No life is ever ended so long we we can laugh and learn from the way that life was lived.
I just found out my good friend and ex-boyfriend died on Thursday.
I am sad, writing through tears, determined to capture what he meant to me. It’s not possible to capture it all — but there are five things that will always make me smile when I think of him, and lessons we can all learn from the way Steve made me smile.
Steve and I were dating when I got my puppy 14 years ago.
I had taken my kids to pet stores. Theoretically we were checking out the different breeds of dogs so their dad would know what type to get. Not surprisingly we ended up taking home one tiny shih-tzu rather spur of the moment. We had plans to go to Waterfire in Rhode Island. I figured we’d have to cancel to stay home to take care of our newest addition.
Nonsense said Steve. Just take the two pound puppy and put her in a soft infant carrier, strap her on like a baby, and walk around the water looking at the bonfires.
It sounded like a plan. We got a reaction we didn’t anticipate.
Steve noticed there was a pattern. We would walk about three to four feet before some onlooker would stop us. “Oh my goodness. Is that a stuffed animal?” Frankly, if it were a stuffed animal that would be really weird, right?
Steve was so good-natured about it. He laughed at our slow progress. People were oohing and ahing over our tiny puppy. And she wasn’t even overwhelmed with the attention.
Forget the scenic event. We were clearly the main attraction.
Steve came with a few of us to a chowder festival. He had the time of his life.
By this point, he had battled two forms of cancer and was fighting his third. He had developed shingles while in the hospital and had lost a fair amount of vision in one eye. He also had a bit of difficulty getting around. I can’t remember if he had a cane by then.
But none of that mattered. He loved food. And even more he enjoyed events based on food. We got to sample chowder from different chefs. There was a singer. It was very festive.
I found it fascinating that he really enjoyed talking with the server about the recipe. I thought the chowder was good, but I was mesmerized with the way Steve was so involved with communicating with this gentleman.
He forgot about his health issues. While we were there, the world was an awesome place again.
Steve really enjoyed Groupons (group coupons). He tended to go out to dinner or go to yoga or health clubs as a result of the promotions they ran.
Steve was so enthusiastic he got me checking out what kind of activities I could investigate. You could almost create your own festival!
I went to paint night, twice. For the first time, I discovered why my mom enjoyed painting for 40 years — something I’d never previously understood.
My daughter and I also got to experience a wind tunnel in New Hampshire. That is definitely the closest I’ll get to voluntarily jumping out of a plane. It was the experience of a lifetime.
Wait, I just remembered I have an unused coupon for portrait pictures!
I met Steve in Salem one time around Halloween. October was the best time to be in the home of the witch trials. We strolled around, checking out the stores that were fantastically decorated. They had costumes, candles, haunted house items, party favors, games, etc.
We were drawn to sayings on refrigerator magnets and had to read them all out loud. I ended up getting the one that said, “I can only help one person per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow isn’t looking good either.”
Throngs of people were walking down the street sporting odd colors of hair and assorted costumes. There were even pets dressed up for the season.
It was very nostalgic and reminded me of the folk festivals and events my family used to enjoy. The four of us didn’t spend much money, but festivals were often free and offered food and music. They were the best way to spend a Saturday.
A dating memory forever etched in my mind.
Steve and I were in my kitchen, hugging. I massaged his shoulders and I realized he had his head thrown back and his eyes closed. He was completely at ease, leaning against the counter. Not requiring anything. That was so like Steve, just being present and thoroughly enjoying a moment with another person.
How often does that happen? Most of us are not fully present. Or we might be expecting or demanding something and then disappointed that it didn’t happen or wasn’t the way we expected it.
There are so many lessons I’ve learned from him.
Above all, we can be flexible, present for others, participate in what’s happening around us and appreciate engaging with other people.
We can try new activities like learning to paint — or we can finally understand a parent’s drive to create art. We can be adaptable when something like a small puppy threatens to derail our plans. We can be like children and lose ourselves in celebrations like Halloween and Food Festivals. And we can enjoy and even create memorable quiet moments, instead of spending so much time thinking or connecting with technology.
Steve showed how we can live in our heart and connect fully with others on what can be a memorable romp here on earth.
Would you like to help us shatter stereotypes about men?
Receive stories from The Good Men Project, delivered to your inbox daily or weekly.
Photo: Getty Images