When I was ten, Jennifer was eight and Stevie (as we called him) was five, our parents decided that we all would learn how to ski together. We dutifully attended our lessons and later in the day were at the top of the hill making our first run down the slopes. Before any of us could start, Stevie crouched down, tucked his poles under his arms and sped in a straight line down the mountain, he was hooked and a skier was born.
But of course, to us – his family, he was more than a skier, he was a son, brother, brother-in-law and uncle. The baby of the family, always being tormented by his older sisters – and as far as we were concerned getting away with far more than we ever could. We were always tattling on him to Mom, yelling down the stairs, “Stephen’s toothbrush isn’t wet and the soap is dry…he didn’t wash before school”.
Jennifer was the only girl in Vernon’s Little League and was placed on the same team as Stephen, something that embarrassed him to no end.
Growing up, we were forever building forts in the woods, stomping through streams and blocking our cul de sac with our bikes so that we and the rest of the neighborhood kids could have uninterrupted games of kickball or perform one of our holiday parades for an audience of our parents, with Stevie stuffing the arms of his sweatshirt to be the “Muscle Man”.
Although his declared profession as a child was to be a “Money Man”, ironically money was not important to him later in life.
We were very different as people, he outdoorsy and athletic, me the consummate bookworm. Although, I may have tempered my image as the “geeky big sister” when I scored tickets for Stephen and his friend Brian to go with me to see the Grateful Dead at the old Foxborough stadium.
After Stephen moved out West, we visited him as a family, but I also had the chance to visit him on my own a few times.
One of those times was to watch him race the Big Horn Trail run in Northern Wyoming. Since we would be staying overnight, I, being the ultimate planner, called Stephen and asked him what the nearest town was so that I could make a hotel reservation. He told me, “Nah Sis, we’re sleeping in the back of my truck.” Those of you who know me, know that wasn’t going to happen. So I booked us a room at a little bed and breakfast, which, for the record, had a full bathtub that Stephen soaked in for hours after completing the 50 mile trail run.
The day of the trail run I saw him off into the woods, and later met him at a checkpoint about 3 miles from the finish. I rode a bike alongside him as he loped along the last few miles. As we neared the finish line I rode ahead to videotape him at the finish for Mom & Dad. All of a sudden out of the corner of my eye, I saw him sprinting towards the finish line, I threw the bike down and barely managed to tape a glimpse of him crossing the finish line. When I asked what possessed him speed up like that, he simply replied, “some chick tried to pass me.”
In 2004, I received an award from my company and was honored at a dinner in New York City, Stephen flew in and actually donned a tuxedo to accompany me for the event. One thing I’ll always remember about that night was him asking former United States Attorney General Janet Reno to dance, she declined.
One of his friends sent us a quote, “the greatest grief is only experienced if one has experienced the greatest love”. How true that is.
I’d like to close with a poem by New England poet Robert Frost that was sent to me by one of my closest friends:
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold,
Her early leaf’s a flower,
But only so an hour,
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day,
Nothing gold can stay.