It's been a morning of sadness for me. A morning for shedding tears.
Several emails waited quietly in line to inform me that a friend from my DuPont days was killed over the weekend.
Roger wasn't one of my closest friends out there - I'm not sure if we ever even worked the same shift, and if you weren't on the same shift, you rarely saw someone. When you were off, they were working, and vice versa.
But we hired on at the same time and spent several months together in a portable building, learning how to be plant technicians while the columns and structures across the street slowly grew into a methanol and syngas plant. And for the next thirteen years our paths criss-crossed at shiftchange and shutdowns and hours of overtime (his, not mine) when I'm sure we spent time together.
I know we did because, even though conversations from just this past weekend are already wispy clouds, drifting from my memory, I have no trouble recalling Roger's voice describing some of the fun times he had as a Houston policeman, and I can vividly picture him standing in the hallway near our lockers, hear him singing "Guac-a-mole in my shoes" (to the tune of that old Joe South song, "Walk a Mile in My Shoes") in his big country voice.
I hear him singing it every time I fix guacamole, in fact.
He was a good singer - Tom and I went to hear his band once, years ago. I had forgotten about that until now.
And just a couple of weeks ago I was telling TG an embarrassing story about myself that involved Roger; thanks to him, I learned to think twice about what I wore to the plant. It was a lesson in double entendres...
...I collected concert t-shirts...I often wore them to work (pre-Nomex days)...my boyfriend and I had just gone to see "Cheap Trick"...
Got the picture? Roger glanced at me and said, with a wink, "Cheap trick, huh?"
And I blushed. Up until that moment, I swear I thought by "cheap trick". the band meant "being mean to someone". You know, playing a dirty trick on them. It never, ever hit me that it meant...well, you know.
Not a smart thing to wear when you're one of a handful of women in a male-dominated, mostly male-populated workplace, and I was always grateful to Roger for waking me up to those kinds of things. He knew I was just naive.
But it truly amazes me (and it amazed TG) that I could be so naive!
I have no idea what happened to that shirt. It had been a favorite until then...I do know I never, ever wore it to work again.
Anyway, I was lucky I worked with guys like Roger...guys who would joke around with me, but showed respect and were ready to protect me, like a bunch of big brothers.
So when I read that he died a hero, trying to protect someone, I wasn't surprised.
According to the articles (here and here), Roger and his wife were at a friend's bar celebrating a birthday. The assailant started an argument with the friend, pulled out a revolver and shot him. Roger tried to wrestle the gun from the man and was shot during the struggle.
Roger and his wife would have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on Dec. 19...
I knew from working with Roger that he was a good guy...but reading his obituary revealed, as they so often do, just what kind of good guy he was:
"Roger was a Master Mason and member of the Texas City Lodge 1118. He was a Shriner with the El Mina Shrine Temple in Galveston and was very dedicated to helping “his kids”. He participated in many benefits in Galveston County – helping in any way he could to raise the necessary monies that “his Shrine kids” needed.
Roger loved fishing, hunting, and cooking. He loved to cook for a crowd and for 5 years he had a shrimp boil for the Shriners Hospital employees just to let them know he cared and appreciated their hard work and dedication. He was also a wonderful musician and loved to “pick and grin” any chance he got."
I thought about my post from yesterday, about each day being a gift from God. Roger lived that theory, filling up each day he was given and giving back so much of himself.
Gifts and giving. I thought about Christmas gifts, thought about some of my favorites, including one from my brother Donnie years ago when I was about 5 and he was 10...a shoebox full of some toys he didn't want anymore, like this funky orange rubber motorcycle.
When I opened the box, though, I didn't see a bunch of unwanted toys; I saw a box full of treasure... these were toys that I identified with my big brother, toys I had coveted. He knew I would want them. Starting with an empty box, he carefully chose the toys and placed them in there himself, one at a time, then wrapped it up for me; it was a gift of love.
At that moment I imagined our lives as an empty box - that's really our gift...what we're given. It's up to us to fill it, and to choose what, if anything, we put in it each day. Ultimately, we're just giving it back, and the gift we're given is the freedom to make what we give back a gift of love or a gift to toss in the trash.
Reading his obituary, it's obvious Roger's box overflowed with good things; I could feel him winking at me, reminding me to stop and think about what was in mine, just like he made me stop and think about what I was wearing so many years ago.
Rest in peace, Roger, and thanks for continuing to be a good guy in a world where we can't afford to lose a single one.
(Roger's the 2nd tall one from the left in the back...I'm the 2nd one from the right in the middle row...not a great photo, but hey, it's from 1978!)