Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jeff ...

I woke up, having fallen asleep on the couch, very aware of the time.

The clock had ticked its way to just before 1 a.m.

It was today.

Today is the anniversary of Jeff's death.

I made my way through the house, turning off lights, then got into bed.

Lying there, so many thoughts kept coming to me, so many images, so many moments.

I thought about Jeff's laugh.

The dedication of his first book reads:

To my wife, Sherry,
for her love,
her good advice,
and her great laugh

Jeff had a great laugh, too.

There was an intensity to Jeff, ever the reporter, always aware, taking in the myriad details of every moment. It was what imbued his storytelling with so much richness, his ability to recall so much color.

But his laugh was the other side, a burst of delight that was as real a recognition of something wonderful as I've ever heard.

I thought about his office at home, a collage of a room where we would sit in the mornings when I'd be visiting, he at his desk, me perched behind him, both sipping coffee, the world still dark, everyone else still asleep.

I thought about him lying on the sectional in their family room, his BlackBerry on the coffee table, just within reach, his constant need for knowing. It was afternoon, and I'd recently arrived, and he had asked if I wanted some scotch. It was an odd thing to have in common. Jeff never struck me as the scotch-drinking type. But then, most people would probably say the same about me. So in that way, our mutual appreciation for it made sense.

On a previous trip, we had gone to a bar before a Springsteen show and we'd both ordered scotch. It was, as bars go, not scotch appropriate. But then, neither was the scotch. It didn't matter. I was just glad to be there, spur of the moment, as spur of the moment as a five-hour drive could be.

I thought about driving back from Oak Park after he'd done an event for The Girls From Ames. We had a good conversation about work and writing. He was mulling a project. "Your heart's not in it," I said. He could write about anyone or anything, but Jeff's best came from his heart.

When I got up earlier, I went to my bookshelves and took down all of his books that I own. I looked at The Girls from Ames and thought about the dinner we had at his hotel after the event. I couldn't remember if he had signed the copy I had with me that night, which he had sent to me when it was released.

I opened the front cover. He had.

He had written, in part, "... if ever you move to Ames, I promise to move there with you, so our friendship can be assured it will stand the test of time ... ."

That makes me smile now. I'm sure Sherry would have had a few things to say if something had ever taken me to Iowa and Jeff had announced, "Beth is moving to Ames. I promised her I'd move there, too. Start packing."

I shall not be moving to Ames. And Jeff is not here to not move with me.

But I've always known our friendship would stand the test of time.

It has.

It will.


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