 2nd as part of the devastating mix.

Perhaps an even greater irony is that Jeff would have LOVED yesterday’s snow storm, and thus, there is no doubt in either Carey’s or my mind that his spirit had a hand in this.  He lived for snow days from school, but even more than that, he got huge thrills from highly unusual, once-in-a-lifetime events like this.  He would have been tracking this storm from the first mention of it, and he would now be telling us all the trivia facts related to it, such as the fact that nothing like this has happened since 1869.  I truly loved seeing the joy he got from unique situations and events.  For us, though, this damaging storm only contributes to the rehashing of the dark memories of last autumn.

It was October 25th of last year that Jeff completed the one week process of being weaned off the misprescribed meds that he was fed by a psychiatrist who didn’t take the proper time to understand and diagnose the problem before throwing pills at it.  We were so hopeful that this weaning process would lift the cloud that had formed around his head, but apparently this stuff takes time to completely leave your system and two weeks later, that time had run out.  Jeff apparently couldn’t wait any longer.  Suffice to say I will never again let anybody that I love or care about take such medication, to the extent I can control the situation.

Perhaps the most confounding, and in some way comforting thing about Autumn 2010 is that, despite the struggles, there were some really good times for Jeff during that period.  Here’s an example. 

Every September, on the third Tuesday of the month, one of my clients hosts a golf tournament outside of Boston.  Since I don’t play very much during the year, I usually try to make a couple of trips to a local driving range before the outing to get ready.  Last year, I asked Jeff to come with me on the two consecutive weekends before the tournament, and he readily agreed (as Brooke rightly says, if Jeff was free, he was always down for anything).

I have such great memories of those two days at the driving range.  You have to understand that Jeff probably never played a full round of golf in his life.  But the sight of this big, strong young man crushing ball after ball off the tee and watching most of them soar straight-as-an-arrow into the distance was hilarious.  Jeff didn’t really know the “proper” way to swing the club, but his instinctive swing worked just fine.  We were both laughing at the stark contrast between his great shots and my not so great ones, most of which went anywhere but straight and certainly didn’t have the distance of his.

I was both happy and flattered that Jeff agreed to go with me on that first Sunday, September 12th, because the Giants had a 1pm game against the Panthers.  To be sure, he followed the game’s progress on his phone between shots, and after we hit three buckets, he was ready to go home and catch the second half on TV, but the fact that he was willing to miss the first half to hit balls with his Dad was an awesome feeling for me.  My thoughts driving home that day were: great time, Jeff was relaxed and having fun, totally engaged and into the Giants, and he was going to be just fine.  And we repeated this scene the next Sunday, which was another terrific time.

The memory of that great time with Jeff is what made this September so difficult to handle.  Before this year’s tournament, I skipped the driving range preparation.  With Drew away at school and Brett having to focus on college applications on the weekends, it would have been too excruciating to go alone, accompanied only by memories.  In fact, I don’t think I can ever go back there again.

From golf, it was on to tennis for Jeff, as he really got into the sport again last fall at the urging of his friend Dan Reisner.  I am grateful to Dan, who encouraged Jeff to become a member of the USTA (United States Tennis Association) so they could enter tournaments together, and they did.  Jeff, a former Horace Greeley varsity tennis player, had a great time with it.  I’ll never forget that when Jeff’s Greeley tennis coach got up at the 2005 Senior Athletic Awards Dinner to talk about his team, he said “Jeff is definitely the fittest athlete on the team, and he gets to absolutely every ball !” As a periodic tennis opponent of Jeff’s, I can vouch for that being so true.  Once he turned 15, I never beat him again.

One of  the best weekends of last fall for Jeff began on Friday, October 15th, which is when Drew came home for his October break, and Jeff was scheduled to play in his first USTA tournament that night.  Jeff came home after his match all pumped up that he had won, and he was then ready to kick back with Drew and me, and watch Game 1 of the ALCS between the Yankees and Rangers.  And what a time we had.  The three of us made the house shake with our screams when the Yankees, down 5-1, roared back with 5 runs in the top of the 8th to win 6-5. 

Although Jeff lost his next match the following evening, it was close, and he enjoyed the competition.  And to close out the weekend in style, he and his wonderful friends, Ryan and Lisa, went to the Giants game on Sunday Oct. 17th.  I really thought weekends like that would significantly improve his outlook on life.

