Monday, November 30, 2009
In addition, on November 11th, Keith's birthday I posted every 39 minutes with memories of Keith. By clicking here you can see all the November 11th posts in their entirety (albeit in reverse order). I am also editing these posts into a word document. If anyone would like a copy of that document, let me know.
Now, as my blogging reverts back to semi wheneverly postings that you have become accustomed to, this does not mean I have stopped remembering Keith. I will continue to remember him, miss him and celebrate him on these pages and in my life beyond these pages. I am thankful to have had a brother like him and am glad I will be reunited with him again someday in Heaven.
Next Time: My first Tutorial.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Obviously, they finally got the memo and a few hours ago Jimmy and Beth were married by her father. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who saw this before they did. When they announced their intentions, I tried to remind them that they had me to thank and their answer was get in line. I and now my blogging public know that I should be at the front of that line and that’s good enough for me.
Friday, November 27, 2009
I spoke with my cousin Amy (Jenna's Mom) briefly yesterday at the event. As excited as she was about the turnout and the outpouring of love for Jenna and her family, she was more excited that Jenna has come home from the hospital for the Thanksgiving Holiday. She will be home until Monday when she goes back to the hospital for her second round of chemotherapy.
Today as I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family, I thought what a blessing it is to be home for Thanksgiving. Then I thought of my brother, Keith who was not home with his family this Thanksgiving. I remembered all the Thanksgivings he and I spent together throughout the years. I felt a twinge of longing and sadness and then I was reminded of Kermit the Frog's words in The Muppet Christmas Carol (Yes, I realized he didn't write them. )
Kermit (as Bob Cratchit) : Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it. I'm sure that we shall never forget Tiny Tim, or this first parting that there was among us.
I also take solace in the fact that Keith, is indeed, home for Thanksgiving. He is in his heavenly home. While, we have had a "parting" from him this year, we also can have a "meeting" with him in heaven some day. Jenna's continued progress, the love showered on her and her family, the memories of a brother I loved and the promise of a reunion with him in heaven are only a sampling of the many things I gave thanks for today.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
On October 1st I blogged here about how Halloween displays had been up since early September. It seems that holiday preparation (read commercialization) extends every year. Today, I heard long time Chicago radio voice Garry Meier talking about how it is too early to play Christmas music and suggest to hold off playing them until the Friday after Thanksgiving. He is absolutely right! I was glad to hear someone other than my own family members suggest it.
I don't have the exact dates but by mid to late July the back to school sales had already begun near me. Labor Day was September 7th, and I saw Halloween displays on the 10th! As soon as those Halloween displays were removed they were replaced immediately with Christmas! I often see Easter displays a week before Ash Wednesday. 40 days isn't enough to sell a Holiday?!?!
In my opinion marketing these holidays for such a long time has a number of adverse effects:
1) It takes away from the meaning of other "lesser" holidays. Thanksgiving has been changed from a day to thank God for his provisions and has now been marginalized to an old McDonald's ad slogan: food, folks and fun. Actually it's more like food, folks and football. I ate dinner at an excellent restaurant last night that was advertising their Thanksgiving buffet. But instead of the traditional cornucopia and the like, they are already dressed in full Christmas mode, tree and all. One would hope they won't be piping in the Frank Sinatra Christmas album as they were tonight, but one can never tell.
2) It takes away from the meaning of the holidays they are promoting. The over saturation is so much that some people are ready for it to end weeks before it gets here. I can understand that in a political campaign, but when celebrating such special events as Christ's birth, resurrection or the founding of America we want the days to be special not something to be endured.
3) Running from holiday to holiday creates more stress than good will. Rest is good. A few weeks between celebrations is a good thing. Rest gives us the opportunity to celebrate holidays all our own. Yesterday Lucy declared to Amy you're the best Mom ever. Tonight is Mommy night. When she woke up this morning, Lucy furthered her proclamation and decreed today Mommy Day. Mommy Day so far consists of Lucy coming in our room every few minutes with a new gift or card for Amy. The latest was a folded up piece of blue construction paper which Lucy called a laptop. This freedom also gives us the opportunity to celebrate something equally important, everyday life.
