John Clark here to share some memories of good times I had with a friend who left us last week.
I’ve never had an abundance of friends, well close ones anyway. It never seemed to work out for more than two or three people at any given time. When we moved from Chelsea to Hartland, one of my major concerns was losing my long time support system in the recovery community. After all, I’d been going to meetings in the same area for 23 years. My friend Loyd and I had alternated as coffee makers for the Sunday night Coopers Mills meeting for over ten years and separating from that security and stability was unsettling.
Luckily the meeting closest to our new home was at the same time and on the same night, not to mention less than a mile away as compared to the nine mile drive each way to Coopers Mills. Even so, I was antsy going down those stairs at the Grace Linn Methodist Church for the first time. I had no reason to worry. The same group was sitting around a table. They just looked different and talked a bit different. Roger was one of them and the first to stick out his hand to welcome me.
It wasn’t long before we began to spend time together outside meetings. We both liked fishing and Roger was happy hop in my truck and direct me to some of his favorite places to fool trout. In the process, I learned a lot about his life. He’d lost his left eye in a sledding accident when he was young and struggled with self-esteem and school during his teen years as a result. Like me, he’d discovered the subtle allure of alcohol to mask insecurity and fear. And, like me, it had seduced him before biting him in the butt big time.
He described himself as a retread, having been in and out of AA twice before hitting the bottom that landed him in rehab and then the Hope House. That did the trick and earlier this year Roger celebrated 29 years of continuous sobriety. He and I fell into a similar pattern to the one Loyd and I had down state. We alternated opening up the Sunday meeting and over time, I figure between us, we made more than 600 gallons of coffee.
In addition to being fishermen, we also were fanatic Red Sox and Pats fans, listening to games at times, watching them on his TV at others. I was a latecomer to NASCAR, while Roger was a lifelong fan. When Coke offered free tickets to Loudon two years in a row, I drove us down and it was a tossup as to who had a better time. If you’ve never attended a live race, you have no idea how much of a rush it is when 40 supercharged engines fire up simultaneously. Roger also had a fairly unusual hobby. He collected salt and pepper shakers, so many in fact, they dominated his living room. Perhaps a more surprising fact was that he was an accomplished archer, quite an impressive feat when you’re missing an eye.
As time went on, Roger’s health got worse. His heart began failing and years of smoking (he’d quit by the time I met him) had resulted in emphysema. The combination began robbing him of very important things. Roger was an avid golfer, often playing every weekend during the summer with Mickey and Marie or with Michael and Debbie. It was an emotional blow when he could no longer muster the stamina to play. Even harder for Roger was the loss of his drivers license for medical reasons. However, Roger had more than turned his life around in sobriety, he had become a doer of good deeds and kindnesses. When he needed those acts repaid, there was an army of friends there to chauffeur him or assist with navigating the healthcare system.
He lived in a subsidized apartment complex just up the road from us in an apartment across the hall from his stepdad, Jack Woodbury. I got to know Jack through Roger and wrote a couple newspaper articles about Jack’s long career in music.
Even when Roger’s health declined, his attitude remained positive and he was comfortable letting his family and friends know that he was okay with what was coming. I’d call every Tuesday and ask whether he was up for going to the Canaan Bog meeting. If he wasn’t we both knew it was okay and we’d had a mini-meeting over the phone.
When I got the call from Jack, I was sad, but not surprised. He told me Roger died doing what he liked best, helping someone else. He was carrying a bag of groceries in from Jack’s car, sat on the steps to take a breather and left this earth. His step-brother, the pastor at the Jubilee Worship Center in Newport did the funeral and it was both funny and memorable because he’d known Roger when he was still a holy terror, complete with eye patch.
I’ll miss my friend, but smile on my way to Canaan every Tuesday evening as I remember all the good times we shared. Goodbye Mr. Roger.