Monday, February 10, 2014

Remembering ...

It appeared in my Facebook feed last night, an image of my friend Jeff's home office.

Seeing it again made me smile. And then well up.

I have fond memories of that office. When I used to visit Jeff and his family in suburban Detroit, Jeff would always be up early. And I would be up early, too, partly because I never sleep well when I'm away from home and partly because I slept on the main floor of the house and once Jeff was in the kitchen putting on coffee, no matter how quiet he tried to be, there was zero chance that I wasn't going to hear.

So I'd get up, too, and the coffee would finish brewing, and Jeff and I would decamp to his office to sip and chat in the early-morning darkness until his wife and daughters crawled out of bed and the house fully came to life.

He would sit at his desk and I would perch behind him, and that's what I was remembering when I saw the picture in my feed. Though as I stared at it, I wondered how the hell I ever found a place to sit. Perhaps the space had gotten even more cluttered since the last time I'd visited, though I'm not sure how that could be possible.

And I wanted to share the photo on Facebook, but it didn't feel like it was mine to share.

This morning, though, I saw it again, the first image in a lovely post by his daughter Alex, "The Extraordinary And Everlasting Love Between One Super Dad And His Daughter." She wrote it to commemorate today, the second anniversary of his death.

Now I feel as though it's OK to share it, now that it's been published for all the world to see:

It's amazing, isn't it?

His office at the Chicago Sun-Times, back in the day, wasn't much neater.

But the spaces suited him, not for their messiness but for their busyness. Jeff, as Alex writes in the piece, was almost always doing several things at once.

And now I'm laughing, remembering one morning when I was there and he offered to make breakfast. He started pulling ingredients out of the fridge, ingredients that really had no business going together, but he had decided to make scrambled eggs. Doctored scrambled eggs.

I am really not a fan of eggs and so I declined when he offered to make some for me. But he was insistent. As my host – and a Jewish one at that – he wanted to ensure that I was fed.

I repeated my dislike of eggs. He wanted to know what I ate for breakfast, prepared, I suppose, to cook that for me instead.

"Honestly?" I said. "I usually have chicken."

At the time, that was true. I've never felt beholden to breakfast foods anyway, but at the time, I was eating a lot of chicken.

He and his wife, Sherry, started riffing on chicken-based breakfast cereals.

"Cluckers!" was Jeff's opening salvo, if memory serves.

"Wing-Os!" Sherry chirped.

Jeff continued with his eggs.

I may not be remembering everything that he put into them that morning, but I distinctly remember celery.

And stuffed olives.

As I was saying, ingredients that have no business in scrambled eggs.

The thing was, he prepared a lot, convinced that I'd have some despite my protestations.

I held firm.

He looked at the pan, dismayed at the amount he'd prepared. "Well, this is just terrible," he said.

He scooped some out of the pan and sat at the table with a plateful of his concoction.

"Sherry," he said, "have some."

She peered at his plate.

"I am not eating that," she said, as he dug in.

She eventually relented and ate some. To be polite, I expect. Sherry is a lovely woman, very mindful of others' feelings.

Later, I retrieved a protein bar out of the car.

Later still, Jeff and I went to his office at the Wall Street Journal for a while.

After, we stopped at a Thai joint for lunch.

I ordered something made with chicken.

And on the way back to their house, he put on a Springsteen track he presumed I hadn't heard before.

He was right.

It was Bruce's arrangement of "Blinded by the Light" from the "Live in Dublin" set.

We drove along, song blaring, basking in Bruce.

It is one of my favorite memories of him. Of us.

My love to his other friends and his family and all who miss him every day.

It's still hard to believe he's gone.


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