For those that don't know, my best friend and adopted brother died a couple weeks ago. I read something at the funeral, and I wanted to share with those who could not be there. So here it is:
For those here who don't know me, I'm Tom. I'm the fourth brother. When I was young, Bea showed the display of compassion and affection that seems a trademark of the Johnson heart, and she took me in, and the whole family of five treated me as one of the family. I spent holidays with them, and they truly showed me love.
Once I bonded with Roger, and once we reached that point of recognition as brothers, it never went away. He often introduced me as "the fourth brother' and it often brought a tear to my eye when he did so. Neal sometimes does the same thing, and I'm grateful for the inclusion into their family, and their life.
Roger's road, like mine, was the road less traveled, and we shared so many things in gaming, passions, politics, and poly lifestyle. Some of our decisions were unique enough to the world to bond us together. And so we were beyond the best of friends.
In more recent years, my renewed attachment to Barbara brought us even closer, through her, and our previous connections, I became part of his new family again. A family he forged with no road map, fueled not by traditions, but by communication and love. And with the sense of inclusion that Barbara, Kate Roger and Jon had in their hearts, the five of us were family, even If I didn't live there, everyone made great effort to include me in 'family' things.
He often surprised me with how open and loving he was. How many times did he tell me I was family? That I was his other brother? He had so much love, you could just feel it all the time.
I have so many thoughts, and so many stories. In my usual short attention span style, they just keep flashing around in short segments, each folding over and overpowering the other randomly reminding me of so many years, and so much love.
Flash: When I think of Roger's role in my life, the first and foremost thing is that he's there. If you need something, he's the first guy you call. When it was an emergency, he's just the first number you call. Always. For 30 years. How many times did he drive me to the hospital when I didn't have a car? Or everywhere else in town for that matter? How many times did we move furniture together? Both mine and other friends? How many times did he just come over, and be there when I needed someone around. I just can't count that high. Amidst all the other flashes, these flashes keep coming.
Flash: circa 1983: We began by tossing ice cubes at each other on Benny's porch one hot night in July. This went on for awhile, and Benny thought he was stepping it up, by tossing the whole glass of water at Roger. With strength unique to Roger, he grabbed the Styrofoam cooler, and chucked the several gallons of ice cubes over Benny's head, breaking the cooler in half in the process. This ended the ice fight with panache, and laughter we shared for years.
Flash circa 1991: I had been fighting with Jon and Barbara over petty things. As far as I was concerned, i was done with them. too much had been done. I saw no hope or point in building bridges. Roger called. "I've been seeing Barbara. Barbara and Jon are important to me. I need my best friends to make up somehow. It's important to me." --- "Done..whatever it takes".. One phone call later, the fighting was over. and now, of course, we are the best of friends. Without his passionate plea, his reason, and his love, it would not be so.
Flash: circa 1989: When camping one weekend, myself and one other had kept everyone awake with noise and revelry as we were both late night people. We'd knock on their tent door, and other nonsense. As retaliation for my own late night noisemaking and revelry, I woke to find my entire tent had been redesigned by Escher. Every pole had been moved, the doors folded in on themselves in nearly inescapable confusion. When I finally escaped my well engineered trap, Roger stood their quietly grinning like a Cheshire cat. "You should get up earlier, the good stuff happens in the morning." I laughed, motioned to my tent and said "your creation?". He just kept grinning.
Flash: The phrase DMM. Definitely Matinee Material. I don't know if he coined it or learned it when he worked at the movie theater. It applied to all those movies that you might want to see, despite knowing in your heart they would be awful. Later this term morphed into DDM (Definitely DVD Material), but the matinee thing sticks into my head, and we still used it. We shared so many bad movies. Our passion for Mystery Science Theater cannon material creates so many memories unto itself. How many movies did we share?
How much of my life do I owe to Roger? Amidst the flashes are the two times when he literally saved my life, buried amongst the several others, when it only felt like he had. So many times I got to "What possible way do I have out.." and Roger was so often the answer.
And finally, I am fortunate that I made a decision very recently. About three weeks ago, I had a personal event that caused me to realize how important some people were to me. I took it upon myself to declare a personal thanksgiving week, and I wrote, called or personally contacted 20 or so people that were the most important people in my life. The last email I ever sent to Roger was the following:
"I've declared this Personal Thanksgiving day. I want to thank you for being the greatest friend anyone could ask for. I'm sending out a few mails, to thank some friends for being so cool, but no one has been as much to me for nearly as long, as you. You are the best friend, the best brother, anyone could have. You are amazing, and i simply want you to know it. I can't imagine life without you. Thank you for being you"
His four line Response began with: "well thanks. I like being me, Its easier than trying to be someone else. "
I am so glad I did that. So glad I remembered to tell him how important he was to me. And as much hurting as I'm doing, I comfort myself by remembering all the joy, all the parts of life he made better. I try not to think how I'm gonna get by without him, but instead just cling to how much I did get by, because of him. Except now, that line: "I can't imagine life without you" rings truer than ever. I try to figure out 'what's next', 'what will things be like now' and I just can't. It's unfathomable. But I will get by, by thinking of what he would do, or say. By thinking about how important other’s happiness was to him, and knowing I can best thank him by being joyous, fun, and sometimes frivolous. And more than anything in the universe, that's what I feel like I need to be doing for the rest of my life. Thanking Roger for being Roger, because it was easier for him than being someone else.