On Christmas Eve, I found out that a person who had been the bane of my teenage years had been killed in a horrible accident. To say that I didn’t have some mixed emotions about this situation would have been an absolute lie. Steve made my life a living hell most every minute he could from 7th to 11th grade. I don’t know what happened in 12th but he left me pretty much alone at that point.
I ached to be away from his constant torment for years. The constant fear that something embarrassing, mean spirited, or generally contra to my nature, would spew forth from his head gave me shivers. The fear that I would be physically harmed in some way by either he or a member of his clique would scare me beyond terror. See, Steve was a large presence. Not only physically, but personality wise too. He managed to seem bigger than life when we were kids. He seemed to know that too, back then. Not to say that I was, or am, a diminutive person in manner of speaking. I was probably more awkward than your normal teenager. I did not feel I was given what I perceived as much support at home, nor did I think I fit into the community we lived in. Steve seemed to be able to fit in and knew where and how he fit into the picture. To me, he levered that feeling of comfort into a position of power and intimidation.
But something happened that last year of high school. Something even more interesting seemed to happen after high school. We both grew up. Somehow I became less terrorized by his tactics that last year, or he became less intimidating to those around us. Part of me wants to think that he may have realized that, I the tall fat kid, could have unleashed a world of pain onto him if provoked too far; and from that realization he somewhat backed down. I think I also was learning that he wasn’t the biggest fear that I had to face.
As I sit here, many years later, thinking about the things that occurred, I think Steve taught me an inadvertent important lesson. That lesson being, not to be afraid of those who put on a big show. The show is just that, a show. They’re probably just as terrified at whatever you’re both facing and have lashed out in a manner that seems to fit their personality best to defend themselves from whatever they perceive as a threat. Many times those of us who’re being tormented are just the easiest thing to try to get some sort of attention. Once perceived as an equal, or worse –a threat, the tormentor will tone things down significantly.
Many people don’t get to know their personal worst nightmare-tormentor later in life. I can say that I was fortunate enough to get to know Steve as an adult. I learned that he has a son who has grown more along my path than his (only by observation). I learned he has a wife whom he adored dearly (and a fitting couple they made). I learned that he became a respectable member of the local business community and a business owner himself. He grew up into someone we all ought to be – a well-respected neighbor. This did not mean that he had lost the drive that made him who he was. From all the pictures, postings, and interactions that one could see on social media, Steve continued to go out and live life the way he wanted. But it did not seem that he was out to do anyone any harm. He just wanted to live life his way.
I’m going to miss Steve. I really am. He probably didn’t realize that he taught me to be able to face my fears in ways that I didn’t realize. For that I’m truly am grateful. I’m a stronger person for what I grew through. I also know that I can help my children deal with difficult people from the experiences I’ve gone through. I also feel bad for Steve’s wife and son. No longer will Steve be there to get them to laugh, like he did for a lot of us who knew him as an adult. No longer will they have his support in getting through difficult times.
Steve—Thanks for everything…you were a good person and will be missed.