Rodger was married to Patsy, Cathy’s older sister. I first met him at a Roach Family Thanksgiving dinner. Cathy had 3 brothers and a father, and they all wanted to protect their little sister. As the 4 of them looked askance at this long-haired-hippy-boy Rodger stepped up to me and shook my hand. He said “Hello, I’m Rodger.” He smiled at me and winked. He didn’t say anything, but his gestures said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, you have a friend here.” I‘d met her younger brother John a couple months before. He was another child of the sixties so I wasn’t an unknown quantity. Her older brother Mike was cautious, the oldest, Dick, was an alpha who saw everyone as either a challenger or a mark. Her Dad didn’t like me at all. Her brother in law Jerry was another Vietnam vet, enough said. I grew to be family with Jerry, Dick, Mike, John, and Dad. Rodger and I were brothers from the beginning.
Honoring Rodger Gigax
1932 – 1995
I was out working in the little patch of woods behind my house the other day. We just moved in and this area looked like it had never been cleaned out. The trees are all overgrown with vines and suckers growing up the trees and underbrush blocking the path. I cleared the way to the biggest tree trunk and started clearing away the vines and cutting the suckers away from it. By the time I got it all cleared away I realized that all those vines and suckers had killed that old tree.
I was trying to figure out how to cut that trunk down when I noticed, growing right next to it, a little, well you couldn’t call it a tree, it was more like a 25 foot long, one inch stick with leaves on the top. That stick was trying to be a tree, but the same parasites that had killed the tree had kept it from growing strong. The more I thought about having to cut it down to get the big tree trunk out, the more I hated the idea of cutting down both trees in that spot. When I finished pulling off the vines which had kept this stick from reaching the sun, I tried to stand it up straight.
It wasn’t quite strong enough to stand up by itself.
Every time I tried to push it up, it kind of fell against the old tree. When I finally got the top pushed up high enough, it stood straight, resting on the strength of that old tree trunk. I decided not to cut either of them down.
Even though the life was gone out of that old tree, it left a couple things behind. It left the sapling, and it left its straight, strong trunk.
That old tree had spent its whole life fighting adversity to make a clear path to the sun, and even when it couldn’t support life anymore, it left a path so the sapling could lean on it until it becomes strong enough to stand on its own.
This got me to thinking about Roger. I think he is probably the best of all of us.
He is always honest. He is always ready to help anyone, in any way he can. He stands tall and lives straight. No problem he ever encounters, whether it’s his problem or someone else’s, seems to shake him or bend him. He can always find something worthy of a laugh. He has never seemed to think he is better than anyone else.
You notice I didn’t say “He was”. I said “He is”.
True Life is eternal, but for a brief, bright shining moment we manifest that life in the finite, corporeal form. The question should never be “Why must we die?”, the real question is, “Why do we live?” The answer is both simple and profound. We experience life to make causes and set the course for our eternal life. What we do with our life determines how we will live in eternity.
How did Roger treat the precious gift of life while he possessed it?
There is no way in a few minutes to take the full measure of the man.
A biography, from his youth on a Nebraska farm, to his service in the Korean War, to moving to Dallas and getting married and raising a family would just tell us where he experienced his life.
A list of those who loved and respected him, and who, in in turn, he loved and respected, would keep us here for hours, and even Roger would get tired of that after a few minutes, in fact, after telling his grandchildren, Johnathan, Chelsea, Stephanie, and Cari how he will always love them and watch over them, and maybe trying to swap hats with a nephew or two, he’d probably tell me it was time to move on to something else.
Now Roger probably wouldn’t like me going on like this, he never wanted to be the center of attention. He’d probably have come up with some way to change the subject by now. Like talking about his kids and how hard he worked to teach them that when they got tired of working and wanted to quit on a job, all they lacked was finishing. Like he’s waiting for me to do now. Well Roger, I’m nearly finished so hold on just a minute cause there’s a couple of other things I need to say.
Someone recently said he is a “big man with a gentle spirit”. He’s a big man in more ways than his size. The minute you meet him, you know there is room in his life for you. He can express more with a handshake, or a wink, or a smile than anyone else can with words. He governs his life with simple rules, living according to what we all think human beings should be, but seldom are.
I think, if there was anything he didn’t like, it was strangers, so he wouldn’t let you be one. If you saw him, and he wasn’t ready to greet you, or tell you a joke or a story, or listen to yours, he was probably asleep.
We will all miss having him around. He is like the one steady rock. The constant you could turn to, the “Man” described by Rudyard Kipling in the poem “IF”. We all will grieve, and mourn, but I’ll bet Roger would tell us that we’re just suffering for what we think is our loss. And then remind us, without saying it, that what he gave us of his life, we will always have, and if I can add, cherish.
He’s left us now and lives eternally. The example he provided will give us all the strength to stand a little taller, the will to grow a little stronger, the wisdom to handle our own problems a little better, and the ability to laugh a little more often.
I want to thank his wife, Patsy, for sharing her life with him so we could all share a little bit of our life with one of the finest men I know. He is now a part of all of us.
And y’know, that’s right.