Central City, Nebraska.
Who would have thought that a town with a population of 3,000 would become a second home to this girl from Los Angeles?
Well, it did.
Back in 1999, Adam and I had been dating for two weeks when he mentioned to his dad that he had met someone. His dad said “bring her home for Thanksgiving.” Adam jokingly asked if I wanted to come. I had no other plans, so I said “sure.” Now, Adam was really stuck! He didn’t think I’d say yes.
But I did, and on that eight-hour drive, Adam and I discussed our histories, our past loves, our beliefs, our dreams. When we arrived at the Hord House, (yes, it has its own Wikipedia page) where Adam’s dad and stepmom, Bev, lived, I was amazed. It was right in the center of this tiny town, a gorgeous house listed as an historic place. It wasn’t the house Adam spent his childhood years in; I don’t think they moved there until late high school/college. We laughed that two weeks into the relationship we were immediately put into the same bedroom. 🙂
Over the next 15 years, we went back for various Thanksgivings, Christmases and fourth of Julys. I was entranced by small town America (as a place to visit, that is). There were ice cream socials, county keg parties (the Fireman’s Ball), and an awesome Christmas parade where they threw candy at the crowd! I was all over this. In fact, one Thanksgiving I was invited to be a float judge for the parade. Adam said he thinks they were a little overwhelmed with how seriously I took it … I mean, I took copious notes and explained my reasoning.
I met amazing people… the Ryans and the Websters come to mind. The house was right next to the Lincoln Manor steak house, where we always ate at least once per trip! At Woody’s Bar, a local once pointed at Adam’s eyebrow ring and said, I quote, “Jesus Christ, did that hurt?” in a country twang.
I went to fireworks at the football stadium, walked in the dry Platte River bed, took Bailey out to the Ryan’s farm, where we learned she was a herding dog as she went after some cattle. Meka used to make himself at home on the nice furniture at the Hord (Curry) House. I slept through the sounds of trains booming through the town nightly. We chowed down on breakfast at Waffles ‘n’ More. Adam and I would sit outside in the twilight so I could watch the fireflies; he would tell me amazing stories of his wild youth growing up in the country. We would crowd in the kitchen as Bev created magnificent meals; Adam and I would stay up late in the TV room hanging out on the recliners and be the last ones up the next day–only aroused by the smell of bacon filtering up through the back staircase. We’d walk the dogs down to the enclosed ballfields to let them run joyously free.
He showed me the schools he went to, the places he hung out. We ran across the highway to the Central City Mall … aka the grocery story, in the freezing cold to get more beer or chips or candy. We bought fireworks, and I had a blast learning how to set them off, always saying “you’ll shoot your eye out!” or “don’t stand so close!”
The long road trips gave us time to talk, to sleep, to listen to audiobooks and music. To stop and have Crisp Pinto Burritos at Amigos, and have my personal discovery of the Runza.
And so it was that the first celebration for Adam was at the United Methodist Church in Central City. It was crowded with people who watched Adam grow up, with friends and family. Ed, the man who married us, led the service. Adam’s high school music director, Clay Blackmore, led a reunion choir of Adam’s classmates to sing “For Good” from Wicked. Ed used three Yoda quotes from our wedding to talk about Adam’s life … that Adam lived without fear and made the most of his life. That he lived “do or do not” as best he could. His pastor from youth, Denny, shared memories of Adam. Adam’s mom read a moving poem she wrote about her darling son.
Ed sang “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” — a song he said was the only song he could sing when his son died at the young age of 21.
Mary put together a video of Adam’s life … it was beautiful and I hope to share it soon. We let balloons go for him. I got up to speak. I don’t remember what I said exactly because I didn’t prepare it. But it’s the message I have for all of you:
“Don’t let Adam’s life be defined by his addiction. He was such a wonderful man. I don’t know what the answer to addiction is, but I know it starts within each of us … that we have the courage to ask for help, and that we all have the compassion to give that help. I don’t want others to go through this, and I just want to give someone a chance to live, to reach one person.”
I know I also said what I really know now: I would live my life with Adam all over again, even if I knew what the ending would be; even if I knew the pain it would cause; even if I knew my life would be shattered.
Thank you, Central City. I will always remember you with love.