Jeff went to two Giants games during his final autumn

Two weekends later, we went as a family to the Knicks home opener on Saturday night, with Jeff decked out in his police uniform Halloween costume that he was wearing for his friends’ party after the game.  I’ll never forget that on our drive in to the city, I glanced at Jeff in the back seat of the car, and he was looking intently at something on his phone screen.  It turns out that he was checking to see if his LSAT score had been posted.  It had, and a big smile crossed his face, as he told us his score.  He did well.  Very well.  And I prayed that this was the spark he needed to turn things around and to realize he had the ability to do anything he wanted in life.  I mean, he excelled on the LSAT while in a crappy state of mind and on meds.  I thought that was pretty damn impressive.  Can you imagine what this kid could do under a more normal set of circumstances ?

As we walked toward the Garden from the parking garage, I pulled Jeff aside and said, “Now tell me the truth, don’t you feel a sense of satisfaction at achieving this kind of success?”  He flashed that great Jeff smile and he acknowledged to me that he did feel really good about it.  I told him that even if he decided not to apply to law school, the point remained that he could do anything he put his mind to.  He agreed.  But like most of his good moments last fall, this one was fleeting, and he was not able to sustain the positive momentum. 

I believe that during this period, Jeff took things that happened as signs or omens, either good or bad.  I further believe that he took what happened on November 2nd a year ago as one such ominous sign and that it may have sealed his fate in his clouded mind at the time.  He had been very much looking forward to taking Brooke and Julie to the Knicks game that night, both because he hadn’t seen them in a while and because he loved the thought of taking them to their first ever NBA game.  He was anxious to show them the ropes, as they say, and make them big Knicks fans.

I was riding Amtrak home from my business meeting in Philadelphia that afternoon when Carey called to tell me that the game had been postponed indefinitely due to a problem with asbestos falling from the roof of the Garden.  WHAT???  That can’t be right, I told her.  I mean, the last time a Knicks home game was postponed was almost 15 years ago, on January 7, 1996 due to a snowstorm. The last time a Knicks home game was postponed for a non-weather reason was in December 1965 when a game against the 76ers was rescheduled after the death of the 76ers owner, Ike Richman.

I could tell that evening that Jeff was extremely disappointed, and although I told him he could take them to any future game he wanted with our tickets, he still took this postponement very hard.  He seemed to feel that Murphy’s law was operating in full force and that anything that could go wrong was going wrong for him.

The rest of that week was rough.  I remember one night I walked into Jeff’s room to give him a hug goodnight, which I always do when my boys are home.  On this night, he gave me a particularly strong hug and said:

“I don’t know what I would do without you, Sir.”

I replied almost incredulously, “But isn’t that the beautiful thing, Jeff ?  You don’t have to do without me.  Ever.”

He KNEW that, but it bore repeating at that moment.  And he then hugged even a bit tighter, and I felt his head shaking “yes” on my shoulder.  Why it ultimately wasn’t enough that his entire family was there for him, enveloping him in our love, is something I will never comprehend.

Drew was recently home for a few days on this year’s October break from school.  His presence ushered in a breath of fresh air, helping me combat the harsh winds of autumn.  Thank God for that young man.  With his sense of humor, his incredible strength and his love of family, he is an inspiration to me every single day.  And thank God for Carey, my amazing wife who is successfully waging the fight of her life to stay the course in the face of losing her first born son.  And thank God for our “baby” Brett, who we call our “golden boy” for more reasons than just his blondish hair.  The youngest always remains the baby, even if he is a 6 foot tall bundle of muscle. 

And so we march forward through a season that can never again be my favorite time of year.  Ironically, Jeff used to love this time, and his favorite thing to do every October as a family when the boys were younger (other than watch the Yankees playoff games) was to go apple picking at a local orchard and to enjoy a hay ride and some warm apple cider and sugar donuts while we were there.  And it was there that the boys would choose which pumpkins to buy for the holiday.  This was yet another annual family tradition that Jeff looked forward to, and I think we did it every year until Jeff graduated high school.

Jeff always thoroughly enjoyed Halloween too, whether it was marching in the parade through town as a kid, trick-or-treating through the childhood years (he delighted in counting the individual pieces of candy in his bag to see just how much loot he had raked in), or donning “Scream” masks, a blind referee costume, or other costumes at parties as a young adult.

Yes, that's Jeff, but Carey doesn't seem too scared

Counting his Halloween candy, Jeff's annual ritual

Those are the memories that I pray will one day be swept in by a cool, light autumn breeze.  Right now, though, there are only cruel snow storms and unforgiving winds relentlessly blowing us with terrifying force toward November 9th, the one year anniversary of Jeff’s absurd and tragic decision.