Next year I plan to post about what in my perfect world is the best way to celebrate each holiday as they occur. Let me just say now that getting back to traditional observances and time lines would be great. Advent generally runs from December1st to the 24th. I would be perfectly fine if I didn't see any decorations or hear any carols before then. I would also be okay if "Black Friday" was the official "unofficial" start of the season. Any sooner and hey I've got daughters to contend with! etiquette
Monday, November 23, 2009
30 years ago I embarked on a journey. I heard my first Narnia story. I am not sure whether it was how Aslan died for Edmund, or how Eustace turned into a dragon or how Aslan changed him back. It may have been about a mouse's courage, or a horse's boy. Those stories that I heard read to me, or later read myself, had an impact on my life.
An impact that continues to grow to this day. It has been my delight to share those stories with you. It has also been a joy to see the impact these stories are having on you. I can see how much Narnia means to you from your involvement in class, the projects you've done and the stories you've written.
C.S. Lewis was able to put important spiritual truth in a fantastic world. Aslan, as you know, represents God. Here are examples based on what we read this semester.
- In The Magician's Nephew, Aslan creates the world and puts into motion a plan to save Narnia from the evil Digory brought into the world. In the book of Genesis, Jesus creates the world and God puts into motion a plan to save us from the evil Adam and Eve helped bring into our world.
- In The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan dies for Edmund and comes back to life because He was innocent. In the Gospels we see how Jesus died for the sins of the world and how God brought His son back to life, because he was sinless.
- In A Horse and His Boy, Aslan saves a baby in a boat and then uses that baby (as a boy) to save Narnia from destruction. In the book of Exodus, God saves a baby in a boat and then uses that baby (as a man) to save His people from slavery.
There are so many more spiritual tie-ins, but at it’s heart, Narnia is great stories told by a great storyteller. It has been my pleasure to share Narnia with you this semester. I hope you will join me next year to finish the series and take the adventure Aslan gives us.
To Narnia and the North,
Friday, November 20, 2009
When I was 17 I met a girl and dated her for almost 3 years. My entire Senior year and my first two years after High School. For the latter 2 years I was also a volunteer leader in my high school youth group. For those two reasons I read a lot of books on dating relationships at that time. One book I read recommended many different dating ideas. After I read it I was always on the prowl for unusual dating ideas.
One day I was visiting a friend at the Elmhurst Hospital. I saw a sign for a museum in the town. It was called the Lizard Museum, at least that's what I thought. It sounded cool, a whole museum about Lizards? It sounded like it might make for an unusual date. When I got home, I called my girlfriend (This was early mid eighties and cellphones weren't really the end all or be all that they are now) and told her about the museum. She also thought it was cool, and we talked about going there some time.
Flash forward about a year. I was at my girlfriends dorm room meeting some of her suite mates. One of the girls was from Elmhurst. I got all excited and said, "Hey, have you ever been to the Lizard Museum?" At first she had no idea what I was talking about. Then she started laughing. " You mean the Lizzadro museum!" She said, "It's a rock museum!"
Now 25 years or so after the Lizard Museum debacle, I am finally heading over to the Lizzadro. It's full title is the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art. It's a free day at the museum, so a number of families from my home school co-op are heading that way.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Every Third Thursday I like to mix things up here at 3TTT with a special themed edition. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, I have decided to blog about 3 things, for which I am thankful. If you are planning on blogging about what you are thankful for any time in the next week or so be sure to link the post to Mr. Linky below.
Here are 3 things I am thankful for . . .
1) I am thankful that I spent regular time with my brother prior to his death last year. I saw him twice in the week before he died. His death was unexpected, so it's not like I had a chance to say goodbye. But, I did have a chance to visit with him and spend time with Him, and I will always be thankful that I took the opportunity to do so.
2) I am thankful for my wife's encouragement. I had a men's group meeting this morning and went to a men's retreat this past weekend. Amy encouraged me to attend both these events and shuffles her schedule around to make attendance possible. I really appreciate that she is interested in my growth.
3. I am thankful for the pioneers of the homeschool movement. Because of their passion and perseverance, My family and so many others are homeschooling with much less obstacles than they faced.
So those are my 3. Please blog about 3 things that you are thankful for and link up. I am also thankful for you, my readers and followers.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
visited 43 states (86%)
These are the countries I've been to . . .
Create your own visited map of The World
Again not as impressive as it seems. The map gives me all Russia when I was never in the European part. Belgium and Switzerland were "airport countries".
This review of my travels reminded me of the words of Paul to the Philippians:
320But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (NIV)
Like much of the Bible this is part encouragement and challenge. These verses are a contrast to those who "live as enemies to the cross of Christ" v.18 They are described in v 19 . . .
319Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. (NIV)
So, I challenge you today to focus on the transforming nature of Christ rather than the tragic transient nature of the world. But mainly I challenge me!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
While I was gone, the rest of the family went to the circus . Special thanks to my Dad, who was the founder of the feast.
Everyone had a great time. Amy liked taking multiple videos of elephants. Here's one of them.
Amy asked Lucy what she liked best about the circus. Lucy responded, "The exciting parts of course!
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I'm honored, I'm humbled; I'm third.
I just found out today that this blog has been nominated in the 2009 Homeschool Blog Awards(HSBA). It has been nominated in the Best Home School Dad Blog category. While I'm very honored for the nomination, I must say I'm a little cheesed off for not being nominated in the humor category. My Lucyisms alone would make me a shoe-in!
Seriously though I am honored to be nominated and look forward to looking through all the nominations and all the blogs.
All my kids are fantastics and prolific artists. Charlie and Lucy often draw 2 excellent pictures on opposite sides of the paper. This has made displaying them a bit problematic.
That is, until yesterday, when I created the Izola Becker Revolving Art Gallery. This week, Charlie is Displaying his exhibit: "Hijinks on the High Seas". Lucy is already working on the portfolio for her showing.
For the past few weeks I have been reading the children a chapter a day from Marguerite de Angeli's fine book, "The Door in the Wall."
I was reading today's installment, while the kids worked on their sewing and are projects. Since they were multitasking, I decided to as well by reading and filming at the same time. Here is what happened . . .
My new camera has a lot of cool features. I was playing with the self portrait setting yesterday. This shot captures my feelings of my HSBA nomination. I call it in an homage to Dead Poet's Society, "The Sweaty Toothed Madman."
So I managed to Show my face once more at Six Word Saturday. Head on Down to Show My Face dot com to see what's doing.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
3. Next week is already the third Thursday of November. We will be having a themed edition. Think and blog about 3 things you are thankful for and come back next week and link up to 3 Thanks Thursday.
Those are my 3 Things for This Thursday. Please join in!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
It feels a little (even for me) heavy handed to go on about Keith all day. I had friends and relatives having surgeries and tests today. I just heard that a dear friend from high school's father passed away this weekend. (Please pray for the Broten family in this time. ) I also have a 1st cousin once removed who is battling Leukemia. (Pray for Jenna and her family as well.)
Do I really have the right to focus so much energy on my brother when there is so much need elsewhere? I think, yes. Preparing to celebrate Keith in this manner and then celebrating him as helped me appreciate his significance but also to see that there are so many people out there who have lost or are losing someone just as precious as Keith.
I hope by recounting his story, that others are blessed and encouraged. I know I have been in writing and editing these memories. I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this collection. I especially thank My wife, Amy, who encouraged me and anchored me in this project.
Bea Arthur - Actress. Died April 25th at age of 86. Best known for work in Maude and Golden Girls. She was actually just portraying our Grandma Friedrichs.
Corazon Aquino - World Leader. Died August 1st at age 76. Beloved president of Philippines.
Walter Cronkite - Anchor Man. Died July 17 at age 92. Longtime CBS News icon.
Larry Gelbart - Television and Movie Producer. Died September 11th at age 81. Creator of M*A*S*H (the T.V. show not the movie, acronym or potatoes).
John Hughes - Movie Director. Died August 6th at age 59. Known for his work on Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. Ricardo Montalban.
Died January 14th at age 88. Veteran actor best known for his work on Fantasy Island. Keith and I know him best for playing Khan. In Star Trek II Wrath of Khan.
Here is a short list of others who have died at the same age. . .
Roberto Clemente - Baseball Player. Died 1972. Pittsburgh Pirate Hall of Famer died while doing humanitarian work.
Harry Chapin - Song Writer, Singer. Died 1981. Most famous for song Cat's in The Cradle.
Florence Griffith Joyner - Olympic Track Star.
John F. Kennedy Jr. - Son of President Kennedy. Died 1999. Published George Magazine
P.T. Barnum - Circus Organizer and hoaxer. Died in 1891 at age 80. The saying "A sucker born every minute" is often attributed to him. May have been uttered by a contemporary.
Henry Ford - Automotive Pioneer. Died in 1947 at age 83. Streamlined auto industry.
Johnny Hart - Cartoonist. Died in 2007 at age 80. Created the comics strips B.C. and Wizard of Id. Stirred up controversy with his highly evangelical Easter Sunday panels in B.C.
