James was a rotten teenager. But like everything James did, he was spectacular at it. He was the most rotten rotten teenager that anyone could be. He took teenage rottenness to new heights. He crushed it.
And he has climbed so far since then… to become one of the world’s most spectacular human being. You don’t have to believe his mother. There are many who will back me up on this.
There were four constants in James’ life. Four threads that were ever present in the amazing tapestry that was his life:
Before he could walk or talk, he’d pull himself to standing in his crib to point at the cassette player as soon as the music ended. There was no quieting him until I went over and flipped the tape. At about 3, anything at hand became drumsticks, a fork and a comb, two chopsticks and then he’d drum on the furniture, the mailbox, playground equipment, people’s cars. We went to see African drummers at Roy Thompson Hall. After the show all the other kids ran off for free cookies but James stormed the stage to play all the drums. Many of you have been to concerts and music festivals with James, followed him on Rdio or read his tweets about what he was listening to. Two weeks ago when I was in his apartment in New York he was playing vinyl on his new turntable. And as soon as the side ended, he went right over to flip the record.
James second constant was communication. He was a little late to talk — not alarmingly or anything. He’s turned one, he was walking and still talking in one word sentences. My mom and I were keeping a list of his words and there were only like 75 of them and one was “geenu” which we eventually figured out meant screen door. And then the next day, language just kicked in and he said and I quote “to fix the lightbulb way up high I’ll need the screw driver the big one”. And from then James didn’t shut up. He talked, he wrote, he texted, sent photos and videos, skyped, tweeted — and thanks to his gig at Normal — he was even learning to deal with email. The remarkable thing was that he was always in contact with all of us. He was always with us, wherever he was.
I’m not sure how I will learn to live without the steady drip of James into my veins.
The third constant: computers. James was born into a home with multiple computers and we had internet before he could walk and before there was a world wide web. By 6, he was changing the operating system in my computer — not well. I had to get him his own computer so that he would leave mine alone. But he wasn’t going to be a computologist. He went to IBM on take your kid to work day in grade 9 and he hated the cubicles and completely rejected the profession. But then came the year he and Danielle Lewchuk decided to take the year off from university and go skiing in Banff for the winter. Smartie pants parents that Rich and I are, we said, “sure you can go, but we’re not paying”. James got a coding gig and never looked back.
I want to say something about his abilities as a software engineer. A lot of you won’t understand what I’m saying and the rest of you will know I’ve only got it half right. For the truth talk to Ben or Jenn or Joe or MRB. Or ask Twitter. His admirers are legion. Here’s what I can say, he wrote a patch for Ruby, he scaled FetLife, he knew how to debug anything and he and Joe had an incomprehensible podcast that the US Navy used to train their software engineers. James loved all of it.
The fourth constant in James’ life was people. He told me everything — way too much — I knew about so many of you and your adventures. But there are so many more I didn’t know about. People cropping up to say he changed their lives, he always listened, he was so much fun, they loved him. He loved people. James could talk to anyone and once he had, he never let you go.
James loved his sister Marlee. He adored her.
James loved his sister Marlee. He adored her. He showered her with gifts and spent a lot of time thinking about how to make her life better. He loved his grandmother — everyone loves their grandmother, but James was friends with his. He loved his parents. He always wanted to spend time with me and Richie and almost never rolled his eyes at us. He vied for the world championship of pool with his dad Ted and exchanged thousands of calls, texts and messages with him. He learned to play the bass and shared his passion for jazz with Richie. And he gave me my three most prized possessions, my coffee grinder, my boxed set of The Wire and an iPad mini engraved with the words “greatest mom alive”. Each of us in his immediate and extended family had our special relationship with him. So many of his friends became his family.
He was a serial passionist
I think the other big thing you have to say about James is about his passion. When he did something he went all the way. He grabbed it with both hands and he was mad crazy in love with it. He was a serial passionist. Some of his love affairs included baseball, juggling, photography, skiing, kayaking, golf, fashion, scotch, coffee, headstands and handstands, travel, chocolate, the list goes on.
I could talk about James forever. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t ever have a conversation when I don’t mention my children. I will happily regale you with stories about James whenever you ask and I would love to hear yours. But I want to leave you with one last thought.
In the end, James was happy. He loved that he was living in New York. He loved it there, he loved his apartment and the food and the cocktails and the music. He loved Normal. He loved working for the company, and everyone who working there. He loved being the CTO and he loved Nikki. And he was in love with Danielle Bessler. It was his fantasy come true to have found a smart and beautiful woman who was Jewish and was an serious about coffee as he was. But more than that Danielle could code!
I don’t know if any of heard much from James from Mexico. iMessage wasn’t working and he told me that he was having so much fun that his cell phone died and he didn’t notice for 12 hours. At 10 pm on December 26, he sent me two photos. One of the setting sun, the second of a restaurant on a beach, a table of guac and chips, candlelight twinkling behind and James and Danielle drinking margueritas and smiling.
There is no moral to this story, no happy ending.
There is no moral to this story, no happy ending. We won’t wake up tomorrow to find it was a dream. We have to live with this pain. But maybe we can live a bit like James with excellence and passion, with many friends. We can work hard, play hard and spread our love and friendship far and wide.
Contributions to the James Golick Grant for Women in Computology should be made to https://jamesgolick.bitmakerlabs.com/.