I am unable to stop tormenting myself by wondering what Jeff was thinking that afternoon while he was en route to his final destination.  Did he think of me at all ?  Did he think about those days at the driving range, the apple orchards, amusement parks, Knicks games, Yankees games, family vacations, holiday gatherings, Sunday night family dinners out, our many long talks about life, our one-on-one baseball trip when he turned 16, any of it ?  Or how about the 2+ hours we spent together in his room just the night before, watching Monday Night Football.  Did he think about that ?  These mental ruminations breed feelings of both pain and betrayal that I cannot shake.

There is no way around the agony that surrounds me this season, because I can’t stop thinking about how on this day a year ago- as we drove to Madison Square Garden as a family and Jeff retrieved his LSAT score while wearing a policeman Halloween costume- I didn’t know that we had just 10 days left with our son.  Ten days to talk to, to hug, to love, to enjoy, and to care for the amazing young man who made my dream of fatherhood a beautiful reality for the first time.  There is some comfort in knowing that our family gave Jeff every ounce of our love until his dying day.  We have continued to shower him with love, in our own individual ways, ever since. And we always will. Not even the unfriendly winter storm and autumn winds of 2011, with all the brutal memories of a year ago riding in on their backs, can distract us from doing that.  

-Rich Klein

God is Great, Beer is Good, and People Are Crazy

10 Oct

It has been a little while since I posted on Kleinsaucer. I thought I’d re enter the frey with a story bringing out Jeff’s unique and feisty character.

For those who knew of Jeff, he had quite the progressive sentiment. He abhorred what he perceived as “knee-jerk reactionaries.” More specifically, he was not fond of the southern religious conservative sect. Through his studies at Middlebury, Jeff developed a further love for politics and history. As he took more classes and read more stories, his comments became more poignant and zingy. I remember passionate conversations with Jeff about the direction of this nation during the Bush years. He sometimes made fun of figures in the Bush administration; who couldn’t!

As probably referenced in prior posts, Jeff, along with Jack, Ryan and myself, went on a roadtrip to Key West during the summer of 2009. Road trips invariably include a sizeable amount of music listening. Out of the group on this trip, lets just say my musical preferences differed. I pushed for Alt –Country, Indie, Rock and Classic Rock. The others, to put it nicely, were more mainstream. Music turned into a battle between the rest of the gang and myself; a battle I often lost. As we passed North Carolina, during my allotted time, I choose to listen to southern country stations.

And then came on a track, entitled “God is Great, Beer is Good, and People are Crazy,” by Billy Currington. This song struck a particular cord with Jeff. To him, it epitomized all that he loathed about southern religious zealots and politics. Yet, by the same token, he appreciated its simple hearted nature – Jeff was fond of drinking and hanging out with his friends. I guess he liked the song in a mocking way, but it proved to be more of a conversation starter than I first envisioned.

Interestingly, one of Jeff’s last voicemails he left for me concerned southern culture and politics. I think it was from when he was at Duke with Ryan and his friends. The message concerned a conversation with a southern girl at UNC in Chapel Hill, NC. For some reason, he choose to talk about politics with a conservative girl at a bar. What balls! It didn’t pan out, but it led to a ten-minute classic Jeff rant on politics and history, all in a southern accent. At the end, he said “God is Great, Beer is Good, and People are Crazy.”

This post is less about forwarding a political ideology, but more about Jeff’s unique and lively personality. As I listened to a country radio station on Pandora today, this song came on, reminding me of my experience with Jeff. I think the take away is that while one should be passionate, it is also necessary to take things with a grain of salt. I certainly miss Jeff for this, and hope to bring this aspect of Jeff’s personality forward with me.

Lonnie

And so the madness begins

17 Mar

Today is no ordinary day. Today is the kind of day Jeff lived for. I can see him smiling up above, looking down. The weather is absolutely stunning for the first time in a long time. The air smells crisp and fresh as you inhale. Excitement is a brewin’ – not only is it St. Patrick’s day, it is  also the official start of the NCAA Tournament.

I don’t think I appreciated the meaning of March Madness until today. After all, I went to NYU undergrad, devoid of any sports (or team identity). I am at UConn Law now, so I finally have a team to route for. Last year, my first year, I really wasn’t into this day, due to my disposition as an NYU Violet. But, today is different.

Man, watching the Big East torny was exhilarating. UConn made a historic run. I found my self watching every shot, heart thumping as the clock winded down. It was a treat, watching Kemba seal the game winner against Pitt. Watching UConn defeat DePaul, GTown, Pitt, and Louisville, sensational. And now, the big dance has finally started.

