A year ago today my husband, Michael Gollin, was preparing to leave this life. He used his remaining visual strength to say goodbye via letter board to all of us who loved him. He joked and communed with his family, enjoying us as we enjoyed him. He instructed us to water the plants and feed the birds . . . and then he was gone.
This year I’ve come to appreciate that Michael was and is larger than life. Not in the Paul-Bunyan-and-Babe sense, or with the outsized personality of a celebrity, but larger in his sheer reach.
In life, his friendships transcended time. Michael stayed happily close to his friend-since-birth Judy Harway and felt joy at seeing his friend-since-middle-age Dick Morris–and many friends from the intervening years. Since his passing, friends like Judy and Maura Harway, Barry Temkin, David Thaler, Mike Polacek and Mike Lyon have touched base, sharing their memories of Michael. We all speculate about his whereabouts, but we know he’s carrying on in our minds. He influences our decisions, urges us to be our best selves, and makes us laugh.
His ideas, too, reached a larger audience than the average person’s. From his thoughtful perspective on intellectual property to his skeptical-but-ever-hopeful analysis of politics, Michael possessed and vigorously used what he liked to call an “orthogonal mind.” He loved to play the Devil’s advocate, to challenge conventional wisdom and map out new strategies for his clients. I am really glad he got to enjoy positive feedback and counterpoint for his two books and his blog during his lifetime. But they continue to be read around the world and will shape others’ knowledge and actions for many years to come.
“Remember me kindly, but honestly,” Michael told us. We of his family will remember him fondly, hilariously, and yes, honestly, at Thanksgiving in Rochester this week. If you have any remembrances of Michael that you’d like to share, please post them below.
Missing Michael is both passive and active. Passive in that it comes unbidden and without warning, a memory kindled by passing a restaurant where we ate together, hearing music we listened to, recalling a long ago trip to some corner of the world. The next step is active, guiding the memory and emotions,not running away and avoiding, not dwelling in misery, but truly remembering the man in full, kindly and honestly.
Jill, this was lovely. Especially so on this first anniversary. I so valued Michael, and so did many of us at BU. He will long be remembered. It was an honor to know him.
Jill, this is such a lovely remembrance. Most of all, Michael lives on in his beautiful family. Sending you so much love. J
I’ve been thinking about Michael all day, as I know his family and so many of his friends have also been doing. Maybe it was your mention of the fact that you’ll remember him hilariously, Jill, along with kindly and honestly, that’s made me think about his sense of humor. Hilarious is an excellent adjective – also wacky, punny, silly, and kind. I remember Michael’s jokes, his kidding around, his goofy voices and awful puns, and I go back to one of my favorite memories – from the spring of 1992, when you and Michael had your first new baby to deal with, but nevertheless welcomed us into your home for a couple of days, complete with our 4-year-old, Alice. Michael called her “Anise,” much to her delight, and told her knock-knock jokes, which cracked her up, and taught her all sorts of silly riddles. She thought he was the funniest person she had ever met. I know he was capable of much more sophisticated humor – I’ve seen it in his writing, and heard him over drinks with friends and family – but his willingness to meet a 4-year-old on her own turf, and wow her with humor, was such a sweet move. And he was certainly hilarious….
Much love to you and all the clan – I’ll be thinking of you through Thanksgiving, too, and giving thanks for all the connections between our families. Hugs to all, and good memories.
A running memory.
Michael enjoyed running. I don’t think of him bounding over the road, gazelle-like. He ran with determination and applied science (I got his very precise explanation of the number of steps per inhale and the number of steps per exhale as one of the keys to efficient oxygenation while running).
Before running Falmouth the first time, Michael happened to visit Maura & me here in Morningside Heights, and he suggested a run. “We’ll do Central Park” which, out and back from our apartment is about the Falmouth Road Race distance. And off we went on a hot summer day. Down to the Park, around the Park Drive, and back out at 110th and CPW. Michael stopped. “Not done yet,” I said. “If you want the full 7 miles, we run back to the apartment.” “You mean we have to run up that hill?” sez Michael, raising his gaze to the West and appreciating fully at that moment what put the “Heights” in our neighborhood’s name. He would not settle for less than the Falmouth distance. So off we went — not walking, but jogging uphill with his characteristic determination past Columbus, Amsterdam, Broadway, to the Riverside finish line.
I would like to think we had enough sense to crack open a celebratory beer when we got home.
One of my happiest memories of Michael was in one of your visits with us in England. We were driving around the countryside and Michael began reading off the village names on the map, and then began making up new ones. We all fell in to a puddle of giggles…he had a fantastic sense of humor. I miss him too!