Speaking of Easter, I found one reference on the Internet that Jesus Christ died on April 7th.
If that is indeed historically accurate, I find it very encouraging that Keith died on the same day that His savior died for His sins and those of the world. Because of Christ's death and subsequent Resurrection, I will one day see Keith again in Heaven.
I knew he would correct me and he did.
He said "Norway."
And I said "No, Really! I'd love to go!"
We tried to recreate the magic for years but no one else would fall for it.
Keith liked the movie so much that he gave his Daughter Sara the middle name Jenny. (Melchior had already been taken.)
The problem was that nobody did a worse Forrest Gump impression than Keith. The real problem was that no one did a more frequent Forrest Gump Impression than Keith. I mean how many times does a guy need to say "And that's all I have to say about that" which by the way it is.
The hardest thing about the upcoming party for us is no Keith. He and Lynne always made time for any occasion our kids were having, a football game, a dance recital, even an opportunity to spend time with a 6 foot rodent. The place won't be the same without Him.
I consider myself a veteran this year. A veteran of grief and loss. But I am also glad for the opportunity to celebrate Keith's birthday and his life today. It is something we can do whenever we think of Him.
I recently asked my Mom why Keith had the name Keith. When I say recently, I just got off the phone with her. Her answer: Because it went well With Bertram.
My Grandpa (My Mom's Dad) was named Bertram Friedrichs. Everybody I knew called him Dad. Grandpa or Bert. Bertram's a mouthful. But wait until you get load of his middle name: Melchior! According to Catholic tradition, Melchior was one of the names of the 3 Wise Men.
The Bible doesn't indicate how many wise men their were but since their were 3 gifts, many traditions and portrayals of Jesus life depict 3.
My Grandpa Friedrichs died a few months after Keith got married. He was at the wedding and was around as his namesake started his own family.
I'm just glad that Bonnie was a girl or else my Mom may have wanted to name her something that goes with Melchior!
The dinner was a very unusual affair my student's Mom spoke no English, Spanish or Portuguese but was very interested in talking with the Brazilian. So here's what we did our host asked a question in Russian, I translated it into English, Keith translated it into Spanish. The Brazilian would respond and Keith would translate it into English and I would translate it into Russian. Talk about having to sing for your supper.
Keith really enjoyed being useful and a focal point of the evening.
I was friends with Keith in high school, and even referred him to a job a McDonalds. After high school, he went away to school and I was still in Elk Grove and kind of lost touch with him. Until one day I walked into the Elk Grove McDonalds we had both worked at and a voice started yelling at me from the grill area "There he is. That's him! it's all his fault!" It was Keith, yelling at me for getting him work there. I came back after he got off of work and we hung out a bit. Talked about Amy Grant music and other things. It was a good night.
Keith really looked up to his big brother Dave. Whenever Dave would tell a joke, Keith would chime in that he was thinking the same thing, or try to get in on the laughter. Keith was such a smart man, he had a brain for facts and figures and dates. He and Dave and their mother would often try to outdo each other with what they knew, but always in good fun. They would mistakenly ask me one of their questions, and after getting a blank stare, move on to someone they knew would answer…each other. Our family spent quite a bit of time with Keith’s family and you could always tell that Keith looked up to his big brother Dave, and with good reason.
Keith may not have been Ken Jennings, but He found solace in knowing the questions to all the answers. When Keith got sick and eventually died I had plenty of questions and very few answers. But knowing His spiritual condition, that He was a follower of Jesus, I am assured that now he is not in jeopardy.
Growing up, Keith was always there for me, taking care of me, and protecting me. I have fond memories of Keith and I waking up real early in the morning and seeing what the Easter Bunny had brought us, or watching “The Great Space Coaster” together which always ended with Keith riding his bike up to the store and buying us both snacks… But, the fondest memory I have of him is during high school. It was my Junior year and I was going through a very hard time. I remember being in my room crying and he carried a tape player in the hallway and played me a song. The lyrics of the song not only cheered me up then, but now, after his death, they still cheer me up. The name of the song is “In a Little While” and I would like to share with you the chorus of the song. They are:
“In a little while we’ll be with the Father Can’t you see Him smile?In a little while we’ll be home forever In a while We’re just here to learn to love Him We’ll be home in just a little while… The words, by Amy Grant, were supposed to encourage me (And they did) because the song is about during tough times, we can remember that we are soon going to be with the Lord in Heaven and we won’t have to cry anymore.
