Uncle Dave was always one of the cool guys. He played football and baseball in high school, had the pre-requsite 1950’s flattop and when I was old enough to realize he was gone; off in the US Army in Japan, I explored his room and discovered his cache of Mad magazines and bongo drums at my grandparents’ house.
And now he is gone again. This time he won’t be returning. We visited him about 3 weeks ago at the home where he was being cared for while in the final stages of Lewy Body Dementia. He didn’t wake up while we were standing there, we didn’t expect him to. But when I whispered that we were there and we loved him, he blinked and I don’t think it was a muscle contraction. I’d been watching him sleep for a while and he didn’t wince or move. So we said our goodbyes knowing it would be the last time that we would and took his daughter Tc to their favorite Mexican cantina for dinner. Looking over the menu, my husband and I both ordered a chile relleno and cheese enchilada plate. Tc told us that was her Dad’s favorite combination too.
It’s funny just how family we are in so many ways. From Dave’s interest in the Civil War (Brian too) to the service we give and the people we love. When he returned from the army, he found a job working in the oil fields with his dad. He also found a beautiful young lady who agreed to marry him but not until he had a “real job.” So he joined the Fire Department in Santa Barbara. They bought a house had a baby girl and stayed there from 1969 until now. His wife of 51 years, Marlene was having a hard time imagining life without her partner. Alternating between tears and laughs, we reminisced and I thought hard about the eternal nature of families. We don’t believe Dave is gone forever, he just slipped quietly into another room where his parents and nephew Brian were waiting for him. His pet Chrissie, his grandparents, aunts and uncles and other people and friends he’s loved were there to greet him.
When my brother Brian died, Dave and his family came to his funeral. He was stoic and resolved the entire service and as we got up to leave the chapel. he burst into large heaving sobs. This experienced First Responder and veteran felt it with us and I had forgotten that under that armor that firemen must develop to cope with the ugliness of their job’s realities, beat the tender heart of an uncle burying his only nephew way too early.
As hard as the separation is, I have no doubt there will be a glorious reunion and we will listen to his silly jokes and feel that bigger-than-life heart when we hug. In the meantime he’ll be watching over his bride and their daughter like he always did, only we won’t be able to see him.
To an American hero, patriot, uncle and loved one – thank you Uncle Dave for your service and your goodness. Until we meet again.
David Miles Roberts 1940 – 2019