My friend Greg Spira passed away last week, the end result of a long and recurring battle with kidney disease. Greg was 44 years old, a Mets fan who grew up in Whitestone, Queens, and an editor who among other accomplishments was kind enough to solicit and encourage my contributions to the Maple Street Mets Annual over the past few years. I knew Greg only for a short time, and were he anyone else, he'd probably be one of those quasi-business acquaintences with whom you interact with from time to time but never get to know well. But Greg's extraordinary intellect, curiousity and friendliness won me over. He was genuinely interested in so many things, a simple phone call to relay a message over a particular point in an article would inevitably become a hour-long phone conversation over a hundred more topics, and an assignment that could easily be relayed with an email would instead become a long lunch, or minitaure golf outing, or a Mets game. I liked Greg a lot. Our mutual friend Matthew Silverman knew Greg very well, and wrote a terrific rememberance of him at his website.
What a trial 2011 was for us Mets fans. In May, author Dana Brand died suddenly at age 56. Dana was in the process of organizing a scholarly conference all about the Mets to mark the occasion of the team's 50th anniversary. How awesome was that? The great news is that event will happen in Dana's honor April 26-28 at Hofstra University, and is open for presentation submissions through Jan. 10.
By the time Dana passed, my sister Jennifer was in the final weeks of her life. As I mentioned here before, but haven't written about much lately, Jen had ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease: a progressive neurological disorder that despite our efforts remains undefeated. Jen's loss at age 46 deprived her husband a great wife, her three kids of a great mother, my family of a great sister, aunt and daughter, and the Mets of another great fan. Jen was among MBTN's biggest supporters and totally got the concept. She made sure each of her friends bought one of my books whether they wanted one or not, and she had a lot of friends. It's impossible to say how much I miss her.
They say a year like 2011 is the kind of thing that puts Mike Pelfrey's struggles into perspective, and I suppose it does, though the overriding vibe is an urge to see better days ahead. I'd like to think that all three of Greg, Jen and Dana would see this coming season not exclusively as a disaster in the making, but would appreciate it also for whatever it brings, for its particular moment in time. We only have so many of them.