Photography

My Friend Jim – By Gerard Exupery

August 26, 2020

This is my friend Jim. Jim was one of those people who understood what it is like to yearn for something big where his talents could go. He was a musician and writer and even wrote a musical about Napoleon. He loved to laugh, and like me would find humor In the grimmest situations.

I went through a rough period a few years back, and Jim hired me to work with him selling commercial aircraft parts. Not that he needed me. He had had his business for many years, and when things were good, they were outstanding. But Jim took pity on me and made sure that I always had money and was well fed. “You just go make your pictures,” he said. We laughed a lot. A whole lot.

Because Jim’s office was in his home, he took care of his mother in law Mildred. Mildred Hurwitz had been a successful artist in Chicago. You can find a YouTube video of her talking about her painting if you have the interest.  Mildred needed to be taken care of, and Jim’s wife had her move in and, because Jim’s wife worked outside the home, Jim became the primary caregiver. He would make her breakfast and lunch and take her blood sugar level and adjust her medicine every day.

Because Jim was taking care of me too, we would all have breakfast and lunch together, and it was always hilarious. When I asked Mildred if she minded if I took pictures of her, the response was, “Why the hell would I care?”

Jim’s wife grew concerned about me working with him because of how many times she found us screwing around and laughing at something. The final straw was when Jim tried to give me a mohawk haircut. We forgot about the hair left all over the bathroom and Jim’s wife didn’t think it was that funny at all. It was time for me to go.

Jim still had me come over for breakfast (after the wife split for the day), and we would meet for a beer every once in a while. I missed Mildred because she was such a pistol. Listening to her and Jim go at each other was like listening to old time radio. I missed it.

A few months later, Mildred died in her sleep. Jim told me he was glad he didn’t have to take care of her anymore. He asked me if that made him a bad person. “Did you murder her?” I asked. He replied with a maniacal laugh. I never heard him once complain about taking care of Mildred or speak to her in any but the gentlest tone of voice. “What you think about in your head, you get a free pass on Jim,” I told him. “It’s what you do that can get you in trouble.”

He missed her too.

Things got better for me, and I didn’t see Jim as much. We would get lunch together, which he always insisted on paying for except once at a bagel place when he forgot his wallet, and I didn’t have any money. What we should have done, we didn’t.  Instead, we did the dine and dash. We really didn’t have to, but that was the kind of idiotic “fun” we would get up to. Maybe his wife was right about us.

One thing Jim was serious about was his heart. Jim had a condition that required a defibrillator to be implanted in his chest. He told me that when the thing would fire, it was the most incredible pain, and “It’s worse than dying.”  It wasn’t unusual to find out he had spent a day or two in the hospital after the defibrillator had done its thing.  He always bounced back and made some crack and that was that.

Almost a month had passed since I had seen my friend.  We were playing telephone, email, text tag… we were going to get together, but I kept putting it off.  I was starting to feel bad about not seeing him. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and called the house, hoping the wife wouldn’t pick it up. But she did.

Because she didn’t like me, it didn’t occur to her that I would want to know that Jim had passed away the previous week. She also didn’t think to let me know when the service was. I wanted to say so many things to her, but I just hung up in the end.

It’s been 3 years to the month since he died, and I still can’t remove him from my phone or email contacts. The pictures you’ve seen here, they say a lot about the man. He was kind and generous, and he laughed at my jokes. That smile on his face? It was always there.

He was a good person, he was my friend, and I miss him very much.

My Subway book is available through ETSY: www.etsy.com/GExupery/listing/743273725/subway-1975-1985-photographs-and-writing

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Fontaine
    August 26, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Jim seems like the kind of friend I hope to have when I’m older. This is an amazing article, thank you so much for sharing with us.

    • Reply
      Gerard Exupery
      August 26, 2020 at 9:43 pm

      You may already have a friend like him and not realize it. Thanks for the compliment. It is appreciated.

  • Reply
    Gerard Exupery
    August 26, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    Thank you for your comment. He was the most unassuming guy yet to me kind of a hero.

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    August 26, 2020 at 5:14 pm

    Sorry for your loss. It’s the price we pay to be human, have feelings and care for people.
    I also know how you feel. From 2017 to 2018, we lost 7 members of our family. I crawled into a black hole. No one knew I was there. I had to take care of people: my wife who was grieving the loss of her mother & brother-in-law, my daughter grieving the loss of her favorite uncle (my brother) It was safe there. In 2019 I began to crawl out. Now, every moment is priceless. Get back in touch with people. Bury old disputes. Tell people you love them; they mean something to you.
    You have paid Jim the highest honor by sharing him with us. I would have liked to know him.

