Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Steve Rotty @ 58

Steve would have been 58 on Tuesday, September 1st. He made it to 56 plus change. I'm still pissed off about his early, sudden and tough death from pancreatic cancer.

Here we are almost exactly 20 years ago in August of 1989. We met over a blackjack game in the student lounge, freshman year. My game. Steve sat down and asked to deal, so I gave him the cards. He promptly misdealt 3 times in a row (and paid us all off, quarters, we're talking) and I took the cards back. He explained that he just wanted to meet some of the kids in his section. (Of course, these kids only wanted to hang out, smoke cigarettes and play cards. Sorry, Steve.)

We became great friends, and I wish I could remember more of the details of how we developed our friendship. Maybe we were both feeling kind of alone in the large metropolis that was Northeastern University and wanted to fit in. Likely that. I know we got down to where did you go to high school (we went to rival schools) and what did you drive pretty quickly. Steve had wheels, and he knew how to plan in detail, even then. He planned these epic beach parties at Cahoon Hollow Beach the summer of freshman year (where the Beachcomber resides now.)

Steve went off to Wentworth after freshman year. We used to meet up and cruise around Boston with Charlie Valentine and Gary Flood, friends Steve made at Wentworth. Steve made friends everywhere he went. We had a lot of fun in cars, and we cruised a lot, day and night.

Steve and I were able to spend a week together in September of 2001 when we met in Salt Lake City and toured through Yellowstone National Park, Jackson Hole, up to Butte Montana and the length of Idaho, returning to Salt Lake City. (I still wear a sweatshirt from that trip, and I put my coffee cup on a ceramic Yellowstone coaster every day.) Here's a picture of us at a landmark. I think Steve stopped for every landmark his entire life; wanting to experience them all. He was right. We do need to experience them all, and he taught me that. He also taught me a lot about friendship, too.

Out politics differed, and I remember him asking me if I really wanted to marry Linda. When I said yes, he supported me 100%, but he did have his doubts, especially since we had decided to get married pretty quickly. He was right of course. When we parted in Salt Lake City Airport, I remember he told me "You're a good man." Few have said anything to me that mattered more, ever. That year, he sent me a card for my birthday in addition to calling. I still have it here: It's a drawing of a suspension bridge on the cover, and inside on the left is printed: "If your friends jump off the bridge first, it will help cushion your landing." On the right is printed: "You can never have too big a party. Happy Birthday" Under that Steve wrote "To A Great Friend!" and "-Steve" It's one of my few valued keepsakes.

I used to quote Jackson Browne about death: "I don't know what happens when people die. Can't seem to grasp it as hard as I try." I don't try to be that witty anymore. I've had to try to grasp Steve's death, but I can't claim to be successful. Every night when I come out of the gym, I look for the Moon or some stars and wonder what sort of celestial happenings he's into in the afterlife. Anyone looking at me would see me look up for a moment and then shake my head, bummed that Steve isn't getting the same view as me. Steve would always alert family, friend and co-workers to meteor showers, comets and other celestial coolness.

I'm headed West in October to visit Judy and Lisa, Steve's wife and daughter, and to get a memorial tattoo for Steve, too. It will be a celestial design, one of Pat Fish's designs. Right now, we're looking at her Halley's Comet and Supernova designs. We may combine them into one design. I'm looking forward to all that and more on that trip.



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