This past week-end I drove to Kentucky to visit my high school friend, Mike Hannah, and his wife, Chris. While I was there, Mike and I drove up to Ohio to see our mutual friend, Steve Langlais, who is living in a nursing home near Columbus. It was a great afternoon, as many, many funny and not-so-funny events from our lives were recalled, and we had the privilege of spending some time with our long-time friend.
Steve and I talked a little about my writing, and I remembered that I had written a piece about him, probably 20 years ago, that I put into my book, “A Collection of Days”, which has evolved into this blog.
I don’t think Steve realized how much our friendship meant to me, or how much he helped me as a transfer student at Dunedin High School, where I didn’t have many friends, and had a hard time finding my niche at my new school. Steve called me his psychiatrist, but he was mine, as well. I was so happy to see him again, and decided to dig out the piece I wrote about him years ago.
Here is “My Friend, Steve.”
My Friend, Steve
I don’t remember the day I met Steve. I remember that I heard him long before I ever knew who he was. That may sound funny, but I can still hear the click-clack, click-clack of Steve’s metal crutches as he headed down the echoing hallway at Dunedin High School going from one class to the next. I also remember hearing loud metallic clatters from time to time when Steve “wiped out” upon hitting a wet place on the polished hallway floors, sending him tumbling onto the floor or sliding through a classroom doorway, sometimes making a grand entrance into class to the cheers of his classmates.
I officially met Steve in Journalism Class our senior year. I had seen him almost everyday the year before, but never had a class with him or had the opportunity to meet him. In Journalism class, as we worked together on the school newspaper, we became very good friends.
Steve was handicapped from cerebral palsy. Both his legs were skinny and weak, and he needed the help of his metal crutches to walk. Writing was also a challenge for him, as his hands didn’t want to go in the direction he would like. He wore black-rimmed glasses, which he insisted gave him a sophisticated air. He was a snappy dresser, and was always right in style. Fortunately, he had no speech defect, as many victims of cerebral palsy are afflicted with, and he was highly intelligent. He had a keen sense of humor and a dry, biting wit. He always had a new joke to tell, or something funny to say that would put all of us around him in stitches, in danger of falling out of our seats from laughing. Steve was just plain fun to be around!
Everyday in Journalism class, Steve and I would talk. We got into constant trouble with the teacher, because we would start talking to each other, and forget about our school newspaper assignment. Steve was the sports editor of the paper. He loved sports, and had aspirations of becoming a sports announcer. Most of the time our conversation would be lighthearted and fun, but some days he shared with me his dark thoughts about being crippled, and I listened as he confided feelings about girls he liked and his dreams of love and romance. He wanted more than anything to be able to stand straight and walk without crutches. He accepted his life, but carried a hidden hope that someday he would have an operation to straighten and strengthen his legs. I don’t think he truly believed his doctors’ promises of new surgical techniques on the horizon, but he still had hope. Steve called me his “psychiatrist”, but in actuality he did more for me than I ever did for him.
Click, clack. Click, clack. Here comes Steve down the hall. I know that I will soon be smiling as I see my friend make his way into the classroom.