Feeling Lonesome

IMGP2053Nearly nine months ago my best friend Jim passed away of ALS. I’ve been feeling lonesome for his company. I find myself thinking about what I adored about him, and what drove me crazy. When you’ve known someone all your life, you know them inside and out.

I loved his devotion to politics and his ability to analyze unexpected or quirky turns-of-events. Jim would have reveled in this year’s bizarre election cycle.

Alongside the more predictable things to discuss — Trump’s tactics during the primaries and his front-runner status; Ted Cruz winning primaries — Jim would have also taken apart Hillary Clinton’s shortcomings as a campaigner, and the out-of-left-field victories of an avowed (albeit conventional) “Democratic Socialist.”

Jim always surprised me with his analysis and positions, but I suspect he would have voted for Bernie Sanders.

But what drove me crazy about Jim? His incessant chatter (he could talk for an hour without taking a breath) his inordinately long voice-mails, his perpetual lateness…

— and something else that I never told him.

Quick back story: I’ve loved the Chrysler 300 since it was introduced in April, 2004.

https://i0.wp.com/pictures.dealer.com/s/sherwoodparkdodgetc/0951/fd7758659de429ab2f1d533e48430e05x.jpgAs time passed I developed a distinct set of requirements: it would be dark (but not black) with cream or tan leather interior, an incredible sound system and the latest technological bells-and-whistles.

In the span of 38 years of driving, I’ve owned only five cars: a 1974 sun-yellow Datsun; a cream-colored 1984 Ford Escort; a teal 1996 Chrysler Concorde; a gold 2004 Nissan Altima…

And now I own a smoky gray 2014 Chrysler 300 with cream leather interior, the first new car I’ve ever bought. I love my vehicle.

When Jim got into it for the first time, he didn’t say anything for a while, and then said, “It looks like your other car.”

That was it.

My car in our driveway
The interior of my 300 — I bought it on a rainy day (when I took this photo)

It doesn’t look anything like a Nissan Altima, of course — Jim wasn’t observant about those things. But I didn’t say anything then, or ever.

I bought the car four months after his diagnosis and he saw it for the first time when I was driving him to yet another appointment with a neurological specialist in San Francisco. I knew he had much larger issues on his mind, and I didn’t say what I would have otherwise: I bought my Dream Car and that’s the best you can say?


That was Jim.

And God how I miss him.

When I returned from my trip to South America, I became acutely conscious of not being able to invite him to our house to spend a long weekend. He would have wanted to know every detail about my travels.

One of the largest agencies in California has established an annual $250,000 grant program in Jim’s name. It provides funds for non-profits and schools to create projects that improve the quality of our air. Jim would have been delighted to know his name will be connected in perpetuity with the Green Revolution. He worked tirelessly to improve the planet since he was in his 20s. You can read more about it by clicking  Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

I spoke to my mom on the telephone last week. I told her grief is an odd thing: when you think you’ve moved through the roughest part, it comes on again, without warning, as though the loss was brand new.

Mom said she still has these intense moments when she wants to talk with her mother about something that’s happened. Grandma Kate passed away 30 years ago.

Grief about the loss of a Loved One never fully goes away. It appears like my mom described: as the desire to share something, or find out their point of view, or simply to hear their voice one more time.

5 thoughts on “Feeling Lonesome

  1. Your car is beautiful, Bart! Thanks for sharing your grief process about Jim. It’s so true that anything can trigger it. My Dad has been gone for over 20 years and I still can hear his voice when he tried to tease me out of a bad mood – “your tail is twitching, kitty cat”! And I miss my Mom’s calls on my birthday to remind me that I was born on a hot, humid Kansas City night in a hospital with no air conditioning. I used to just roll my eyes and now I would give anything to hear that story again!!!!!


  2. This is honest and poignant and evokes that same bittersweetness of old grief, I think. Some of my big losses were 30 years ago. I just kind of assume at this point that for the big ones we carry them always, and the missing them never goes away (though the weight of it, of that initial pain, lightens over time). Thanks for your post, Bart. My heart goes out to you in this big loss.


  3. Hey Bart,
    I’m sorry you are missing Jim. I think about him often, especially in the mornings when I put in my hearing aids. That was something Jim and I talked about the last time I saw him, his hearing aids. I grilled him about them because even though the doctor told me I needed some I hadn’t gotten around to getting them back then. So now my hearing aids always remind me of Jim. Weird reminder. My mom died 11 1/2 years ago. Some times certain things remind me of her and it makes me smile and sometimes it just aches because I still miss her so bad.
    Have a good day Bart.
    Miss you


    1. Hey Karen,
      Jim lost those hearing aids during one of his bad falls, before he entered the care facility. I didn’t know you needed them, too. My ears seem fine; it’s my eyes that have grown weaker with age (not that they were much when I was younger either… my eyesight started deteriorating when I was in 6th grade, and they took me to specialists in Houston — they thought I was going blind. Dad called me Mr. Magoo. No diagnosis was ever made. My parents just kept paying for stronger glasses.) I have to buy new ones every few years.

      I still remember your mom, though only barely, from seeing her in that shop she owned.

      And I miss you, too.


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