 

Kemba Walker shooting the game winning shot against Pitt

I reiterate, Jeff’s presence is permeating throughout our world. As Rich said, Jeff loved, and I mean loved upsets. And, we’re already seeing some tantalizing upsets already (Morehead St. beating Louisville. Are you kidding me ?!?) There is also another sign. Thursdays are my long days, with work in the morning, and classes throughout the day until 9pm. As I walked into my 3:30pm class, I noticed another Professor of mine guest lecturing on a subject I had already taken. I planned in advance, of course. Ipad on the left streaming the torney, iphone in the middle with another game , and on my computer , another. In a shocking turn of events, my Professor instructed me to leave. That’s right.  Needless to say, I did not disrespect my Professor.

Now, I’m sitting outside on my campus, the sun shining, the games playing (drinks not pouring until after classes). Today is a celebration everybody. I will certainly do a toast to Kleinsaucer as I consume my first pint of Guinness.  Take some time out of your day, enjoy, celebrate, toast. Jeff wouldn’t have it any other way.

-Lonnie

(Note: Just to clarify, my professor instructed me to leave because I had already taken the class, thus making the lecture redundant. She did not instruct me to leave because I was watching the tournament. Just call it a March Madness miracle).

Call Off March Madness

14 Mar

Let’s face it, the concept isn’t as radical as the Grinch’s attempt to prevent Christmas from coming in the 1966 classic movie.  That was flat-out heresy.  What I’m proposing here is simply common sense.  It is inconceivable to me that the NCAA would even consider going ahead with the tournament when Jeff Klein won’t be in front of the television to watch it.  It would be like the Lakers playing without Jack Nicholson in the front row, or the Knicks playing without Spike Lee front and center.  Jeff might not have the same star power that those guys do, but would anyone really argue that there is a bigger fan of March Madness ?  So as for playing the tournament this year ?  It’s just wrong.  At least for one season anyway.  College basketball should give itself a year to adjust to a new world order without Jeff in it.  Without Jeff in it…that hurts so very much.

Well, you get the point.  To Jeff, Thanksgiving and Christmas were great, his birthday was certainly an annual highlight, the NBA playoffs were big, but there was nothing that got his juices flowing like March Madness.  Everything about it got him fired up: play-in games, frantically flipping channels on Day One and beyond, bracket-busting upsets, incompetent referees, participating in multiple bracket pools himself, and the list goes on. And this year, he’d even have the new “First Four” round to watch, with the expanded 68 team tournament.  More teams, more upset chances !  Seeing how excited he got gave me great joy, and I watched as many games as I could with him each season.

Jeff started working at Weil, Gotschall in November 2009.  He called me one day in January to tell me that he had already submitted a request to take his first two vacation days on the first two days of the NCAA tournament on that Thursday and Friday in March.  I queried whether it wasn’t a bit too early to be asking for vacation days after having worked there for less than two months.  He reassured me that it was quite ok, as they accrue one vacation day per month, and ultimately you either use them or lose them.  And of course, what better use of vacation days than to watch the opening of March Madness, with the remote in hand and the trigger finger ready.  By the end of the conversation, I was thoroughly convinced that Jeff absolutely MUST take these days off.

Last February, I was having trouble thinking of something fun to get Jeff for his 23rd birthday.  Then it hit me that neither of us had ever been to the Big East Tournament at the Garden.  So I went and bought two tickets for the semi-finals so that we could do something else that neither of us had ever done- watch two games in one night !  Basketball Heaven for Jeff’s birthday !  And what a great appetizer to get us in the mood for the big tournament a week later.  We each went straight to the Garden that night from work, and when Jeff arrived, he started searching for his ticket.  “Uh Dad, I think I left my ticket in my brief case at the office,” he dejectedly told me.  Well son, I told him, the game starts in 25 minutes and the subway is right there, so go get it and I’ll have your beer ready.  Getting from Madison Square Garden to 59th and 5th, and then back again, is no picnic at rush hour, and I didn’t give Jeff much of a chance to make the start of the game.

Jeff's 2010 Big East Semi-Finals ticket still hangs on his bulletin board

I should have known not to sell my son short when it comes to making a basketball game, and sure enough,  just as they were about to tip off, he showed up at our seats absolutely drenched in sweat.  The subway couldn’t have been that hot in March, I said.  “Well”, Jeff replied, “I decided not to take the subway back, but when I realized I couldn’t get a cab, I started to sprint.”  Sprint ???  From 59th and 5th to the Garden in business loafers ???  It turns out that Jeff “only” sprinted half that distance (an incredible endeavor nonetheless) before finally finding an available taxi.  He downed his beer like it was a shot.  I can’t think about Jeff at the Garden without thinking of those beers in the plastic cups with the handles that have an opening in which they place a pretzel stick.  He thought that was the greatest thing ever, and to prove it, he always made sure to consume several of them per game.

