Garth was the boy next door from our earliest days on Blackhawk, one school year ahead of me but only about 11 months older (we were both young for our grades). He quickly became the closest thing I’d have to a brother until my sister married our beloved Paul.
Not too much time passed before I couldn’t imagine life without him. He was always there, just a few steps away, with a good ear, good advice and a joke of the day. We used to come up with solutions for most of the world’s problems – or our little world, anyway – and he was always willing to listen to the minutiae of whatever adolescent drama I had going on.
Fortunately for Garth, my life was fairly drama-free, but, still, he was always there for me. And he always took my side, even as he might point out the error of my ways.
We always played on the same team in street football, too. I was the quarterback – had a good arm for a girl – but Garth was the brains. He’d call the plays and tell me what to do. I was just the executioner of his moves.
He taught me a lot about football, and for a while I kept up with the pro games. (Wanted to be the first female pro for a while.) So football became another topic of conversation, including what a crush I had on Joe Namath.
We also played some mean ping-pong and street baseball, but mostly I remember and cherish our talks. Soft-spoken, easygoing Garth.
Soft-spoken, easygoing but mischievous Garth – he had a wicked sense of humor and, as the brother I never had, he did his part on occasion to tease me until he really got my goat. And riled my temper.
I only remember two times I got so mad I physically attacked. Once I pinched him on the forearm with my fingernails, which were long and probably painted – pinched so hard it took a plug out. Of course he didn’t let me see him flinch, but it had to have hurt like hell.
Another time I got so mad I ran across the street to the empty lot next to Pam’s house and started throwing smallish rocks at Garth, who stood laughing in the street. The more he laughed, the madder I got and the more accurate my aim became. I can still see him dancing around dodging rocks while alternating laughter with “Ow! Ow!”
Guess that was a little over the top. Sorry, sweetheart. Whatever you teased me about that day really got to me, evidently. Of course I can’t remember what it was.
Once Garth got violent in my defense, bless his loyal heart. I developed rather early and seemingly overnight in the days when boys “knew what caused that,” or thought they did, and it wasn’t charitable toward girls at all. Or chivalrous or the least bit grounded in reality.
People took me for 18 at almost 13, at least from a distance, but that didn’t mean I was anything but a little girl inside.
A boy from a neighboring school with whom Garth went to church came to the Crownovers to visit and evidently that boy applied the “you know what causes that” theory to me in Garth’s presence.
My gentle, brotherlike boy next door gave him a bit of a beat-down and made him take it back. My hero.
I’m glad I wasn’t there to witness it.
As I started dating in earnest, Garth and I had less time to hang out, but we remained close – in proximity, but also in fondness.
(Our proximity was so close that Doyle Crownover, one of the sweetest men you’d ever meet and one of my bosses years later when I taught in the NLR School District, would peek out the bedroom window into our carport when I came home from dates. Most nights ended with “Goodnight, Doyle!”)
The end of Garth’s senior year came sooner than I expected, somehow, and suddenly he was gone out of state for school. A couple of years later, my parents moved from Blackhawk to Wewoka, on the other side of Indian Hills, and that ended even occasionally proximity.
But the fondness is still there and always will be. You never forget the boy next door.