I suppose there are people in the world who can love someone, and then, when the relationship comes to an end for whatever reason, simply stop loving them.
I am not one of those people.
I dated a man for the majority of my 20s named Roger. He was much older than I, much wiser, too, although I never conceded the fact at the time (and am reluctant to do so even now.) I actually have Roger to thank for introducing me to radio. When we met, I was an uninspired law student and he was an advertising agent. He said, “You could make quite a living with that voice.” I didn’t take him seriously, at first, until we got into a studio, and he gave me my first direction.
“Smile while you’re talking,” he advised.
That was 25 years ago. People often refer to me today as “the girl with the smile in her voice.”
Thank you, Roger.
I hope Roger and his beautiful wife will forgive me for sharing something so personal here, but it’s Christmas, a time when all the world is celebrating birth, and yet my dear friend Roger is fighting for his life. He was diagnosed not long ago with pancreatic cancer.
I know most of you don’t know Roger, but there may be a Roger in your life. In fact, since discovering dear Roger’s fight, I have learned of several others who are suffering similarly. My neighbor’s brother. My step-daughter’s aunt. My husband’s half-brother. Then I read in the paper this week of the precious baby Ashlyn who was diagnosed with cancer at two weeks old.
How? How can we deal with such pain, at any time of year, but especially now when every speaker blares “Joy to the World”?
“I know so many people get caught up in the Christmas season,” social worker and addiction counselor Rachelle Call commented on “A Woman’s View,” “but it’s really about what you value. Focus on the love.”
“I lost my step-father in January several years ago,” president of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Trainers Association Lisa Walker offered, “and in a way it was a blessing because we knew it would be our last Christmas with him, so we thought, ‘Let’s make it the best Christmas ever.’ ”
“You love as much as you possibly can,” Ann O’ber, Administrative Services Division director for Salt Lake City, agreed. “I don’t remember the stuff. I remember the laughter.”
I have a breakfast date with Roger in January. Hopefully he’ll forgive me then for writing this column. And hopefully when I see him again the following January, he'll forgive me for writing another column about him and the inspiration he is, and always has been, to me.
I have so many fond Christmas memories of Roger. The first time I took him home to Pennsylvania to meet my parents, I had not prepared them in advance by warning them of our age difference. When they saw him, they did not betray their surprise. After a half hour passed, my mother called me into the kitchen and said, “I hope we’re not being rude, Amanda, but we weren’t expecting Roger to be so mature.”
“Not at all, Mama. I think you’re being great. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I was afraid you wouldn’t approve.”
Then came the all-knowing expression as she filled a tray with cookies and cider.
I remember Christmases with Roger’s mother in her finely appointed home in Federal Heights, Christmases with a wonderful Russian family, Christmases with his brother’s family, Christmases with our friend Shela and her family, Christmases with a young Chinese man we had temporarily adopted named Ting who treated the gift of a Reeses peanut butter cup with the kind of awe and gratitude that a teenager might give an iPad today.
Roger was generous to a fault with everyone he loved, and he loved many people. I’m sure that number has only grown in the 20 plus years since we were together.
As we celebrate the holiday season this week, so many of us have much to be grateful for. I know Roger feels grateful, blessed with a wife, children and grandchildren who adore him. You can count me among those who adore you, old friend, across the years and the miles. In this, your time of need, I send you all my strength.
And for those of you who need strength this week, I send strength to you, as well strength and love. I know what this holiday is about.
Every day is, I suppose, but never more than this one. If this week finds you alone or in pain, physically or otherwise, I send you love. Every song I hear. Every child’s face. It’s all love. Our love for each other.
We have no time to waste in sharing it.
And when we do, hark the herald angels sing.