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Friday, November 11, 2022

Keith Roller Played With a Full Deck and the Cards He was Dealt.

 My brother Keith was born on this day in 1970.  He passed away in April of 2013 at the age of 38 from a heart attack while in a nursing home in Elgin.  He died a few weeks  before he was scheduled to return home to his wife and kids. 

Today, he would have turned 52.  There is really very little significance to a 52nd birthday, but a few years ago I manufactured a little significance by referring to it as the full deck birthday.  This is because a card deck traditionally has 52 cards.  Today would have been Keith's full deck birthday.

My brother had social, emotional, physical, and mental health challenges on his brief time here,  One could say that the deck was stacked against him.  To judge him for his challenges, as many did,  would be not only unfair but would rob you of knowing one of the kindest, smartest, funniest people you would ever encounter.

In his short life, he graduated college, fell in love, married and fathered 2 children who he showered love on.  While it seems cruel that they hardly remember him, his legacy of kindness, passion, and creativity continues in them. 

I was an older brother to Keith, I was also his youth group leader when he was in high school.  I guess I was something of a model and an example to him.  In many ways he was an example and even a teacher  to me and although his life on earth is over the memories and the lessons continue. 


Earlier this year,  I started 2 sonnets with the same line: The time were given is quite brief.  It started as just an exercise,  It became much more than that when the 2nd poem became about Keith.  As today is not only Keith's birthday but also Poetry Friday.  I thought I would share it again here.  

Death of a Brother

14 lines after 13 years

The time we're given  is quite brief
For some, it's much too short
One April morn I got the report
I'd lost my brother Keith

Such news was so beyond belief
That I had no retort
Of snappy comebacks, I'd fallen short
So anguished by my grief

My brother died in a nursing home
At the age of thirty-eight
While he was watching M*A*S*H

13 years later as I write this poem
Though my grief is not as great
My heart still bears the gash

Buffy Silverman is hosting this weeks Poetry Friday.


Buffy Silverman said...

Thanks for sharing your lovely remembrances of your brother Keith. I love that you see his legacy of kindness and creativity in his kids.

Tabatha said...

I'm 52 and I think "full deck birthday" is a fun way to "manufacture a little significance." :) I like what you say about being robbed of knowing someone by judging them for their challenges. It reminds me of "Curse of the Charmed Life" by Kim Stafford: https://www.garrisonkeillor.com/radio/twa-the-writers-almanac-for-april-24-2021/

Mary Lee said...

Your brother-love shines through in this poem and in the way you write about the PERSON he was -- such a better way to remember him than by the challenges he faced.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Good to see you here, Dave--in you short post I feel like I got to know Keith a little--watching MASH is a great clue to who he was even in times of illness. Thanks for sharing your 14 lines after 13 years--it's a full deck of love.

Bridget Magee said...

A beautiful poem celebrating your brother and brotherhood. Thanks for sharing.

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