In Highland Park, Mich. Jim Klosky was just starting his life adventure. He had no knowledge of the ups and downs of life that awaited. As he grew older, life’s hurtful sting of reality struck and Jim Klosky was forced to face pain and struggle, encountering hardship after hardship. Despite fighting through the death of his mother, being homeless in Ann Arbor and his son’s battle against drugs, Klosky endured.
HIS BEST FRIEND
Growing up, Klosky did not excel in high school. He frequently skipped school and did not care about any class assignments. However, Klosky loved to read — he wouldn’t read anything his teachers put in front of him, but he loved books. His favorite genre was history, more specifically Scottish medieval history. His fascination on the history of Scotland grew from his mother’s ancestry. Klosky’s mom loved the fact that he was always reading something.
In 1966, they moved from Detroit to Rochester, Mich. There she worked as the secretary for the dean of the Library at Oakland University and Klosky got a job as a janitor when he was 14. They had many friends in common. Klosky met some of her friends who were students that worked in the mailroom at Oakland. They ended up being some of his best friends.
31 years later, Klosky got a job helping to build a house up north for a couple of weeks. He had always been good with his hands and knew the job would be right up his alley. One day he took a trip into town to get a cup of coffee, and five minutes after he left his mom passed away. There was no way of getting ahold of him until he returned. She had been suffering from lung cancer for a while. She weighed a mere 85 pounds and had been taking morphine to help ease her pain. She passed away in August of 1997, two days before Klosky’s 45th birthday.
“I knew she wasn’t long for the world,” Klosky said.
As much as he loved their home back in Rochester, Kolsky told his dad to sell it. All of the joy that was living in the house disappeared when she did. His dad made a fortune off of the land. It was over an acre, overgrown with trees and weeds. Klosky hoped he would buy property, but instead his dad bought a double wide mobile home with a $50,000 mortgage and rented out a lot for the home, putting a bunch of money in his pocket, at the expense of incurring debt. Now, Klosky regrets ever letting the house go.
Klosky’s mom was his best friend. He missed her cooking, her social personality, how bright she was, but most of all just being able to talk to her. After her death, he knew things would go downhill from there.
NOWHERE TO GO
When Klosky’s dad got sick, Blue Cross Blue Shield cancelled his coverage, which meant Klosky had to pay $5,000 a month to keep his dad in the hospital. Klosky had a job as a truck driver at the time, so he made good money. Klosky lived on a truck all day in order to pay for his dad’s medical bills. It was lonely being a truck driver. Sometimes he would drive long distancess such as a trip from Quebec to Cerrado, Brazil. When Klosky was on the road, he would get calls from his dad asking when he’d be coming home.
Klosky ended up quitting his job to take care of his father. When he got back home, Klosky discovered how bad things were financially and could tell his dad was losing all of his strength. His dad refused help from physical therapists and could not take care of himself, so Klosky decided to move his dad into hospice. Sadly, his dad didn’t last his first night.
“I didn’t know he was going to die so quick,” Klosky said.
He had no job, inherited his dad’s debt and was stickered out of his house. After his dad passed away, all of the mortgage payments for the double-wide were piled onto Klosky: $426 a month, with penalties for late payments. His dad’s death was a burden on him financially, but it was hard to be upset as he was his father.
“I knew I could never catch up,” Klosky said. “It was too much.”
Wayne — Klosky’s friend — invited him to stay at his campsite in the woods behind the University of Michigan’s helicopter pad. A tent would be his home for the next four months.
“I didn’t have anybody to turn to,” he said. “All my friends were poor, struggling to make their rent.”
Klosky had the company of Wayne, a couple other guys and his own son who lived with him in his tent for a while. The worst part about living in a tent was the rain. They had a tarp over their tent, but it never worked well. Even on nights when it wasn’t cold and raining, it was tough living there. The weather was bad and the racoons were a menace. However, there were a couple nice things about living in the woods. The deer were a perk, and he had loads of time to work on a book he was writing.
One night while Kolsky was crawling into his tent to go to bed, he couldn’t see anything, but could feel something sprawled across his sleeping bag. He didn’t know at the time, but it was a racoon that got into a bag of M&M’s and dragged them all over his tent.
“What the hell is that,” he wondered. Irritated, Klosky got up and started pacing and talking to himself. A man walked past him said something nasty. Klosky snapped back and before he knew it the guy charged him and knocked him to the ground. He got up with a broken nose and left. He was so angry he didn’t want to sleep there that night. That’s when he got into Delonis, a temporary shelter for the homeless in Washtenaw County.
A caseworker at Delonis helped Klosky find a place to live in Ypsilanti. He was told he had to take the first thing that came along. It was a 127 square foot room for $450 a month. He had to share a kitchen and bathroom with three other guys, and the shower was so small that you had to tilt your neck down and keep your arms at your sides. He’s been living there for about two and a half years.
HIS SON: Sam
Named after Samuel the Prophet of Theocracy from the Bible, Klosky’s son, Sam, came into his life.
Klosky got a divorce when Sam was young causing Sam, and his mother to move to Arkansas. When Sam and his mom moved back to Michigan, Klosky got to see Sam on the weekends. The first weekend they spent together, he cried and cried. He wanted him to take him back home in the middle of the night, but by the next weekend, Sam didn’t want to leave. Wanting to be able to converse with Sam more, Klosky read all seven Harry Potter books in two weeks. They lived in a really nice spot where there’s endless country and all kinds of woods. He and his son would take long walks and they both loved it. When Sam turned 15 he started to bring his friends up on the weekends too.
“I looked forward to every Friday evening,” Klosky said. “I’d pick up a Buddy’s Pizza and pick ‘em up and bring ‘em home. Those were some good times.”
Three months ago, Klosky found out some depressing news about his son: Sam had developed a cocaine addiction. He knew Sam was a heavy drinker. He couldn’t keep a job for more than a year because he would get drunk, then be too hungover to go into work. When Klosky would be gone on a long truck drive for weeks at a time, it was traumatic — he was gone while his son fell apart at the seams and was in tears because he was so lonely. Klosky had no idea where he developed a cocaine addiction. He was mostly worried about his son ending up dead.
He’s been in rehab for a month and has another 90 day program to complete before he moves back into his house. Klosky panhandles to get enough money to bring him a pack of Newport Red Hundreds every time he visits him. Klosky knows he shares with other guys, but understands and does not mind. Sam has got a lot of support and is finally seeing the light.
“There’s no beating a father’s love for a son,” Klosky said. “I’m someone who believes in unconditional love, and as far as I know, he’s my only son.”
WRITING YOUR STORY
Currently, Klosky is trying to get his book published to make enough money to live in a better place, but doesn’t know where to go with it. He’s been working on his book for over three years. It even got thrown away twice, but everytime he would write it over again and replace what was lost. The subject was Scottish history, sinspired by his mom. Wanting to study medieval history and literature, Klosky hopes to go to school at the University of Michigan or at a community college. He is optimistic when looking back on his life and viewing it today.
“Oddly enough, I think I’m very fortunate to have become homeless, because I would have never been able to spend so much time on this book,” Klosky said.
Jim Klosky’s triumph over the obstacles he has faced can’t go unrecognized. People pass by thousands of strangers throughout their lifetime. Every single one of those strangers has a story with grief, pain and bliss. There’s a stigma about people in need of money who choice to find it inside the goodness of people’s hearts. They’re labeled as a ‘bum’ instead of human. It’s up to everyone to look past their judgment and into their curiosity and compassion to realize everyone has a story worth hearing.