Although Keith’s “little while” came before mine and long before we expected it, I know that like he was encouraging me 18 years ago, Keith is with the Lord now in Heaven.
Keith was also very fond of legos as a child. He was an excellent lego maker and had quite the imagination.
Classics never go out of style and my Son Charlie is also passionate about Star Wars and Legos. Charlie started his own Blog Recently entitled Homeschool Jedi Apprentice. Two of his most recent posts combine Legos and Star Wars. One is a video of a battle between clones and droids and the other are just photos of same.
I see a lot of Keith in his children, Bobby and Sara. But I also see a lot of Keith, in my own children and all children. In some ways (mostly good) Keith never stopped being 6 and his passion for games and toys gave him an ability to communicate with kids on their level. He may have been a child a long time ago but when it came to relating to children He was never in a galaxy far far away.
My dad was in the throes of putting an addition on the house that would give Keith his own room. Up to this point, Keith had been staying in the same room as his 10 and 12 year old brothers.
Editors Note: I'm the 12 year old. Chris is younger than me! So, back off!
Editor's Note the second: Read all about my fraternal angst with my middle sibling at I'm not bitter dot com.
A 6 year age difference is a pretty big thing at 12 and Keith and I didn't exactly hang out in the same circles. What I do remember about him is equal parts affability and annoyance. He was the quintessential give him an expensive present, he'll play with the box kid. But he also had an insatiable curiosity in how things worked (not unlike a son of mine.)
So that's 1976, the year Rocky didn't need a Roman numeral. The year of Olympic heroes Franz Klamer and Nadia Commanecci. The year my Dad put an addition on the house. Uncle Sam turned 200. Keith started kindergarten and I started 7th grade for the first time. But that as they say is a story for a different time.
When Bonnie was in 1st grade, Keith was in 5th, and we had him walk with her to school for awhile. Keith was always ready first, and when Bonnie was running late he would go upstairs to expedite, because he didn’t want to be late. I finally found out that she was having him “wait on her” by bringing her stuff and getting her books together, etc., and he never complained. I had to tell him not to do her work for her, and he said that it was the only way she’d be on time. I told Bonnie that Keith wasn’t going to do her work for her, and if she wasn’t ready on time, Keith would go without her. I really had to talk him into doing that, but Bonnie was seldom late after that.
Here is what I said . . .
On behalf of Lynn and her children, my parents and my brothers and sisters I'd like to welcome you to the Illinois regional Jeopardy auditions. (wait for laughter to subside) Keith and the rest of our family grew up at this church. The first funeral I recall attending was here. It was for the father of a school and scouting friend of Chris and mine. After the service, my dad approached the widow and said "38 is much too young to go."
Now, I was about 10, and like maybe many of you, (motioning to the students) 38 did not seem young to me at all. But let me tell you, 38 is much too young (Keith was 38 when he died). When you love somebody whenever they die it is always much too soon.
Many people who knew Keith only by his diagnosis (bi-polar disorder) might think that there were two Keith's. That was so untrue. There was only one Keith. He had a greater capacity for love and enjoyment than anyone I ever knew. He loved his family. He loved playing games and he loved jokes. He was active in his children's schooling and scouting. (I meant to talk briefly how he loved chess and how he was helping my son Charlie with his chess class on their last visit together a week before he died. I didn't get to that part. I also wanted to talk specifically about how much he loved his wife Lynn, missed that as well). He was logical to the point of being obnoxious or perhaps for the purpose of being obnoxious. He'd be at a a party at my house and I'd say "Keith there's Pepsi in the cooler if you want one." And he'd say "Actually, there's Pepsi in the cooler even if I don't want one."
Keith's passing has left many of us with the same question. A question my daughter Emma has asked many times this week. "Daddy, why did Uncle Keith have to die?" I don't think it was any coincidence that Keith died during Holy Week. During the same time that many of you were celebrating the stations of the cross and asking "Why did Jesus have to die?" Pastor Ed you are right Keith is not asking those questions now. Keith understood the hope of the resurrection and He is in heaven right now with his Savior.
During the past 3 years during the course of his illness, (Keith had heart and kidney ailments) many people have stopped me and asked me "How is Keith? How is your brother doing?" Keith is doing great. He is doing better than we can even imagine.
