I met Danny, Babs and family in 1999 or 2000 when I was working at the Trempealeau Hotel and Babs started there. How did it happen that their family became my family? I don’t know. Danny and Babs’ daughter Allison and I became best friends. She had an old Audi she could fix herself which she used to drive FAST around La Crosse down alleys through gas stations, it was FUN, my heart beats fast now just thinking of it. When you are best friends with someone there are obviously a lot of good memories but another one that makes me smile is sleeping in this bed in the Trempealeau house with Al and someone else who crashed in it woke up a little excited and was proving so on my leg and Al and shoved him right out of the bed onto the floor, it was awesome. She carried me up a hill when I cut my foot on a bottle when we were jumping over a bonfire. Her foot was also cut. She went to work the next morning. I took two weeks off.
I lived at Danny and Babs’ in Onalaska with John in 2002 when I returned from Greece and had no place to live, I never planned these things, still don’t. I called Babs and she drove up to Winona in a truck and helped me load up all my stuff. We had known each other only a couple of years at this point. One day–I forgot to say that Danny was a collector–John and I thought we would “help” by going through some drawers for them and we threw stuff away like rare motorcycle parts, to this day I don’t even know what the f*ck we were thinking going through someone’s stuff like that but Danny and Babs FORGAVE me, not like they said it was fine but still held it against me either, I mean actually forgave me like in the Bible, I think they believed me when I said I was sorry and to this day I still don’t understand the depths of that forgiveness considering how far I was out of line but it was there and now it is its OWN thing.
I remember falling asleep one night when Al and Danny were in the garage talking or working on a bike, when I woke up eight hours later they were still out there talking, it wasn’t a big deal for them to spend all of that time together all of the time and that is only part of what makes a family great and also I learn that from them, eat food together in the kitchen and talk for HOURS a lot of people do this, but there is a different sense of something around them I don’t know how else would I remember one time standing around a kitchen table eating lasagna eight years ago and yet forget an interview I had this morning, but I am suddenly colder on finding my way back overseas than I was last week after Danny’s death and the real life that ensued it seems my job search proceedings much more tedious and like threading through molasses than before, maybe my whole paradigm’s gotta shift, maybe it already has, it just made me think of the people we choose to keep close. Again.
|Matt and Al|
I was home on Monday night April 2nd, wondering why I had scheduled two interviews for the day after my birthday, when I found out Danny died. I’d been waiting for a call from a school in Africa that I think I knew wasn’t going to come in and just basically squandering time when I saw something some of our Hotel friends said to Babs about Danny. & how does it change so fast? How does our collective mentality adjust, in one week, to speaking of someone in the past? I don’t think they are questions to which anyone knows the answers, & even if they did, we probably wouldn’t want to hear them, and what can you possibly offer a family when their anchor has slipped, and I didn’t know him as well as his closest friends or his family members, spending too much time away from La Crosse, but here goes.
|Myrick Park Gun Shelter, La Crosse, Wisconsin, April 7, 2012|
To say that Danny Steers’ funeral was unlike any other funeral seems pretty transparent to those of us who knew him. No one is like anyone else, but really no one was like Danny. “La Crosse will never be the same,” a friend wrote, what a true statement: in the twelve years that I knew him, to me he became synonomous with the city. I knew I’d found the right place when I saw the Harleys, followed two of them in. Got there just in time to hear the minister, under a tent and hooked up to a microphone and amp, begin his words about and for the family, his prayers. To hear him speak about how Danny loved Sierra and Rainier, Angela, his oldest daughter’s two kids, and Al’s Xavi and Maurice, the last of whom he had just nicknamed Jiminy Cricket, how much he loved his four children and showed it everyday in his actions, showing up from the road, still in the rig, to Matt’s game, to Sammy’s graduation. Smiling. Smiling. Smiling.
Maybe because I monkey around with words so much or used to and will again, I’ve always been big on people who enact love, I mean show it in everyday actions, somewhere most people wouldn’t think to look for a distilled love from a father to his child, showing up at a basketball game in a semi because you would rather be there than home changing anything. And that was the main thing about Danny. He wanted to be there, and he was there, contrast that with the people you encounter who have settled for a boring, template existence. Nope, he was a big live-r, love-r, cry-er. He’ll be missed by his family who is already starting to learn how to be able to shine without him
& then Babs said with equanimity I just wanted him to be happy, who is going to look at me like he did, two of the truest statements I have ever heard, if you are into that sort of thing. Which I am.