When I moved back from Indiana to my hometown, I was starting my sophomore year in high school. It wasn’t so scary because I knew a lot of people and had kept in touch with a few friends. I was welcomed back like I had never left. I just kind of folded back in.
One of the new friends that I made was Steve, who one of my friends tried to set me up with. Steve was funny and short with a big smile and even bigger feet. He dated my friend Jackie for awhile until, for some 14-year-old reason, they broke up. Steve asked me out and after okaying it with my friend, we started dating. We dated through Valentine’s Day, had our first kiss at a school basketball game, we had our share of inside jokes, and talked on the phone every night. We were inseparable.
After we broke up, we stayed best friends. He knew everything about me, we shared a locker, we still talked every day, joked and laughed and hung out at the park. He was still my best friend.
Steve called me 14 years ago this morning and told me he was going fishing with some buddies. I told him to have some fun and asked him to call back later as I went about my day. He didn’t call me and I didn’t call him – I figured I’d always have tomorrow.
Early the next morning I got a phone call from another friend. She asked me if I had read the paper or watched the news. For some reason, I said yes even though I hadn’t. I was 15 why would I want to read the paper or watch the news?
She told me that one of the two boys that had drowned the night before was Steve….
They still couldn’t find his body…
I don’t remember hanging up, I don’t remember saying anything. That day is a blur. I remember crying so loudly that my aunt called my mom home from work, I remember leaving with some friends and driving around making up crazy scenarios about where he really was and how he was actually okay. It helped us get through the next few days.
We all knew he wasn’t coming back.
Three days later, Mighty Mississippi coughed him up twenty miles from where he went under. I don’t know why, but knowing he was out of the water made me feel better. Now I had closure.
In the days before his funeral, a bunch of us hung out at his mom’s house, sharing stories and talking about him. His visitation was the hardest one I have ever been to. I watched all my big strong guy friends break down in tears, some of them fell to their knees at the casket, which we had loaded with all sorts of goodies for him to have in Heaven.
I remember the sitting room had this mirror – it was called an infinity mirror or something like that – and every time I looked in it, I felt better because I felt like I could see right into Heaven. I really wished I had one at my house.
The funeral was harder than the visitation, his family played his favorite song – the song we’d called “ours.” I talked about him, which I am so glad I did. Then we had to say goodbye.
I have been to the cemetery a few times in the last 14 years, but I have never been strong enough to go to the place where he was when he drowned. I still talk to him a lot. I think about him all the time. Over the years I have lost touch with his family but would want them to know that they are in my thoughts every day. I loved him and still do.
Some times I will dig out my folder that has all things Steve in it and I will cry, and laugh, and remember. I am still scared of the river; I try to avoid it especially in certain places. I have a hard time going over the bridges but every time seems a little bit easier.
I decided the best way to end my post about Steve would be to end it with a poem I wrote for him. It won first place in a local poetry contest. That was a great way to honor him.
In Loving Memory
I want to see his face again
I long to see his smile
I need to hear his voice once more
If just for a little while
My mind wants him here with me,
But still he’s far away
It’s trying to think of everything
To make him come to stay
My heart is searching soulfully
To hide the love inside
But the love I have inside for him
Is something I simply cannot hide
I will sit here wondering
How it could’ve been
And I’ll sit here waiting
For my chance to come again
(Dedicated to Steven C. Morse on August 14, 1996)