Today has been a difficult day. I started teaching the kids today and it did not go really well. I went shopping after Amy came home and started crying about three times in the five minutes I was in the store. Purchasing refried beans usually does not have that effect on me. Keith has been on my mind all day.When I got back in the house I started crying again. Emma was finishing a writing assignment that Amy gave her last week. She asked me what was the matter and I said that I wasn't feeling very well today. She handed me her finished assignment and said "here, I hope this makes you feel better." It really did! She gave me permission to share it here.
My Dad! By Emma R
A man like Dad is hard to find. If you looked for someone like him in a 1,000,000 men, not one would be just like him. That is because my dad is the best dad in the world! But not the best father. Just kidding!
That is because he is silly, helpful, kind, nice, funny, and crazy! He likes to say "llama". Once he said I'll give you 5 cents for every time I say llama!" Boy! Did we get a lot of money!
We used to get 50 cents for allowance. Now we get $2.00! He even lets me be paid for some jobs.
He always prays for Lucy and sometimes lays down with her. He loves playing games with us!
When Lucy has sticker time, he lets her choose. When she has computer time, he does exactly what she wants. He makes Lucy's school fun. He takes our neighbor to the store, because she does not have a car.
He used to visit our uncle at the hospital. In conclusion, my dad is the best dad in the world because he is nice, kind and crazy.
I just gave a eulogy yesterday. The problem with a eulogy is that the person you want to tell all these great things about is not there to hear them. Emma's paper seemed like a eulogy that I was able to receive.
I remember meeting Keith on my first ever night in the US, in 1997. Dan and I stayed w your parents in Chicago, right after I flew in, and he was around. When we were leaving early the next morning, he was out in the street, fixing the windshield wipers on his car, in his dressing-gown. He remains one of my first American memories. We are sorry for your loss.
Growing up, in the summer, Keith and I would always spend our days together...We would eat breakfast together and then sometimes for lunch he would ride his bike to the store and buy us lunch...Then we would watch "The Great Space Coaster" together followed by a show called "Today's Special" on Nickelodeon...After that, we'd walk to the pool, spend the day hanging out, and then go home....We'd do this every day during the summer....
Keith loved his kids. He never considered it stepping down when he had to get on the floor and do a puzzle with the kids. He loved games as well and would fully engage in whatever he was doing with one of his kids. He loved reading to them, playing games with them, taking them to the park, etc. Keith loved his kids.
Before I had a chance to bail, the game board was all set up and the practical portion of the lesson had begun in earnest. As we began playing, I didn’t understand half of Keith’s continuing instructions – the basic rules and strategy were just too much. And my God, all the numbers. And the points. And counting how far you could or could not move your checkers. He might as well have been speaking Klingon.
When I look back on this memory I can’t believe I exposed myself to such a risky situation (playing a new game that I didn’t understand in front of people I didn’t know very well). But Bonnie was gentle and reassuring, and Keith was completely disarming in that warm, welcoming, affable way that, at least in my experience, is a bit of a Roller trademark. His over-the-top goofball nature didn’t hurt, either.
I don’t think the tutorial was ultimately successful – at least not in the conventional sense. The prize for this game would take a different form: the unconditional openhearted camaraderie of her two cousins had provoked a shy little girl to let down her guard and just “be,” at least for a couple of hours.
I couldn’t have appreciated the specialness of this moment at that young age. But I fully understand its significance now. Sure, this memory provides a perspective on my own growth. But more importantly, my experience with Keith and Bonnie on that day honors what I believe is the essence of what it means to be a Roller: to live the spirit of “goodwill toward men” with such ease that it is as automatic and involuntary as breathing.
It would be easy to take this singular quality for granted; it is subtle and pervasive like clear air. (For the members of the Roller family, it also is enduring and graceful like strong faith.) As I grow older though, I find that this brand of kindness, which is unmitigated and unprovoked, is not something I run into very often in the real world. So I have great reverence for it when I do.
As we enter the season of Thanksgiving during a year that has brought many disappointments and many challenges for many people I care about, this standard of kindness seems particularly relevant and extraordinary to me. And therefore it seems like the perfect time to give a little bit of that love back by taking the time to say:
Thanks, Keith and Bonnie for playing Backgammon with me. Thanks to all of the Roller Family for being who you are.
Love, Nikki Roller
As the idea of playing Backgammon was formally broached, two consecutive conversations about the game started to take place: the one that I was having with myself in my own head and the sales pitch a very optimistic and enthusiastic Keith was giving me about the game. I don’t remember the exact words of these conversations, but I’m pretty sure they went something like this: ME: What if I make a mistake?
