Growing up a military brat meant our neighbors were often as close as cousins. We made family units based on proximity since we were all literally in the same boat, away from family. Life on a military base is what real community looks like. We came from all nations, walks of life and experiences but took care of each other regardless of those differences.
When we lived in Kokomo, Indiana we had the best neighbors. Darlene was an older girl next door who shared her dolls with me. On the other side of us lived the Krotz family and they lived near us in Nebraska too. Down the road lived the wildest bunch of red headed boys and their free spirited parents. The Souders were always a great time. Across the street lived both Kevin Mosley and Steven Hadley. We all used to throw rocks at each other because we weren't permitted to cross the street without a grownup. It was all fun and games until the day I took aim at a passing car and made contact. That was a childhood moment my parents insured I wouldn't forget.
Growing up with those kids was full of mischief and childhood wonder. Steven was quite the idea guy as most of his games involved a fair amount of danger. I recall one game where we looked for him based on clues he left for us. We located him on the roof. We were four. If I recall correctly, Steven had his stomach pumped a few times that same summer too. His poor mother had her hands full.
Steven was one day older than me and we shared birthday parties a few times. That poor guy got stuck with Raggedy Anne and Andy one year and Holly Hobby another! But cake was involved so as far as I know, he had no complaints.
When we were four, our mothers were close friends who did a lot together. Steven and I talked about growing up and getting married. We even had furniture picked out during a shopping trip. I joked with my parents I should write Steven a gentle let down letter when Greg proposed to me years later.
Steven and his dad visited us in San Antonio, Texas after Steven fell off a diving board and had stitches in his head because a specialist in our area evaluated him. And we got to see him in Witchita Falls, Texas one time too.
Over the years, time and distance we all lost contact. Last year Steven and I reconnected on Facebook. We exchanged humorous memories and our mothers once again reconnected too. In fact all those neighbors just had a collective gathering in Branson in September. I wanted to join them as those families were a vital part of my childhood.
Steven and I wished one another a happy birthday last month with some fun banter about my being younger and him getting another feminine cake.
My mom called this morning. Steven passed away very unexpectedly. I am shocked and sad. I feel a loss despite the years that have passed since we last saw each other. I am heartbroken for his parents, sister and son. I pray he is resting in peace and Heaven is full of Steven's style of adventure and humor.