Thursday, August 7, 2008

Uncle Roger

My Uncle Roger died last week. For 10 years, he fought the good fight against cancer; throughout random places in his body. I am pleased to tell you all that cancer did not beat him, he beat it; even if he died as a result. I really think he would like that we think of him in this way.

Before I go on to tell you more about Uncle Roger and the good fight, I should preface it with some background in the crazies (ahem - family). My grandmother was a divorcee in the 60's living in Brattleboro, VT with 4 children - two deaf, one with serious emotional needs and the cutest little boy who ever lived. Across the Connecticut River in Walpole, NH, my grandpa had just lost his wife shortly after she gave birth to their 6th child. She left him with a drunken teenage boy, two wild and loose teenage girls, another pre-teen boy, another girl with uncontrollable hair and of course, a colicky newborn. My grandpa had a good job, was responsible and had an ass-load of kids. My grandma; with 4 kids of her own, didn't mind 6 more and could make a beef stew like no body's business. They wed and piled all 10 of their children into a great farm house on a nice piece of land. Grandpa worked for John Deere, Grandma raised the kids, sewed dresses for the girls, slacks for the boys and only slightly struggled with what was an unusual situation during that time in America. But the kids got along and there was enough money to survive and the biggest battles were held over who got to use the only bathroom first in the morning. I imagine their land; on a hillside in Walpole, NH at the end of a windy road, was fertilized with more boy urine than anywhere else this side of the river. Things were so great, in fact, that Grandma and Grandpa thought it would be fun to have a baby together. Grandma wanted another girl of her own and grandpa's job was pretty secure and so they had their 11th (and thankfully, final) child. The story of how this family came to Florida is really irrelevant. Grandpa's oldest boy (the drunk) was killed in a car accident shortly after moving here in the late 70's. Some children graduated high school, some got pregnant on purpose so they could move out early, one even went to college. Throughout the years, our family would face feuds, deaths, births and run-aways.

Roger was the 2nd oldest boy for my Grandfather and man, did he love Roger. Roger got a decent job in New England, married and had 2 boys. He was more like my grandfather than any of the other kids; which I know Grandpa loves. In other families, favorites are not usually so obvious but Grandpa's love for Roger ran deeper than anyone could imagine.

In the early 90's Roger fell off Fall Mountain in New Hampshire and survived. This would serve for good story telling in the coming years because the guy obviously had 9 lives. That man could survive anything; which is why none of us were overly concerned with he was diagnosed with cancer shortly after falling off the mountain. You can guess correctly that he kicked that cancer's ass. And the other several cancers that would try to compete with Roger's pure will to live over the next 10 years.

Over those 10 years, his children grew up, he divorced and was lucky enough to have met the actual love of his life. They married this past March after a very, very, very long courtship. In April, while getting new, experimental cancer treatment, he collapsed in the hospital because apparently, his spine was ravaged by that bitch, cancer. He remained positive and confident as he signed up for more experimental treatments while we worried about his cancer.

Shortly before Roger passed, he called a family meeting and announced that the doctor has advised him to stop all treatments and simply enjoy life because he was not long for this world. Roger asked everyone to not be afraid and to simply make peace with him and enjoy what little time was left. He conducted this meeting with the same brilliance and dignity he conducted his life. I was not blessed with the presence of Roger throughout my life; he lived far away from us and our side of the family was not especially close with him. But I am so thankful that this summer, while vacationing in Vermont, I visited with him. I hope that Olivia will never forget the time Uncle Roger lay in hospital bed, located in his living room, and took a big whiff of her Crocs; "how does such a pretty girl have such smelly shoes?" he asked. We all laughed and laughed. Always a joker, that Uncle Roger.

I want to say - out loud and in writing - how proud I am of Uncle Roger. Not only for his bravery towards the end of his life but for all the joy he's brought to my Grandpa, too and for the legacy he's left for his two grown sons and brand new grandson.

Try not to fall off any of eternity's mountains this time, Roger and say hi to your mom for me.

1 comment:

Carianne said...

This blog is so eloquent, I don't even have to have met your uncle to know that he would be proud to read such an epitaph of his life. We should all be so lucky to live a life like Roger. Tell your grampa we are thinking of him and giving him a big grampa bob hug. Well done!