Thursday, December 13, 2018
The last time I saw him was at one of those parties. 20 teenagers running around the back yard in costumes shooting Nerf guns at each other, hopped up on sugar and nitrates. I loved the parties and it was clear the kids did too, but it wore me out just looking at the scene. Not Jim though. He thrived on it. He had energy to spare. He damn near broke my fingers shaking my hand. He wanted me to know there was coffee in the house. He always made sure to make coffee if I was coming over. He knew I liked it. He liked the way my wife made coffee when he visited our home. "She makes it strong."
I knew Jim throughout his seventies as a kind man with a sweet disposition toward me and my family. But I know not everyone who knew him had the same experience.
Jim told me of estranged family members from generations before and after him. He wanted to talk about hard things. He'd had meanness demonstrated to him young and had responded in kind frequently throughout his life. He figured he'd changed some. He didn't know about grace. He asked me questions about Jesus. He believed in God most days. He had opinions.
We didn't see eye to eye on many things. I hated his politics. He cut me some slack, but figured people who thought like me were a big problem.
I didn't argue much. I listened. It was easy to. Jim had so much story to share. Full of humor and heart and violence. Beautiful and terrifying in the unvarnished presentation. I wish I'd taken more extensive notes about his life. I told him I'd like to use some of his biographical details in my fiction and he was thrilled. He read my book and said I had the stuff. Nothing gives me more confidence in my merits.
Tuesday Jim died.
For the last 80-some years Jim lived.