Milton Wolff, 1915-2008
Milt became one of my close friends, and I suppose I was one of the few people still around whose friendship didn't result from his having fought in the Spanish Civil War. I was interested in this aspect of his life, of course, but I wasn't really aware of it until I had known him a few years and we worked out a deal where I got to use his computer in exchange for editing his novel about the war. The book, Another Hill, was published by University of Illinois Press in 1994.
Milt was a complicated person, who attracted many people and irritated many as well. He taught me, by his sometimes unreasonable and pigheaded ways, how to fight back when told something stupid and unreasonable. Milt liked people who could stand up to him, and it was never painful to do so. I don't often have to tell other people that they're being stupid, but now I usually can if necessary.
Most of the time, however, we had a lot of fun together, talking about writing, life, and the various things that come up randomly in conversation.
I last saw him last weekend, when we knew the end was near. He had lost a lot of weight and gone off most of his medications, but although he was too weak to get out of bed without help, his mind was pretty clear. He was torn between readiness to die and a desire to get up, do some writing, and go out for a drive and some drinks. It frustrated him not to be able to do whatever he wanted, as he'd been able to do so almost to the last.
It's easier to say goodbye when the end is no surprise (he was, after all, 92), but it's still hard.