I find it a shame that I have never dedicated a full post to a very special person in my life. I have mentioned him briefly perhaps but never given the complete tribute my Southern cousin surely deserves from me. I regret I never told him all of this while he breathed but after his death I received several powerful spiritual manifestations that he not only knows my feelings but also has come to regard me with more humbled respect than I ever thought possible. So I suppose that makes us even.
I love all my family, and as a child I certainly enjoyed spending time with my relations in South Carolina when I had a chance to visit them. It always proved a long and arduous journey, crossing the wide expanse of Texas in a car with three siblings, but the love I bore my family members made the trip worth every moment. We spent a great deal of time together in my infancy and I came to cherish my cousins intensely. As we matured into adolescence, however, things changed. I was always a straight arrow young woman, avoiding alcohol, riotous parties and the like. My wonderful cousins, as is often the case, decided on spending much time in drinking, smoking, and the like. I loved them still but it created something of a chasm. I didn't chasten them and they didn't seem to judge me harshly but still, we lived in somewhat different worlds. I felt a deep and overwhelming loneliness and misery when I visited because after I had endured the enormous trek, I often found myself alone in my room while my cousins hit the town. They weren't rude about it - it was just a relationship that for a time simply didn't work as smoothly as I might have hoped.
But Roger was different. Although many of my cousins would spend perhaps an afternoon with me here and there, Roger put aside his daily friends and plans far more than perhaps the rest of my cousins combined in order to spend time alone with me. I remember an incident that even now brings me to tears of love and gratitude for him. News had been buzzing for days that a massive drinking party was to erupt that weekend and as I heard it, simply everyone was going to attend. The excitement proved absolutely infectious amongst my cousins and I heard all of them voice their eagerness to be there. I of course said nothing but sat listening peaceably and respectfully. The evening of said party was eerily quiet. I was feeling of course rather saddened to be on my own in my grandparents' home again and at about six o'clock I concluded that I might as well go to bed. I was turning out of the kitchen toward my room when the phone rang. I was shocked when I heard it was for me and picking up the receiver, I heard Roger's voice on the other end inviting me over to his house for snacks and a movie. I don't remember what I answered but I remember riding in the back of his father's car to Blockbuster to pick up Tommy Boy and curling up with my red haired cousin for hours on the couch that night.
Years later I visited South Carolina in the middle of a very dark and soul wrenching time in my life. Although I kept a placid smile in public, I found myself facing emotional dilemmas more than I could bear and skipped off to the back porch of Roger's parents' home to break down into tears where no one could hear me. Eventually straightening up and wiping away the evidence I composed myself sufficiently and reentered the house to find Roger dressing for an appointment he had made. He was already running late so he initially only afforded me a quick greeting but then when I answered he heard my voice crack. Looking up hastily he asked what was wrong, but I wasn't about to give in about it easily. Desperately glancing from the time to me, he made several more attempts to get me to tell him what was troubling me but to no avail. I assured him it was fine and that he should be going. We walked out to the living room together where the parents were in conversation and we joined in for a moment before he truly had to leave in all haste. He pulled me into a hug and kiss on the cheek and departed. That was the last time I ever saw him alive.
Upon his death I didn't know how in the world I would ever be able to sustain returning to the South. I had always relied on him and in fact often told myself on the eve of my trips eastward, "This is going to be hard because my cousins and I are so different, but it is okay because Roger is there." My single trip to the South after the funeral proved a wonderful success as my cousins had married and settled down quite a bit, so I had precious little difficulty in finding the joyous relationships I had wanted with most of them. Nevertheless before I headed back to the West I insisted on visiting my late cousin's old bedroom, arguing that "I [hadn't] seen Roger yet."
Few people in my life have ever been as passionately kind, supportive and understanding of me. He didn't have to sacrifice his own plans in our teenage years, but he did and when I heard the news of his early and unexpected death I was ready to drain my savings account to see his body one last time. And I was not the only person he touched. His funeral was packed to overflowing and it seemed more than evident that in his relatively short lifetime he had affected a tremendous amount of people.
Sometimes when we talk about changing the world or doing something important with our lives we have visions of PhDs, political power, and millions of dollars. Roger didn't have any of that, but he had more love and concern for people than I have known many people to possess.