In the workplace last autumn

Last year around this time was a very melancholy time for me. I had already been to two funerals that fall (the husband of one friend, the mother of another) and had sent a half dozen cards to friends who had lost their parents.

Then my friend Tom Hoffman, husband of the Hoffinator, mentioned on these pages recently, had some sort of digestive tract problem which sent him to the hospital on Halloween, which was on a Sunday. Tom’s problem required some surgery, which meant that he would not be able to go to the polls. For someone as politically conscious as Tom, this was a real crisis. Fortunately, the Board of Elections webpage had a form online that allowed us to print it out. Then his wife still had to take it to the hospital and get him to sign it before 5 p.m. Monday, the day before Election Day. Fortunately, she was able to do so, and she got an absentee ballot, which she delivered to the polls on Election Day when she voted, thus assuring victory for President John Kerry.

Just as Tom was getting out of one hospital, my big boss, Jim, landed in another hospital with a heart attack while playing in a basketball game, saved by the janitor using the defibulator required at all of the schools. Jim was making a slow recovery, but appeared out of danger.

When Tom got out, I e-mailed him pretty much every day, mostly about politics. He was a political junkie who chastized me for voting for Nader in 2000 (in New York, where Gore won by a wide margin anyway.)

Then the next Friday, I came to work, and the secretaries called to me in a conspiratorial manner which meant that they were going to give me bad news. I figured that Jim had died. One of them whispered, “Tom died.”

Tom died? I was happy for Jim and his family. But Tom DIED? He had had a massive heart attack the night before, a year ago today. We all were in shock; he was doing so well. And he wasn’t even 50.

Over the next few days, folks from the office were over at the house, helping in whatever way possible. The funeral was the next week, and it was Jim’s first time out of the hospital.

There’s not a political story that goes by when I don’t think, “I wonder what Tom’s take on this will be, er, would have been?” I’m sure he would be relishing the Republican infighting over the Miers nomination, outraged by the Bush administration’s defense of torture, and thrilled that Scooter Libby was indicted.

More than that, he was a weather junkie, who could predict with some accuracy the path of a hurricane. He was the commissioner of the March Madness basketball pool, and he was often a winner of said pool. (No, it wasn’t a fix, and no money was involved, only bragging rights.) He was a librarian, so he was naturally very bright.

I know the Hoffinator misses him.

I want to know what he thinks about whether Rove will be indicted, and what are his thoughts about Alito, and whether he believes the Democrats will win the House in 2006, and…

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