KEITH: “It’s real easy.”
ME: But the game board looks so cool.
KEITH: “All you’ve got to do is …”
ME: What if I can’t do it?
KEITH: “You roll the dice…”
ME: But those fancy checkers are neato. They make a ‘tink, tink, tink’ sound. I’m not sure I want to play this game, but boy do I want to play **with** this game.
KEITH: “The white checkers move this way … the brown checkers move that way…”
ME: Oh God. What if they make fun of me when I make a mistake…
To be Concluded
My earliest memory of Keith is actually my earliest memory of the David Roller branch of the family, who had come to my parents’ house in Bristol for a visit – I’m not sure if it was part of a bigger occasion, or just a casual get-together. I think I was in grade school at the time. Maybe junior high. At any rate, on this day Keith and Bonnie tried to teach me how to play Backgammon. I believe we also may have been eating brownies.
I was pretty shy as a kid. I was skeptical of everyone and everything, and absolutely terrified of embarrassing myself in anyway. So, the whole prospect of playing a new game to me seemed dubious at best, mortifying at worst.
To be continued ...
This time I will share some folks who shared his 1970 year of birth.
Andre Agassi, tennis player - born April 29th. Keith's older siblings used to tease him about his buzz cuts. We would compare his head to a tennis ball.
Matt Damon. Born October 8th. Films include Good Will Hunting, Rounders.
Minnie Driver, actress - born January 31st. Films include Good Will Hunting, Circle of Friends.
Chris O'Donnell, actor - born June 26th. Films include Circle of Friends, Batman and Robin.
Kirk Cameron, actor - born October 12th. Portrayed Mike Seaver on Growing Pains. On Christmas day our family would all quote Cameron as Seaver scouting out unopened Christmas presents "Socks, resale value $8.00".
Malcolm-Jamal Warner, actor - born August 18th. Played Theo Huxtable in Cosby Show.
Ethan Hawke, actor - born November 6th. Films include Dead Poets Society and Gattaca.
Here is a sampling . . .
Abigail Adams born 1744. Wife of President John Adams and mother of President John Quincy Adams.
Leonardo DiCaprio born 1974. Actor. What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Titanic, Catch me if you can.
Hugh Everett born 1930. Quantum Physicist.
Patrick Knowles born 1911. Actor - Played the Wolfman. Keith was always fascinated with the numbers associated with his birthday and would think this guys birthday 11-11-11 something to howl over.
Marc Summers born 1951. Game Show Host. Keith is a big fan of game shows and was always a fan of shows like Double Dare on Nickelodeon whic Summers hosted.
Joanthan winters born 1925. Comedian. Played the son of Mork and Mindy in the ABC sitcom of the same name. Keith and I always liked quoting Mork saying things like "Never go to Pluto, it's a Mickey Mouse planet.
Today Charlie and I will play a chess game in your Memory.
I remember shopping with Lynn & Keith for a crib for Bobby at Babies are us. When the 2 young men who loaded the purchases into the car were speaking in Spanish to each other, I heard a third voice and was amazed to realize that Keith had joined right in in fluent Spanish like he was native to Mexico. I knew he had taken Spanish in high school, but I never knew he was so good at it. When I asked him about it, he said that he needed to communicate with the Spanish-speaking kids who helped him unload the truck(at McDonalds), and he learned it very well Spanish. I was really amazed to realize that he could converse so well in Spanish, and he didn’t think a thing of it.
But don't worry Mom, next year the prequel to Frost/Nixon is coming out. I hope you really enjoy Cavett/Astaire.
One of my favorite lines I remember from Him was in describing my organizational system, or lack thereof.
A place for everything, and everything on the floor.
Not only did that comment describe me down to the empty file folder system next to the pile of papers, but it also showed the keen analytical mind that God gifted Him with.
I was out of work for about 6 weeks. During that time our family was able to do a lot of things together. One of those things was to go out to see a movie in the park that our park district was hosting. The movie was Racing Stripes. While we were watching it, our cell phone rang. We had only just got a cell phone and only 1 or 2 people knew the number.
It was my Dad on my phone to tell us of Keith's illness. 10% use of his Kindeys and about the same in his heart. A few months before after Lucy was born Amy was hospitalized for the same diagnosis but within 2 days was given a clean bill of health. How we hoped and prayed this was a similar situation.
