My earliest actual memory of Roger is of hearing him come in from a date, or
whatever evening activity he’d been involved in. Vera and I would have long
been in bed, lights out. But when he got settled in his room, locked the door, climbed
into bed and spread out his cheeseburger and fries from Knight’s Drive-In, I
would tiptoe to the kitchen, get a knife from the silverware drawer, and
proceed to pillage the locked door that stood between me and that midnight feast.
To his credit, Big Brother always shared. (The price I paid for those
unauthorized entries would be exacted years later when, as a teenager, that room became mine,
and any hope of ever locking that poor mangled doorknob was long gone!)
When I was five, Roger had a bulldog named Zipper. He
decided to enter him in the dog contest of the Hardee County Fair, and he said
I could be the one to walk Zipper out in front of the judges and show him off.
I don’t remember if he won the contest or not, but I still vividly remember
walking across the
About that same time, or maybe a year or two later, I begged Big Brother to teach me how to drive. He agreed, and drove us in his turquoise El Camino out to "Wauchula International Airport" (pretty much just a big cow pasture), where he put me behind the wheel and proceeded to show me the ropes of shifting gears, pushing the gas pedal, using the turn signals and, most importantly, how to brake!
The summer I was sixteen, I wangled an opportunity to be a stringer for The Tampa Tribune, doing interviews with country singers. I spent the summer living in Nashville with Roger and going with him every day to the booking agency where he worked. I remember us having lunch at Morrison’s downtown on one of my first days there; famous faces were scattered around and as I wondered how I would ever be brave enough to take up these people’s time, Roger gave me another self-confidence lecture: “These people put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you do.” It was a glorious summer; Roger took me backstage at the Grand Ol’ Opry, introduced me to so many talented people, and the Tribune published every interview I sent them. I went home feeling like a celebrity myself!
Our father having passed away many years earlier, it fell to my brother to give me away on my wedding day. As we stood in the vestibule of First Baptist Church in Wauchula, Roger looking handsome in his suit, me in my wedding gown thinking, “Oh, my gosh, am I really doing this?!”, he smiled, squeezed my hand, and gave me the soothing words I needed to hear before walking down the aisle.
You delivered a lot of soothing words over the years, Big Brother. Thank you for all of them; thank you for everything. I'm going to miss you. A lot.