Isabel, What Have You Done?
When my son, Danny, was a teenager, he and his sister, Betsy, had the same group of friends. They are only 17 months apart in age, and so it was natural for them to have many mutual friends. I guess it was also natural for them to congregate over here, as I never locked the door, day or night, They always knew they were welcome. ‑Sometimes I wondered at my own sanity when the drums would start in, and the laughter, and craziness that only teens can appreciate went on. I never used the downstairs of our split-level. It seemed to just become the kids’ area. They had everything they needed there, including a bathroom, TV, stereo, etc. ‑After graduation they went one way and another. I would think of them from time to time, but the gang of kids as they were, would, as all of us do, go their separate ways. Some got married, divorced, remarried, stayed single, went to college, took an assortment of jobs and, well, they just all grew up.
Yesterday, I saw a car pull into my driveway, parked askew, and a very tall 6’4″ guy got out, and as I watched, I said to myself, why, that’s Jimmy Vittitow. I haven’t seen him in years. I met him at the door and as I hugged his tall frame, his face crumbled. I knew something terrible had happened. I led him up to the living room and his halting story came out. Stephen Lamb is dead. I was stunned. You know you hear your life can flash before your face? ‑Well, all those teen years seemed to flash before me. All the names and faces of all the kids who hung out here came back to me. All their laughter, hugs, and craziness were instantly there in my mind again.
Some of you may have seen it on the news, as it was on National News, ESPN and local Louisville news, because Stephen was from here. In fact, he lived right down the road. He was one of the guys. They were all sorta my own boys. Same for the girls.
Stephen and his wife and little daughters were at Jacksonville, Fla. for a short vacation, and, as we all know,‑Isabel was approaching. Stephen and two of his friends who had gone on vacation with them, were walking out in the water when a rip tide took Stephen. He was not a good swimmer, and the undertow overpowered him. His wife stood helplessly on the beach and watched his panicked face as it went under for the last time. He was quickly rescued but his life had gone from him.
Today, at the funeral home, I watched, and hugged ‑”the boys” as they came in. My, they had changed so much. They were grown men. Then I reminded myself that they were all 42 or 43. But…they were just boys yesterday…weren’t they? ‑I guess today was the first time I really told myself how much I loved them all. They all called me “Mom” and they still did today. I noted something I wanted to pass along to all of you from my experience today, sad as it was. I noted that the boys, unlike the boys of the 50’s, all hugged each other. They said, “I love you, Man” or “I love you, Buddy”. They held each other in an embrace and tears flowed. ‑‑The love and companionship they had all shared together, almost brought me to my knees. ‑I thought of boys in the 50’s and realized that such a show of emotion would never have happened back then. The 50’s boys learned to shake hands. They kept themselves dry-eyed. Our boys, who have now become men, have changed. They allow themselves to show emotion. They tell each other they love each other. I am grateful for this change. I am glad that young men are finally allowed to show their emotions and to love unabashedly. I grieve for Stephen. I grieve for the lost youth of all these kids. Life keeps changing; life just keeps changing.
Bless all of you. Stay safe.