That was not the case of course and less than 3 years after the original diagnosis, Keith was gone. One thing that did strike me was that at a time when Keith needed me the most I was able to be there for Him. During the time I had off work, I was able to visit him regularly at the hospital and even spend a week with Him when he was being checked out at the Mayo Clinic.
That time especially taught me so much about reaching out to those that are hurting and being an advocate for them. I am still struck how God freed up my schedule tominister to Keith but also provided a new job for me within the time needed to provide for my own family.
My brother Keith had been in and out of hospitals and nursing homes since 2006. He had heart and kidney conditions uncommon in a man so young. I visited him in 5 hospitals, 2 nursing homes from here to Minnesota. Last summer at the end of an almost 3 month stint in hospitals and nursing homes I offered him $100.00 if he could avoid the aforementioned for a period of a year. This winter and spring he had been making the hospital and nursing home circuit again.
This April he was taken in an ambulance from his nursing home to a nearby hospital with cardiac arrest. He did not survive the trip. That is $100.00 I would have gladly parted with. Parting with him will be another deal entirely. I covet prayers for his family. That they would trust God knowing that Keith lives now with his Heavenly Father. That we'd be able to live without him.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
When we are her age, run-a-round is a good thing. It means getting exercise and having fun with friends and family.
Getting the run-a-round for adults is another matter entirely. It means being led around in circles and never actually getting to your destination. When I was in college the administration building was called Sherman Hall. Trying to procure permission to change majors or graduate early or build a better bird house usually meant going through a routine called the Sherman Shuffle. You would start in one office and be routed to another and another until you finally achieved your goal or until the offices closed for the day. I am sure every college campus and many other bureaucracies have an imaginative title for the run-a-round.
Lucy loves to run-a-round she also loves to cut tape although she has never had to cut through red tape.
Perhaps it is the childish adventuring spirit that can handle running around in circles and the World weary adult who seems beleaguered by it. So the next time you're getting the run-a-round try to make it an adventure rather than a drudgery.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Shortly after I started blogging this year Emma started a blog. I should say her stuffed bunny Alice started one.
Charlie really wanted to start a blog. But at the time he was hardly even reading. He has been doing such a good job reading lately, He and I decided to start a blog. Starting this week on Friday's the kids are going to spend an hour or so updating their blogs.
Charlie's blog is called Homeschool Jedi Apprentice and Emma's is called Alice Bunny's Blog. Now I just need to convince Lucy she does not need one for a while.
For more Six Word Saturday head back to Show My Face dot Com.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Lucy was in the back of the car as Amy and I were discussing pick up procedures for the end of the day. Lucy broke in and said "Mom if you are having a hard day and are tired and want to come home. Just give us a call and say 'This is Amy Roller.' and we'll come here and get you."
This was about 14 hours ago and I am still laughing. We brought the retainer, just in case you were wondering!
No 3 Things This Thursday but I'll be back next week with another exciting installment.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The Carnival of Homeschooling is hosted at The Informed Parent this week. One post by Home School and Etc. entitled Star Trek Homeschooling caught my attention.
I have been slowly indoctrinating my children into the world of Star Trek. Last month, we watched several episodes of Star Trek Deep Space Nine. We were watching one episode when two of the characters started kissing. Charlie was outraged. "Who interrupted a perfectly good Star Trek Episode with kissing?" He shouted at the screen.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
I have decided to celebrate my brother's life in a small way by separating all my posts this month by 39 hours. I will not be blogging about Him each time but He will definitely be on my mind. I will interrupt that cadence on Midnight November 11th (his birthday) to share little remembrances every 39 minutes. It is the kind of mathematical pattern that I think Keith would enjoy. To my facebook friends and family who remember Keith I encourage you to send remembrances to me and I will include them in my salute. I'll edit the montage afterward and make it available to you in a more accessible format.
Now back to my birthday boy. Let me give you a couple connections he has to Keith. Like Keith he is very logical and loves strategy games like Chess and Risk. Charlie was the last of my children to see my brother alive. I brought him to visit Keith and Keith helped him with his Chess Homework.
Charlie is in the same Cub scout pack as his cousin Bobby. I am taking them both together so Bobby has a male influence there. I hope to have a good picture of the both of them soon in scout uniform but here is one of Charlie for the time being.
Happy Birthday Charlie! I miss you, Keith! I Salute you both!