Check ya’ watta!

Dear Steve,

I so don’t want to write this, brother. My heart breaks knowing you have gone on. I’m not sure if you will be able to see this in your current incarnation so the best I can do is speak to you through your friends, your children and your wife. I sat in your house today and saw people that loved you come to honor you and pay respects to you. People came to grieve for the loss of you, talk and be with others to share in common grief over the loss of you. Your friends came from far and wide. “I’ve known Steve for 25/30 years!”, “We went camping, fishing, and beer drinking!”, “He was a great man!” So many people loved you. Your children’s friends came to pay their respects. Friends of Tyler, Jesse and Jonathan all came. Your house was the hub for a lot of kids. They all loved you.

I have a life time of memories with you. I wanted to chronicle them here so your family can look back and know a part of you that they may not have before you met Colette. I love the fucking goofiness of you. The silliness of you and how we could go for years without seeing each other and then have it be like yesterday. I was my absolute self when I saw you. You did that for me, you let me be who I was.

My earliest memory of us was not mine, but yours. You kept on reminding me about when we met. We were in junior high at Borel Middle School. I had just started playing guitar and had my electric guitar and amp in the band room. I think I was noodling on it and you came up to me. You were played trumpet at the time and came up and asked “Hey what are ya playing?” “This is a song I wrote for my girlfriend.” was what you told me you said. Every time you said that (and there were a few times that you’d bring it up), you’d always have the makings of an eye roll. I could see it, or if we were on the phone I’d hear it in your voice. OK, so I didn’t have a girlfriend! I was making it up! I wanted to seem popular… I still laugh about it, how you, in mock cruelty, joked “This is a song I wrote for my girlfriend.” in kind of a sing songy way, saying to me “I know you were trying to BS me” without actually saying it.

We knew each other a little bit in middle school but since you went to Serra High School and I went to Aragon, we only saw each other in passing for those few years until we both got jobs at the Sizzler. I remember bussing tables with you, cooking on the line with you. You and our friend at the time, Tony would love to watch me lose my cool when I was cooking. Our work friendship turned into, well, friendship. We ended up being room mates with your wife at the time, Marie. We played a lot of music in that house. We partied quite a bit in that house. We (well, not you because you didn’t drink back then) would drink while you sat with us drinking grape juice. Occasionally you would imbibe. You guys always loved watching me lose at quarters. I think I swallowed a few of those quarters we used. Sorry if that ended the games early.

I remember you and Marie moving to Half Moon Bay on the coast about 20 miles west from San Mateo. I’d come and visit you and we’d fish on the surf. We pulled in a few small sharks or whatever we could catch. We did a bit of fishing. You loved chasing me around with fish guts. You loved Putah Creek, which was fed from Lake Berryessa and we would find fishing spots off of the creek. Sometimes the haul was great, other times, not so good. It was always fun though. I enjoyed fishing with you. I hated it when you’d chase me around with fish guts, and love it at the same time. I’d laugh hysterically, “NO NO NO!” and here you’d come. Chasing me down. Thank you for not actually sliming me with those.

You were so fucking goofy. God I loved that about you. Not a lot of people got to see that part of you. You were always very quiet in crowds, but when we were hanging out you would just turn on that beacon and shine your goofy addled jokes anywhere you could project. Your facial expressions would go from benign to king goof and back to benign again. You’d let out a funny squeal “ngaaaww” just enough for me to hear and no one else. I remember the goofy stuff you’d say:
“People dead… on the ground… weeeeee’re in Jonestown.” Highly highly not politically correct but always funny. This stuff would seep out of you randomly, well, not randomly I suspect. I think that they were calculated at me to gain maximum laugh potential.

My grandfather used to watch over me quite a bit when I was young. He wanted to make sure that i was taking care of my car. He would say “Mark, check your water!” My grandfather had a British/cantonese accent, having lived his life in Macao and Hong kong, so what it would sound like when he barked those orders to me was “Mahk, check ya watta!” You heard him say that a few times and for years after, when I’d get a phone message or just in conversation you’d say that to me. I always laughed when I saw that you called, and heard you mimic my grandfather. “Mahk, Check ya watta!” would be left on my voice mail by you. It would always bring a smile to my face. I am glad that you got to meet my grandfather and glad that you remembered him. Maybe you didn’t know why I smiled. Well, I smiled because you did an awesome impersonation and it cracked me up. But I also smiled because you still had that tie to my past. My grandfather was like a father to me. He raised me from 8 into adult hood. He was not perfect but I loved him so much. A part of the fun of listening to you belt that out was because you remembered him as well.

You would have those goofy Motown dance moves that you’d do too. Step step, hand points down, hand points up, twill twirl… Again, done when no one was watching for my benefit. You loved to make me laugh.