And so despite Jeff’s shaky start, we had a great night, first watching Georgetown blow out Marquette in an upset and then watching West Virginia edge Notre Dame in a 53-51 thriller.  By night’s end, we had had our fill of beer and basketball.  I am so thankful that we had this special night together for his birthday, because although we went as a family to a few Yankees games over the summer and a final Knicks game on October 30th, this was the last live sporting event that we attended alone, just the two of us.

Now back to March Madness.  How ironic that the last NCAA final game of Jeff’s life featured the ultimate underdog (Butler) against the school that two of his best friends attended (Duke).  As he told me before the game, it was a “no-lose” situation for him.  As has been mentioned frequently on this blog, Jeff lived for dramatic upsets, always rooting for the underdog to topple the big favorite.  And so there we were, just the two of us, upstairs in our TV room, going crazy watching an incredible final game that truly lived up to its billing.  And what could have been better for Jeff than the fact that it all came down to the final shot, which could win the NCAA championship, and the underdog had the ball !

When Gordon Hayward of Butler launched the final half court prayer for the potential win, I positioned myself so that I could see both the TV screen and Jeff at the same time.  Jeff’s jaw dropped open as the ball was in the air and it looked like it was right on target.  When it rattled out, we both let out a loud and simultaneous “ohhhhhhhhhh !,” which shook the house.  I looked at Jeff and asked, “How bummed are you ?”.  With no hesitation, he said, “Not at all.  Would have been wild, but I’m really happy for AB and Ryan.” And I’m pretty sure he then proceeded to send them a congratulatory text.

And so here we are a year later on the eve of March Madness, which starts tomorrow without its biggest fan- my precious son- and without regard for my view that they should still call the whole thing off.  I guess down deep I know that canceling it now could pose a bit of a problem for all the teams, players, tv networks, advertisers and fans across the country.   The issue for me is that my feelings about March Madness are a microcosm of my broader view of life right now.  It is hard for me to come to grips with the fact that all things in life, including the things that Jeff was passionate about, will go on without him.  I console myself, though, in the thought that the NCAA officials do, in fact, have a valid reason for going ahead with the tournament this year.  It’s because they know that Jeff will absolutely be watching, as he always has.  From here on out, he will just be watching from a different perch, one that is higher with a perfect view, which some might argue is actually the best seat in the house.

-Rich Klein

Knight in Shining Armor

24 Feb

Jeff has always looked out for me, even during the earliest days of our acquaintance.  Back in late April 2009, after a long night of conversations and shenanigans at one of KDR’s ‘Thursty Thursdays,” I was presented with the arduous task of making my way back to my room.  MiddRides had stopped running long ago and, unfortunately, the brothers with cars were in no state to drive.  And so it was that Jeff, a KDR brother, and I found ourselves making the walk together back to campus.  I don’t remember too much about that walk save for the fact that Jeff and I spent pretty much the entire time trying to trip and shove one another off the sidewalk.  Even in my hazy state of mind, though, I had no problem remembering what happened next.

We’d just dropped Sarah off at her dorm, and I was making my way towards Forest Hall when I noticed that Jeff was not headed towards his room in the Atwater Suites.  “Don’t you live in the opposite direction?” I asked.

“Yeah, but I have to make sure you get back safely first,” he replied.  Obviously I was crazy for even thinking that he would do otherwise.

At this point, I’d known Jeff for a grand total of two weeks.  This particular Thursty Thursday marked only the second day that I’d spent in his company.  But as many here have noted, he was chivalrous to the core.  Sometimes it does not take long to know a man and to take his measure.  In that moment, through those simple words and that one simple act, I realized that Jeff Klein stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Even now, I have moments where I feel him with me.  Recently, I had a rather harrowing experience.  As I’ve told Rich and Julie, though, it wasn’t all so bad.  While it was happening, I was overcome with a deep certainty that Jeff would never let anything bad come my way.  He didn’t, and he won’t.

I am not a very spiritual person by nature, but there has been no doubt in my mind that I have a guardian angel up there looking out for me.  Like AB has said, I believe that Jeff knows when we are thinking of him.  Sometimes my mind will wander in some ridiculous way and I always find myself whispering a silent apology to Jeff for subjecting him to my strange thoughts.  But for now, I hope with all my heart that he knows how much I love and miss him.