Jay was a good friend and business associate who was in his mid 20's when he dropped a bomb on the rest of us. Even though his beautiful and supportive wife was pregnant he was going to quit work and start a chess club for kids. Chess had always been his passion, and for years he had wondered how he could combine his passion with making a living. Jay had been one of those child prodigies who won Chess tournaments, played at carnivals where he did the gig of playing multiple players at one time racing around a table making move after move. It was this gift for chess that had haunted Jay, and he'd decided he needed to see if he could make a living at the game he loved. While everyone supported Jay in his endeavor, behind his back they thought he was crazy, including myself. If I had known Jay as well as I do now, I never would have doubted him and his dream.
In the beginning he had to work as a substitute teacher while he built his chess club; he was probably working 80 hours a week for long periods of time. His son Jackson was born within the 1st year of his new endeavor. I keep track of how long Jay has been in the Chess business by how old Jackson is. Jackson is now 13 years old and in those 13 years, Jay's Chess Club and has become a powerhouse in the Chess tournament world. Even more importantly, it has churned out 100's of children better off for having been under the tutelage of Jay and his staff. They always learned more then just how to play chess, they leaned how to be good people. Along the way Jay has had wonderful students but one of his favorites was Sean Reader.
Sept 18th, 2006 would have been his 13th birthday.
Jay and I remained friends but not close, as we rarely saw each other anymore. His Chess Club and family took up every minute of his time so we'd only see each other at the occasional Dodger game. Several years ago my best friend's three-year-old son, William contracted Leukemia and after a 12-month battle he succumbed to the disease. Jay had responded as soon as I asked for him to donate platelets for William when the demand outstripped the supply. Even though time was tight for him, he made himself available, and even brought in strangers to help when he wasn't a match. Jay always did whatever he could when someone needed help.
When William died, Jay and his family came to Williams service because they were mutual friends and also to give me support. We talked about what it was like for Byron and his family. Little did we know that within one month Jay would be in the same situation. Chan Reader had become Jay's best friend, and in the spring of 2005, Sean Reader was diagnosed with Leukemia.
During Sean's battle, Jay was always upbeat because he had to be for Sean and Chan. His was the optimistic face that you must put on, no matter how you felt internally. As with any battle I've witnessed with Leukemia you have peaks and valleys. At 1st you seem to be winning when you've beaten the white cells into submission with chemotherapy. It doesn't hold however, and the white cells come back like hoards of Goblins descending on middle earth without a Gandalf to keep them at bay. This goes back and forth until either the Chemo wins or the White Cells win. Doctors will tell you that the Chemo has victories but I've only seen the White Cells standing at the end of the battle.
From the day he was diagnosed, Sean, his family, Jay, and his family all expected a long fight, but a happy ending. They had strength, confidence, prayer, the best doctors, the best caregivers , and still it was not enough. It was not to be, just like William; Sean was unable to beat the disease and passed away on Aug 17th 2006.
On Sept 18th with Sean's birthday approaching, Chan was rightfully depressed. Jay was worried about Chan spending his recently deceased sons birthday alone, so he went over to help him get through the day. I'm just guessing but I think Jay needed to be there just as much as Chan needed him. They would get through this day together and lean on each other for support. They had loved Sean as a father loves his son and as a best man takes that family into his heart. I don't know what they did that day except for one thing, and that was to watch the Dodger game.
Chan had purchased season seats for his son because aside from Chess, the Dodgers were his biggest passion. Sean loved the Dodgers and coveted the giveaways as young kids do. Besides the bobble heads, his favorite was the Fleece blanket, and this year the Dodgers were doing the fleece blanket on his birthday. When Sean was to sick to go to anymore games, Chan had given away all the tickets except for the Sept 18th game. He had hoped that Sean would be healthy enough by then to make the trip for the game. It was not to be for Sean, and Chan still had the unused tickets sitting at home when Jay came over. Neither one could bring themselves to go to the game so they settled in and watched history unfold. It was just a baseball game, but nothing else could have provided the respite that Jay and Chan needed, then the game the Dodgers played. They toasted Nomar rounding the bases and thought of the boy who would have loved that game probably more then anyone else.