Have you ever been sad? What does sad feel like?…
It was October 17 1969. I was a sophomore, no driver’s license yet. Steve had celebrated his 16th birthday a few days earlier. No one would have guessed that he was two months plus a few days older than me. I was 8 inches taller and could grow a beard. 5 months earlier, Steve threw the ball to me that became the result of one of the most embarrasing moments of my life. With most of our school watching, and after catching the ball and runnning for a touchdown, Bryan Tucket went for my flag but caught my pants and rip...off they came, exposing me in my jockstrap with my butt mooning the student body. I am still reminded about that catch 40 years later. I can laugh about it now...but then...kids can be tough. Lucky I was bigger than all of them.
There was a homecoming stomp at Highland that night. He called me and asked if I wanted to go…Of course we went. We both danced a little…I don’t remember who with. I have always loved to dance. Shar’s biggest fight with me was over dancing. Well... It was her company party at the Fort Douglas Club. The dinner was fabulous and the band was even better. Shar and I danced a little…It was obvious she didn’t enjoy it as much as I did back in the late 1970’s. Her boss, who was stoned drunk asked Shar if she would share me and let me dance with her…a little part of Shar was happy to have her boss try her skills on the dance floor with me. She let it all go and didn’t remember a thing the next day…So did I, and I remembered everything. Half way through our second dance, I noticed everybody had stopped dancing and now were circling us and clapping and urging us to get even wilder. We did…Shar left and went and sat in the car. She was so embarrassed. If she could, she would join me today and we would dance the night away. We had that opportunity a few years ago at my cousin’s wedding. The band was fabulous. So was she.
Steve and I eventually found our way sitting on the hard wood floor in the far Northeast corner of the Gym. It was noisy but the conversation soon blanked out everything else as though we were the only ones around. We were friends…best friends…and we could talk about anything but didn’t very often…we could talk about sports and girls and school and homework…this night the discussion started with the World Series. Brook Robinson, the hall of famer 3rd Baseman was the most valuable player in a 5 game series that surprised the experts. The Baltimore Orioles beat the Big Red Machine of Cincinnati. Steve was a baseball player. He was a really good baseball player. He was a sure thing when it came to making the varsity team as a sophomore playing 2nd or 3rd base, but that would have to wait until spring. He was going to try out for the basketball team so we talked about who would letter first. Getting your letter jacket was a big thing back in 1969. The things kids talk about. I was hoping to make the basketball varsity team in a few weeks. I had played most of the day shooting at the ward house on Foothill preparing for tryouts. Steve was hoping for the sophomore team.
We left the stomp early. The girls we liked didn't show up. We were happy by ourselves that night. I called my mother from the payphone just outside the gym to let her know that I would call her from Steve’s house. There was a bank of three phones attached to the red brick entry wall where we would always enter when there was a game or when I was late for school. When was the last time I used a pay phone? I don’t remember. We walked with a pace of a turtle. We were not in a hurry. We stopped a few times just to layout on a lawn. We laughed, probably waking up kids that their parents had just put down to bed. We were loud. The things we learn as we age.
It was a warm October night and the moon lit up the sky. Steve's street is the same today…it was lined with large Elm trees. The trees always made Steve’s street seem very dark. There was always shade on those hot summer days. No sun block was needed. This night you could see for a hundred yards or more. The moon light wove through the drooping branches of the trees. We talked about how weird that was.
We sat under the tree in his front yard leaning up against the large edgy trunk where the conversation turned spiritual. Steve was to be ordained a Priest the next morning. We talked about that and our belief in God. We asked the questions that no one has the answers for. I am still asking those same questions. We laughed, we even cried when Mark Newsom was remembered. He had died in a motor cycle accident just before school started in August. He was so talented. Music was his love. Perfect pitch…nobody had perfect pitch, but he did. We sang in boy’s glee together. I miss him.
I had forgotten to call my mom back until after midnight. I heard about it when she finally came to get me. It was almost 1 AM. Steve waited with me until she came. His parents had gone to bed an hour earlier. As the car lights glimmered from around the corner we both stood and gave each other a sporty hug and told each other we would see each other on Monday. I wished him luck with his ordination and told him I was going to get my letterman’s jacket first. “I will make the team”. He laughed, and I was gone.It was around 6:00 PM on Sunday. Less that a day had passed when my dad called me to the phone. It’s a girl…Ann Barker, who I had a crush on in the 9th grade was calling. Have you heard the news? She was crying….Steve is dead – Steve is dead. I was Curts age...15 years old. "What do you mean?" ….He was with Bruce Nelson and 4 others when there jeep turned over and crushed him. He died instantly…nobody else was hurt. The reality had not sunk in but the words hurt and I began to cry. I thanked Ann for letting me know and then went to my room and cried all night. My parents came in and cried with me. What do parents do? I appreciated them that night and the following months. They helped me through. I got some of that same practice with Jami when Jeff died… and when Ashley died, I was there to tell Chelsea. You can never get those moments just right. You can only just be there. All three died in car accidents, even though Steve was in the hills, off road, when the jeep rolled. He was on the back passenger side of the topless jeep. He was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. I spoke at his funeral. Highlands’s baseball coach, Mr. Hardcastle, came and awarded him his letter just before I spoke. I cried as I shared our conversation from just a few days earlier and then somehow got through my talk. Everyone I knew was there, and we all cried and we were all sad together.
Someone asked me how I was feeling yesterday. I responded, “I am sad”. My friend urged me to talk about it. “I don’t know if I have ever felt more sad”….and then I thought of Steve. It is hard to compare…
Shar’s illness has changed our lives. She is sad about it. I am very sad about it. She is more sad. The ability to change the way things are is hoped for, but the reality of today is hard. There are many diversions that take place everyday that make it easy not to focus on the sadness. We thank everyone for the diversions you create in our lives. We appreciate, so much, the love that has walked through our front, back and side doors. We love the cards and the jokes and the meals and the visits. Everyone has helped take the sadness away. We might get used to this change, but it hasn’t sunk in quite yet…I hope it never does. We hope that things will improve. Hope is a great thing…but waiting…day by day by day is hard and sometimes sad.
As we have gone through this past week we are sad to hear how people treat people when it comes to political things. How sad…The things we think and say and do, sometimes create sadness. We should all listen and show respect even if our expeience and thoughts and feelings are so different. We should all love a little more and more often.
Sadness is one of the emotions that I have experienced over the last few months. It is not my favorite, but it is teaching me. Shar has not written on her blog for a few months…She has been too sad…She just told me she looks like a blow fish…I think I will go in and paint blue and orange stripes on her face. Oh, what we do to push the sadness away. The great thing is that sometimes it really works. Sadness comes and goes…Through it all we are greatful and surprisingly...OK.