I remember being at Steve's house for Bible study and one of his girls calling from upstairs, not panicked, just persistently, "Daddy! Da--ddy!" And he dropped everything and ran up the stairs, two at a time, to see what was up. I remember thinking, "George is the kind of guy who would take stairs two at a time to take care of his girls." That was the kind of dad I had wanted, and that was the kind of dad I wanted for my children. Actually, when my parents divorced during my Freshman year at Auburn, Steve walked me through it. I remember calling him over the summer from Nashville just to hear someone I trusted who could help me work through it all. As I put it in my letter to him last month, "when my parents stepped out, you [he] stepped in." He was the one to give my boyfriends the once over. I remember him advising one to take good care of me, or something of the sort, and feeling, for the first time ever, that flush of embarrassment and simultaneous sense of being loved and cared for that is so often alluded to in parental relationships in films or on television.
The only time I have ever been to New York City, I went with Steve and a handful of other college students who all had to double step to keep up with his long, confident stride as he guided us through that wonderful and strange place. And that is why this beautiful piece, posted just the night before his death, was no surprise to me, except that it was just so lovely. I actually wrote him a letter to tell him how I loved it and put it in the mail on Sunday night. When I heard the news on Monday at noon, the mail had already gone out. And so there is a letter on its way to him that he will never read. I am not sure what to think of it, but the exact same thing happened when my Nannie died.
I know that the title of this post has been rendered trite by a particular film and its subsequent parodies. I also know that the poem is about Abe Lincoln, of whom, many of you know, I am not a fan. Still, when I think about that trip to New York, especially in light of Steve's river analogy, and really the navigation of those years at Auburn when so much changed for me, "captain" seems a fitting title for Steve. I know the poem really isn't that good of a fit, but it just keeps coming to mind. And since nothing else does, so often in these times we cannot find the words, I will leave it.
RUF Winter Retreat February 1998 left to right, Sela, Bitty, Steve, Mary Martin, Blair, me.