    • Reply
      Gerard Exupery
      August 26, 2020 at 9:42 pm

      OMG. I don’t know what to say. My condolences. Such a terrible thing to go through.

  • Reply
    Ted
    August 26, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    That’s a beautiful tribute to a friend. A real friend and not the fair weather kind. Im sorry for your loss, I know how’d I feel losing my best bud too. The wife on the other hand is now finally in the rear view. I always find your stories engaging Gerard. Keep ‘em coming.

  • Reply
    DeeDee Yelverton
    August 26, 2020 at 7:08 pm

    What a beautiful and moving testimony to your friend and your friendship. I’m sorry for your loss. Maybe you should send the wife a link to this article. It could show her a side to your friendship she hadn’t known existed.

    • Reply
      Gerard Exupery
      August 26, 2020 at 9:40 pm

      Sometimes it’s best just to let the sleeping dog continue to do its thing. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Mike
    August 26, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    We should all be lucky enough to have such a person in our lives. You brought a tear to my eye, which is hard to do these days. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Murray Kriner
    August 26, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    I was touched by your story about Jim. It resonated for many reasons, which I won’t mention. You may never replace him or his Mother in Law, Mildred, but it does seem you were blessed in some way with the time you had spent with them then. Sometimes all we are permitted is fading moments that seem to turn more grey with time. So glad you let a testament to the recent past, and those special people who still inhabit your heart. Bless You ever.

  • Reply
    Ben Garcia
    August 27, 2020 at 3:18 am

    Thank you, Gerard, for sharing this touching memory and portrait of Jim. Cheers

  • Reply
    Andrea Bevacqua
    August 27, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Hi Gerard,
    I admit that I got emotional, for the words and the photos.
    It seems to me that Jim is one of those persone we all need to have in our life.
    Remember him with clear memories is the best thing you can do.
    Thank you for sharing with us this intimate memory, and thank you for doing it with such passion because I am trying to learning from your posts what I really love: being able to share some good memories to the people sorrounding me.

    I love your posts.
    Andrea

    • Reply
      Gerard Exupery
      September 7, 2020 at 6:27 am

      I’ve been meaning to circle back and thank you for this comment.

      One of the nicest comments I’ve received. If there is anything that I would want someone to take away from these stories and pictures it’s that there are just so many opportunities to make meaningful images if one is able to slow down enough to see it and quick enough to realize it. I wrote a piece in the book I did last year which I’m going to try and resurrect here… about having to allow yourself to become vulnerable. It takes a certain amount of experiences like heartbreak, getting fired from a job, being hungry, or broke to become aware of or empathize with your subjects. I’m talking about street work. Corporate portraits not so much. I think one ends up making images of what one is expecting to see.

      My personal email address is [email protected] if you ever feel like chatting about this nebulous stuff.

  • Reply
    Mark
    August 27, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    You celebrated your friend with us Gerard and we are Privileged.

  • Reply
    lasousa2015
    August 27, 2020 at 11:39 pm

    Thanks to you and to Jim for this heartwarming story of true friendship.

  • Reply
    Will
    August 28, 2020 at 2:39 am

    Thank you Gerard for sharing about your friend Jim. It was an emotional piece of writing and your photos of Jim reinforced the kind gentle soul that he was. I was truly touched reading your account of Jim. It made me all the more aware of the need to document my “normal” daily life of my loved ones whether in good times or bad times. Thank you brother and take care.

    • Reply
      Gerard Exupery
      September 7, 2020 at 6:08 am

      Nothing like loss emphasize that be here now is the correct way to live. Thank you.

      • Reply
        Gerard Exupery
        September 7, 2020 at 6:09 am

        He was a great guy. I’m glad I was able to share this with so many people who seem to appreciate it. Thank you

  • Reply
    James Johnson
    August 29, 2020 at 10:25 pm

    Very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your photos and the story of your friendship.

  • Reply
    JONATHAN MACDONALD
    August 31, 2020 at 6:23 pm

    Thank-you for sharing and for writing such a wonderful article.

  • Reply
    Majdi
    September 7, 2020 at 6:06 am

    that is an awesome write up about your friendship with Jim… the pictures emphasize the story.

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