Monday, December 15, 2008

Guest Post: Goodbye, Jimbo

This is a guest post from my dad's good friend Jeff. Of course, I was aware of the story when it happened, but when I re-read Jeff's words about the day and some of the after affects, I was genuinely touched and wanted to share it with you with his permission. My proximity to the story itself makes me cry, the imagery makes me want to cry, and the eye toward the future and the next steps of life evokes other strong emotions within me about my hope for the future. All three of the men in the story (one of whom is my dad) have led proud, professional, and socially-aware Michigan lives. Not including the great sadness within the story, I dream that I will have a place in Detroit and Michigan to get together with my 30-year running buddies and share our own secret and ramshackle place in the world. You can read more of Jeff's writing at Caminsky's World.

I visited Detroit Police Headquarters at 1300 Beaubien today, after lunch with my friend, Bob A. at the Old Shilellagh---the bar in downtown Detroit where we pay off most of our bets, the ones we use to give us an excuse to go out to lunch. It was the first time I'd been to the Police Gym back since July 1st. I came to clean out my locker...and to say a last goodbye.

Bob and I have been running buddies for almost thirty years, dating from 1980---when I was a new prosecutor and he, having been around for several years before that, was one of the young "old veterans." We've each gone on to a measure of professional and personal success together---Bob as a crackerjack trial prosecutor, me as a somewhat well-regarded appellate lawyer. But somehow, we always seemed to make time to exercise together.

At least, until last July 1st.

There was a third member of our team. Jim Metz was a funny, mischievous, and charming member of the office who, upon rejoining the Office after a stint as a private lawyer, started running with us. We'd try to go every day. (Well, every day we couldn't think up an excuse). And between the three of us, we usually managed one person's worth of gumption...which was enough to guilt all three of us into going. We preferred the police gym for a couple of reasons: it was dirty, which cut down on the crowds, and meant we wouldn't have to share the running track with any real athletes; and it was free. More importantly, it was an excuse to sit around and talk, while trying to work up the ambition to start jogging---about life, love, politics, and anything that happend to pique our interest. And, for nearly twenty years, we managed to keep each other healthy, happy, and reasonably fit.

July 1st started out like any other run: we sat; stretched; talked...and, reluctantly got onto the track to run.

This time, though, the run lasted less than half a mile. Jim collapsed as her rounded a turn in the track, and died as we tried to save him.

Today was the first time I'd returned to the gym since that day. In many respects, I was probably putting it off...knowing that to clean out my locker meant that Jim was really gone, and that we'd simply have to move on. So, I stuffed my gear into three plastic bags and left.

But before leaving, I went back up to the running track, one last time. It looks just the same: the track was still dusty and old; the basketball courts, crinkled and wavy from the water dripping from the leaking roof, still lay unused. And the stairs still creak when you climb them.

I rounded the track once, pausing at the spot where Jim breathed his last. And then, I left.

Bob and I are planning on resuming our exercise the downtown YMCA, right after the first of the year. It's a lush, well-run facility---without grime, without crystalized drippings from the leaking water pipes, and with a reliable supply of hot water for the showers. Life, after all, must go on.

But, it won't be the same.


Anonymous said...

There are so many ironies in this story.

First we have a vibrant, charming, relatively young man who dies at 59.
Then, we have the fact that we spent all time time running, and still die young (many a tought run we would say that our non-runing friends better not lead healthier, longer lives than we who agonized through so many runs.

Finally, so many of our conversations including our wondering if the gym, with its leaking roof, buckled floors, irregular supply of warm water, and ever diminishing supply of light bulbs (many times we would change, literally, in the dark) would last as long as we would want to use it. It did.

Dan A. said...

Very sad. I'll probably remember the post on blog visits and hopefully remind myself not to live everyday like it was my last, but more importantly treat other people like it could be theirs.

BobA said...

Dan A, what a wonderful sentiment!