I should also say… I’m sorry about abusing your drums. You hated it when i jumped on them. I always thought that I could play them better than I could. I’d beg you to play them and then after non stop with me saying “please, just a few minutes” you’d give in. I’d grab your sticks and sit on your drum thrown. My heavy foot and my heavy hands did not convey the syncopated rhythms I had in my head and I’d usually botch them up. You would last two, three, five minutes at most until you couldn’t stand it. You’d grab the sticks out of my hands and say “Get off the court!” You used to get so annoyed with my lack of rhythm.

Our last close tie before you moved to Arizona: We played in a Motown/top 40 band called False Move. We were pretty good too! You, the other Steve, the other other Steve (yes, we had 3 Steves in the band), Kurt, our other singer who’s name escapes me, and me playing lead guitar. Those were fun times. Playing on stage with you was the funnest thing I’ve done musically. I’ve not played in another band since. Recently I got a hold of our old friend Steve Shufton who played keys for us and he’s going to send me some of the recordings he amassed. He still has them! I am looking forward to sharing them with Colette and your kids. That was fun stuff man.

Then you and Colette moved to Arizona. First Cave Creek, then New River, and finally Dewey. That was 1992, and you have carved out another life. You made new friends. Tyler grew up there, Jessica and Jonathon were born there. I met some of those friends today. They are good people, Steve. They said to me, “He was like a brother to me.” It made me so happy to know that you had such ties in Arizona that you formed and forged. It made me incredibly sad to know that now all we can do is reflect.

Your children are beautiful. I met Jonathon for the first time. He is a ball of energy. I made friends with him on facebook a few years ago and while I’m here I’ll look forward to talking with him more. Jesse is a wonderful woman. I met her boyfriend Eric (although I keep on wanting to call him Brian). He’s a good man. We drove up to your house from the airport. I could tell you that he’s an engineer, well spoken, intelligent, but what I’d tell you most about him is that he seems incredibly kind, as does your daughter. Kindness will bring them far, more than anything else. Your oldest son Tyler is so tall now. And even though he towers over you (it’s ok, my son towers over me), he has so many of your mannerisms. Small things I noticed just watching him. How he picks stuff up, how he stands, the seriousness in his face. He is a reflection of you. He told me about the times you and he would practice drumming and how you guys would practice. I love that you were able to do that with him. He said that he has those recorded somewhere. I’d love to be able to hear them. He told me about his band, Dusty Rust. I watched them on youtube play a song called Arizona. He’s a really really good drummer, Steve.

Colette is doing ok. I’m sure she will be up and down for a while. She’s always been one to be able to weather the storm. I know she’s hurting, but she chooses to roll with the punches and keep on going. She loves you so much. When I came over last night the first thing she said to me was “That buddy of yours…” She was very graceful with the people that came to pay their respects to you.

I love you brother. I can’t help but feeling a mixture of anger, love and extreme sadness. The love I have had, do have and will always have for you will never change. However, I don’t think that love, anger and sadness are mutually exclusive. “How could you do this!” is inside me in a silent scream. Mixed in with that is “My beautiful brother. I am so saddened by your pain. I wish you could have reached out to me, to colette, to someone to express that. I wish I could have been of some service to you, to hear you and know your hurt.” I can’t blame you for leaving. I know that the choice was beyond your control and I knew that if you thought that there was another way, you would have chosen that other way. I am so very sorry you couldn’t have seen that there was.

Steve, you are my son’s name sake. We named Steven after you. He is such a good man. He is funny, athletic, smart, and above all else so very kind. When we were trying to decide his name before he was born, his mom said, “What about Steve, after your friend?” There was no hesitation. I knew what that meant for us to name our son after you and I was all in. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to honor you and my son. You are both such wonderful spirits and I’m glad that my son is tied back to you like that.

Our last conversation was over text, during the fires in Northern California. My wife and I evacuated out and you texted me that Saturday. Nothing different about our conversation; same old Steve, same old Mark, same witty goofy ass banter. I wish we could have spent more time.

You are gone now. It will be hard not to think about your final hour. The pain that you felt as you said good bye in your mind to the people and things that you cared about must have been so very hard for you. In time, my thoughts of you will not include your final moments. Thinking of you in that light is in the forefront of my mind now, but there is not a single defining moment in our lives. We have many of them. You became a father, not once, not twice but three times, to 3 beautiful kids. You fell in love with Colette and you both made a great living in Arizona. You made good friends, and I’m sure that you made them laugh, feel secure, and feel good about their relationship with you. Once the pain dulls, those are the things I will keep close when I think about you.

I now have to say goodbye to you. You are traveling home now. I won’t have anymore phone messages telling me to “check ya watta”. I will not be able to hear your goofiness, talk about music, our kids, our wives. I won’t have the joy of having those small conversations about stuff. Won’t get your texts anymore. My heart hurts and the only consolation I have is knowing that whatever demons you had are not there anymore to hurt you. We all knew you and loved you. You mattered so very much to so very many people. I am not sure what is out there. If there is something though, I will so very much look forward to reuniting with you. I will look very forward to laughing again with you. For now though, good bye my friend.

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