Monday, September 14, 2009

September 14

The summer between my freshman and sophomore year in high school, I "went out" with a boy named Will Thompson.

My parents hated that term, especially for a 15-year-old.

"You're going out? Where are you going out to?" they would ask, teasing. I guess they preferred the term "going steady."

Will was a drummer in our marching band, and I played the flute. I had a thing for the drummers. They were the coolest guys - not only were they oh-so-cute, they were completely confident and got into enough trouble to keep them interesting. Will was no exception. Actually, at times he was the extreme of the stereotype. So naturally, when he asked me out, I was happy to accept.

Will and I "dated" for about three months that summer. Since my parents were at work during the day and I had a "no boys in the house alone" rule, Will would walk the half-mile to my house, can of orange soda in hand (he loved orange soda), just to come sit in the front yard with me for a few hours in the heat.

The first time I brought Will home to meet my parents, he was sitting on the couch in the middle of conversation when he began to eye the platform/shelf at the top our wall near our ceiling.

"I'll bet I can climb up there," he said, confidently. We looked at him skeptically.

"You can't climb up there," my mom said, "it's too high." I'm pretty sure she also thought nobody would ever actually try to do such a thing in someone else's house, but Will saw it as a challenge.

"Oh yes, I can," he said, as he rose from his seat. Effortlessly, he jumped up and grabbed the top of the ledge and pulled himself up, swinging his legs up to the platform and landing on his belly on the ledge.

My parents and I stood there in shock.

"See? I told you I could get up here!" he exclaimed, happily, as he crawled around on the ledge. "It's really dirty up here!"

Well of course it was dirty up there! Nobody could reach up there.

"Alright then," my mom said, and went into the kitchen. She emerged a moment later, Dustbuster in hand. She passed it up to Will. "Then since you're up there, you can clean."

And he did.

Needless to say, my parents always remembered Will.

I told that story to Will's mom tonight. Will was killed in a car accident on Saturday night.

I hadn't seen Will in a few years (only once since high school, I think), but from the other stories I heard tonight from his friends, he hadn't changed. He was still a free spirit, still a goofball, still ridiculously wild, and still kindhearted. He loved his friends and family, and they loved him.

Tonight we all gathered at Will's parents' house to tell stories about him. We talked about how he hated wearing shirts and always carried a pillow to school. We listened to his buddies talk about playing bumper cars in the high school parking lot and other dangerous stories that made his parents laugh and cringe. We listened to his brother tell stories about Will giving him cuts and bruises, and we listened to Will's scoutmaster tell stories about his troupe burning down a cabin. We listened to his mom tell us to cherish the time we would have with our kids and let them be who they are.

And we drank orange soda together. Because that's what he would have been doing.

Actually, there's no telling what he would have been doing.

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