A year without Steve Gilliard

Steve Gilliard passed away last June (decades too soon), but those of us who were addicted to his blog had been missing his writing for months already. One day in February 2007, Steve went to the doctor to get a prescription for a cold he couldn’t shake. He was admitted to the hospital right away for treatment of an infection of unknown origin, and he never was able to get back on his computer.

I’d already been planning to write this diary before I had my own run-in with a scary infection last week. I don’t write many personal reflections, but I feel compelled to share how much I still miss Steve’s blogging.

I don’t go as far back with Steve as many Kossacks. I only discovered Daily Kos after he had moved on from the front page.

I “got to know” Steve by clicking through links I found on other blogs. I liked his voice. He was funny, even when angry. He seemed to be about my age. Although his life experiences as a black man from New York City were very different from mine, I could relate to his perspective on many issues.

I absolutely loved his rants. His writing flowed so freely, and was so full of emotion compared to my own style.

I also found his optimism refreshing. I can be a pessimist by nature. He was convinced that George W. Bush would not serve out his second term. I didn’t believe him, but I enjoyed reading the case he made for it.

He was knowledgeable about military history, and I learned a lot from his posts, though I admit that I never made it through every piece in Steve’s thoroughly researched “Colonial Warfare” series.

I started checking his blog once a week or so. By late 2004 or early 2005 I was checking every day. In 2006 I often checked two or three times a day.

I didn’t know him “in real life” at all. We had a few e-mail exchanges when I sent him links to articles I thought he’d be interested in (like this one, this one and this one, all about people who had volunteered for military service).

Eventually, I started commenting at The News Blog. I liked the community there, especially “Mrs. Robinson,” whom I respected for her insights at Steve’s place long before I had heard of Sara Robinson or the Orcinus blog. I could always count on Mrs. Robinson to say something sensible on the threads below Steve’s posts on parenting. (As much as I loved Steve’s blog, if he ever wrote anything on parenting that I agreed with, I can’t remember what it was.)

When Steve’s health crisis began a year ago, I was shocked. I hadn’t been reading long enough to know about his previous heart surgery, kidney failure, or other challenges. The News Blog community rallied to produce guest posts every day until Steve was able to return to his writing, and I even contributed a few recipes to the mix. After a couple of months of this, I began to fear the worst. Finally, on June 2, I saw the post I’d been dreading.

For weeks after Steve’s death, I kept checking The News Blog every day. I don’t know why. I think that on some subconscious level, I kept hoping that one time I would click and not find Steve’s obituary on the front page.

Not long after Steve died, some of his friends and regular commentators on The News Blog formed the Group News Blog. Ducking in to check it while writing this diary, I noticed that they just passed the 1,000-post mark. I have to admit I haven’t been a regular commenter or even a lurker at the Group News Blog. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the writers’ talents–I think that going there just makes me miss Steve more. One of these days I will start hanging out there.

If you feel like taking some time out of your day to remember Steve, here are links to many obituaries that bloggers wrote last summer, the the New York Times obituary that ran in June, and Matt Bai’s piece published in the New York Times Magazine at the end of the year.

I recommend that you revisit some of the classic posts Kossacks mentioned in diaries after Steve died:

How Iraq could devolve into Civil War (written less than a month after we invaded Iraq)

I’m a fighting liberal

Abusing history

You have shamed us

Or my own all-time favorite, We told you so, written in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As wonderful as those works are, they can’t make up for the pieces Steve was unable to write during the past year, posts on the “surge” in Iraq, the U.S. attorney scandal, the Jena Six, holiday food, the New York Giants, and the implosion of Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign (Steve saw that one coming).

Please consider this an open thread for sharing your reflections on a year without Steve’s blogging.

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