Goodbye, dear AJ! A close relative by marriage, AJ passed away last month. He and I are very different people, but we had immense love and respect for each other. I am fortunate I got to know him and his family, and I will miss him dearly.
AJ was many things I am not. He was a war veteran. He was deeply religious. He was as organized as you ever saw. And he was a gourmet cook. When he said dinner would be ready at six, dinner would be ready at six. We had many things in common too, including our love of sports and beach vacations. We talked about war and peace. We talked just about everything with candor.
It is about this time of the year every year when AJ and I would root for two opposing college football teams in their annual, regional rivalry. The rest of the season we would support each other’s team. I wear a T-shirt that AJ gave me with his team’s logo. He loved the $2 bill that I gave him with my team’s logo as a Christmas gift.
AJ played tennis most of his life and won competitions on the state-wide senior circuit. He was a big fan of Federer, yet he was pulling for Djokovic to win the tennis grand slam this year. Growing up, he played against a younger and better Jimmy Connors in the junior circuit. AJ told me he did not care one bit for Jimmy’s momma yelling from the sidelines. I told AJ I was a fan of Jimmy. AJ didn’t like that either. We were both big fans of Serena Williams and Tiger Woods.
My family visited AJ’s family multiple times a year. On our visits, AJ would tell me that he didn’t like the foolishness of me paying for lunches. Eventually, I convinced him I should pay the tips. More recently, he did allow me to pay occasionally for a lunch. AJ was an outstanding cook, so dinners would be at home . He made sure we had immense vegetarian variety for our meals. He would agree to let me help him cook. He’d say, you do the spiced carrots so well, would you? By the time I’d go to the kitchen, AJ would have the carrots peeled, cut, and ready, and have the water boiling!
AJ and our son had a special relationship. AJ was his cheerleader whether he played golf in his school days or wrote research papers later in his life. Our families often shared a house on our beach vacations cum reunions. We loved those times. Only once in all the times did AJ get upset with me briefly. It was when we were on a bike ride. I motioned my young son to be closer to me as we were biking along a road. AJ was ahead of me, and he took my signaling as meaning I would be more protective of my son than he would be!
AJ leaves behind his wife, two sons and their families, including four delightful grandchildren. I know how hard his passing is for all of them as we approach the holidays. They should know he leaves behind loving memories all around. Happy Thanksgiving!
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