The next time I got see to Dave was our senior year of high school.
We had kept in touch a bit between the youth conference and this point in time, and I considered him my friend.
That day that I saw him is forever burned into my memory. It was Fall, and the air was crisp. Football season was upon us, and my high school was playing an away game on Friday night against a team in Dave’s hometown. My girlfriends and I decided to make the drive down to watch the game (and let’s be honest, to meet up with Spears boys). Earlier that afternoon, I had gotten my official acceptance letter to Franciscan University, and I was elated (separate but oh so related point).
Once we arrived at the football game, we scanned the crowded bleachers of the visitors’ side until we saw the brood of men that we were so fond of.
My stomach flipped.
There he was, two years older and still so good looking 😉 We walked up the steps of the bleachers and I tried not to make eye contact with Dave because I was so nervous. We reached the fellas and were greeted by Dave’s brother, Joe. Dave turned my way and said hello, and then turned back toward the game and seemingly watched with great intensity and investment. He did not say another word to me for the entire game. He kept his eyes fixed on the game the whole freaking time.
I left feeling weird. In fact, I was kind of pissed. He was my friend, wasn’t he? So why didn’t he seem interested in catching up on the rare occasion that we all got to hang out together?
That feeling of, “it will never happen with him” was solidified even more in my heart, and I shoved my feelings down deeper into the abyss. This time, he was really just my friend, and that was ok. Right? Eh, right.
So when I saw Dave six months later once again at the youth conference, I was able to hang out with him in a more detached way. We had a great time together that weekend, swapping stories, talking about college plans, learning about one another. We had reached a new level of friendship, and I knew it. We just really enjoyed each other. At the end of the conference, he asked if he could have my number so we could keep in touch in a more affective way than Facebook. Honestly, I didn’t think anything of it. He was my friend, for real this time. And that really was ok.
Over the next few years, our friendship blossomed into something quite lovely. And I was becoming great friends with his family, too, so nothing seemed out of the ordinary between us, you know? We were just the best of friends.
Once I started at Franciscan, his family visited a lot and we were able to spend some time together in groups with great discussion and laughter. I finally knew where we stood. We would be great friends, for a long time, but never anything more. And those feelings from my 16 year old heart? I locked those away for good.
But the summer after my freshman year of college, something shifted. We grew apart. Big time.
He spent the summer walking across the country, and I spent it gearing up for a semester of studying abroad in Austria. We each had our own lives going on, and we were no longer such a big part of one another’s. I remember talking to him twice that summer. Once while he was somewhere in Utah? Colorado? Where were you, Dave? And then again right before I boarded my plane for Europe.
We continued our lives separate from one another; learning, growing, being formed, shaped, molded, becoming more of who we are and more of who we wanted to be. We suffered different heartaches and experienced different triumphs and embarked on different adventures.
Our paths crossed unexpectedly that semester when he and his sister and another one of our friends surprised my friends and me by showing up in Austria! They came to visit us for the week of Thanksgiving, which was a blast. But that time is a saga in and of itself, too long for this already-too-long series.
Looking back, the Lord was preparing us in big ways for the shi(f)t that was about to hit the fan. Because it did, real hard, just about a month later.