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PATTY ROBERTS, Part Two
12/15/2010 7:54:20 AM

Last summer Patty Roberts went to MD Anderson for treatment in Houston, then on to the Orlando area, and my wife drove to Florida to be with our friend for a time. In autumn, when she had returned home at the apex of her illness, I received an email from her husband Dave, outlining a “Patty Update.”

One particular passage is worth sharing. He wrote: “Although we will have the primary service here at Sts. Peter and Paul’s in Marietta, Patty’s family in St. Louis will also hold a memorial service.

“As we all sat around the kitchen table the other night, Julz asked the pressing question: ‘Mom, would you like us to send your ashes to St. Louis?’ Patty responded, ‘Are you kidding? You want my very last trip to be in a . . . urn on a UPS truck!’

“We all doubled over with laughter, but it didn’t stop there. Julz agreed, ‘Okay, but please feel free to haunt us anytime you want.’ Patty came back with: ‘You want me to do the floating pencil stuff, or do you prefer something more subtle?’ . . .

“Yes, Patty is golden, and laughter most definitely is the best medicine. We are all good to go — still hanging tough!”

“Good to go.” A cliché Dave often uses — now more apropos than ever. If military medals were given for care and solicitude above and beyond the call of duty, Dave would be awarded the Medal of Honor — and Ollie and Julia (and Ollie’s close friend, Monica Miller, and Dave’s mother, Martha Rumsey) would be adorned with Distinguished Service Crosses. Knowing them all as well as I do, those trinkets would be modestly stashed away in the dresser drawers of Love’s Bureau.

Although Dave and Julia are much better writers than I, when my first novel appeared, Patty became my most loyal and outspoken fan and critic. She apparently saw something in me even my unabashed vanity overlooked, and although there is little of ecclesiastical value in my work (either then or now,) she raved about the book and wanted everyone to read it.

I remember one night we were dining in downtown Roswell, at a local bistro where Ollie was sitting in and playing one of his first “gigs,” when Patty asked if I had any spare copies available. We went to my car and she walked off with a dozen books she wanted to give as Christmas gifts. When I offered to hand them over gratis, she said, “Nonsense! No writer worth his ink writes for free! I don’t agree with a word of your thesis, Robert, but I love your prose! Take the money — and if you can’t find anything better to do with it, give it to the American Cancer Society!” A prophetic suggestion?

Patty was one of the two or three people I really care about who ever called me ‘Robert.’ My mother called me ‘Bobby’ and all others address me with variations of ‘Bob,’ ‘Boobie,’ ‘Bubba’ or just ‘Hey, you!’ But Patty had a way of saying ‘Robert’ that made me pay attention and realize I was dealing with a woman of genuine purpose and resolve.

Speaking of my mother, I remember that when she died of an illness similar to the one that plagued Patty, her funeral many years ago was a plain and quiet affair. My kid brother delivered the eulogy, and it was a profound sentence of just a dozen words: “Whether we like it or not, Bob and I are now orphans.” And with that he sat down.

Somehow, Patty’s passing feels the same. Ironically, with only the memory of my priest to cling to, we are all now, more or less, just orphans. Have we lost a fellow human, a compatriot, whom we loved deeply? Yes — and no, not exactly. We have lost only her immediate presence.

Ecclesiastes says the dead are conscious of nothing at all. And Psalms reminds us that since the dead cannot know, feel, or experience anything, they cannot harm — nor help the living.

Well, that may be what some believe, but I am not so sure.

In Patty’s case, what we have gained in knowing her for even a short time is augmented by the understanding and appreciation of what love truly is. We may be orphans now — but so what? Had we never known her, a major portion of ourselves would never have existed. We owe Patty Roberts a great deal. Although we will miss her, just imagine what our lives — and especially Dave’s, Ollie and Julia’s — would have been like without her.

A week or so before Patty died she hosted a “baby shower” for my youngest daughter, Alex, her Godchild, an event she, Patty, insisted on attending, as well as providing. Radiant as ever, she made her last public appearance at that shower, in a wheelchair, barely able to speak, and for a few short minutes shared the joy and blessings of the day. Most of those present knew they might never see her again.

While the shower was going on, I had lunch with Cliff Scrivener, Patty’s dad. We shared our usual stories of people and places from a time long gone, and he told me how Patty — his and Nancy’s eldest child — developed into the talented performer she became. “Nancy,” he told me, “is still a great voice teacher of theatrical substance, and we knew from a young age we had someone with rare qualities on our hands. Patty’s achievements on the stage — and as a woman of the cloth, so to speak — are the result of Nancy’s tutoring and influence.”

Dave sent us a note and a photo of Patty and him taken shortly before she went away, in their living room by their Christmas tree, on which he wrote, “After a long and hard four years’ battle, Patty spread her wings last night — with family by her side — and was escorted by a host of angels into Heaven. She now resides pain-free in her Father’s mansion, an eternal servant of God.

"However, she left us a precious gift. That gift was to take care of her in these final months. We did our best. Our hearts may be heavy, but we are strong. . . . We will never forget her gentle smile, her loving grace, and her giving heart. I paraphrase from Hamlet: ‘Goodnight, sweet princess. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’ Love, Dave.”

At Patty’s memorial service last week, the Very Reverend Joe D. Reynolds, her superior at Holy Innocents Episcopal School, decreed December 10 henceforth be known as “Saint Patty’s Day.” It shall forever be so observed by her family and multitude of friends.

If you’d care to drop a note to Dave, Oliver and Julia, contact them at drob3651.aol.com or 4748 Big Oak Bend, Marietta GA 30062.


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The Ghost Of Kaiser Rock by Hank LeGrand

Living in the country was wonderful for Little Henry. He loved riding his bicycle on the dirt roads, but he should never have ridden it in the dark.....  
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