I've not told ANYONE about this since I left home when I was 17. It's just not something that I ever thought I needed to share. But as this weekend is Mother's Day, and as the funeral scene at the end of Smallville has me thinking about it, now is as good a time as any for a tribute.
I was a sophomore in high school. Fifteen years old. The Drama department was doing Arsenic and Old Lace. I was cast as the reverend, the female lead's father. Elaine, the female lead, was played by Suzannah, a Junior who lived around the corner from me. Suzie was pretty, smart, talented... student council, cheerleader, actress... We were in French class together, and because we lived so close, we often did projects together... translating commercials into French ("You got your peanut butter in my chocolate! You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!")... cooking (Blueberry mousse... mmmmmm...). She was cool.
Yeah, I had a little crush on her, but she was two years older than me (I was young for my grade) and she had a boyfriend. We were really more friends than anything, and being in the show together made us closer. I got rides home with her after rehearsal. She used to jokingly refer to me as her 'other father' because of the show.
My Junior year in high school, when Suzie was a senior, her father's plane disappeared in the Cascade Mountains. They found his body some 9 days later when they found the plane.
I went to the funeral, and after it was over, during that awkward time before everyone leaves, Suzie's mom and sister came up to me and I gave them hugs. Then Suzie. After I hugged her, she looked at me, with tears in her eyes and whispered to me "You're my daddy now."
Suzie went away to UC Davis for college. E-mail wasn't as common then, so contact was only maintained when she was home on weekends or holidays. But we stayed relatively close.
Mother's Day weekend, 1988, a Senior in High School, I was in the grocery store. The clerk was someone I knew from school, and he asked me, "You knew Suzie, didn't you?"
I blinked. "Yeah, I know Suzie."
He shook his head, "She was in an accident..."
I was stunned. At home, I went straight for the paper, and there it was. Suzie had come home for Mother's day. Saturday night she had taken her sister to see a movie. On the way home, a drunk driver had somehow gone down the wrong ramp and ended up going the wrong way on a divided highway. He would have hit them head on if Suzie hadn't swerved at the last minute. He hit the drivers side. Her sister, in the passenger's side suffered a broken arm and leg. Suzie had severe head trauma. They had to shave off her waist length curly brown hair at the hospital. But the damage was too severe. She died that night.
The driver got away without a scratch.
Our entire high school shut down the day of her funeral because so many students and teachers wanted to be there. Her boyfriend was there on leave from the Army, and couldn't be a pall bearer because he broke his foot kicking a tank when he found out.
I cried a lot that day.
Every year, when I came home from college, I would go visit the cemetery. I'm not sure quite when I stopped. But I'm sorry I did.
Suzannah Lee, I won't ever forget you. You were my friend, and my daughter.
When you're lost and you look then you will find me... time after time.