It is getting late in the evening and I’m sitting along with my thoughts. I hadn’t really thought about the date until now. Tomorrow would have been my brother, Roy’s 69th birthday. He died at the age of fifty with a heart attack. Growing up in a large family affects one’s view of life as a whole. Most likely being the youngest has some affects on a person that I don’t recognize but the older ones would probably see. Roy was the one closest to my age, just three years my senior. Strangely, when we were children I thought he was a whole lot older than me. But it was a different time than now. Even with he and Ken who was almost three years older than Roy, there were still things that we all did together. Sports were always a big thing and we played basketball by hanging a goal on the barn wall. Sunday afternoons brought a crowd of boys and men our way to play football in the pasture out behind the barn. It didn’t really matter how many showed up, we made two teams out of the number and played our hearts out.
It was obvious to all of us that Roy had athletic abilities beyond the rest of us. I think we were all pulling for him to go as far as possible with those abilities. When he received a scholarship to play football at Mississippi State we dreamed of big things happening. I’ve often looked back on those times and questioned whether the athletic ability was really a blessing for Roy or not. I’ve noticed too many times in the years since then that being in the spotlight in any area where people are often talking about how good you are at something can do as much harm as good. Sometimes when we get used to people telling us we are good at anything it gets to be hard to live without hearing the praise. I’ve seen too many times when people even as adults will do almost anything to be back in the spotlight again.
Roy always seemed to have that personality that drew people to him, but it wasn’t always the ones that would have been best for him to have around him. In adulthood he worked at several different jobs, many of which were great opportunities to do well. Some fell apart from natural causes or changes in industry. Some fell apart because of mistakes he made. He seemed to always want to walk close to the edge.
He could have succeeded in many different areas of life. For a good number of years it seemed that he was doing great in marriage and family life. He and his wife had two beautiful daughters. They were involved at church and doing well it seemed for a good part of his life. At some point the marriage began to unravel and Roy seemed to unravel along with it. Like me and some others in the family he struggled with horrible headaches and in trying to find relief ended up getting hooked on the pain medications. During that time he often self medicated and tried to drink his troubles away.
During the last couple of years there were times when things seemed to be getting better for him. Most of the times when we talked he didn’t seem to be so depressed any more. I think he had turned some corners in his life during that period.
I doubt seriously if there has ever been a time when someone dies young especially if they have struggled along the way with problems and challenges that the people who loved them haven’t wondered a thousand times if there couldn’t have been ways I could have helped if I had just tried harder. Of course we couldn’t have known that his life would end so quickly.
It seems strange now that in times of greatest stress or distress in my life I tend to have the same dream over and over again. It comes in some different flavors. But it always has Roy showing up to help. Perhaps if I were able to figure myself out it may be that it is my own feeling that I didn’t show up to help him when he needed that turns the table around in my dreams.
After 19 years of Roy being gone, I wish for a time to visit, to laugh and talk again.