The week Monkey Boy was born, a sweet man, who was beloved in our community, passed away. Monkey Boy turned 5 this week. Every year around this time, I think about him. His name was Rollie. There are any number of people who were touched in some way by this man’s life. His story is mixed up in mine because of a four-star general and my dear friend Josh.
Rollie was business partners with General Wesley Clark. In 2003, when Clark declared his intention to run for President, Rollie was there. A few weeks later, through a series of circumstances, I quit my job and joined the campaign. It was an experience like no other. I met some amazing people on the campaign, including a nice guy named Josh. He’s remained a dear friend. Josh lived with Rollie and his wife when he first got to town until he could find a place of his own. He became quite close with the family.
During the campaign, Rollie heard me say one day I liked Dots. You know the plastic sugar candy? I really can’t get enough of them. A few days later, he showed up with a sack full of dozens of boxes of Dots. That’s just the kind of guy he was. He did that sort of thing all the time for all kinds of people.
After the campaign was over, I would see Rollie around town from time to time. He would hug me and ask if I had enough Dots, always offering to get me some more. Then in the summer of 2006, Josh called to say Rollie was ill. He wasn’t going to get better. His wife told Josh to come to Little Rock to say his good-byes. Josh stayed with us. By total coincidence, that was the week Monkey Boy was born. We were waiting for his birth mom to sign the papers. I was an emotional wreck. Looking back, I guess Josh was too. Saying good-bye to Rollie was not easy.
Josh asked me to go by the house with him the first time he stopped by. I was worried I would be considered intrusive. I was the Dots girl, no one special. But Rollie’s wife welcomed me warmly. She told Josh it would not be long. Looking at Rollie sleeping on the couch, that was clear. I paid my respects and left. Josh stayed to visit longer.
I’ve thought about her so many times. She seemed to understand how much her husband meant to so many people. At the end, she opened up her home to as many of us as she could. She was warm and hospitable in a time I imagine she felt like being anything but. I do not know what source of inner strength she tapped. I will admire her always for it.
That night, back at our house, Josh tried to lighten the mood by quizzing me on baby-raising facts. It was not a successful venture. It became painfully clear I had no idea what we were getting into. So he gave us baby gifts and wished us well.
We went to Texas to pick up our son. Josh sent me an email while we were there that Rollie died. His funeral was before we got back. I missed it. I’m told it was wonderful, a proper sendoff for such a kind man.
I’ve always had this whole circle of life thought process with Monkey Boy and Rollie. I hope somehow, my son becomes a little bit of what Rollie was. I hope he learns to listen and look for the details in people. I want him to make others feel heard and important, no matter who they are. I hope he is a spark of hope and optimism when he walks into a room. I pray he embraces his life and lives it fully.
I know others knew Rollie better and differently than I did. But I’m richer for having known him at all. I wish my son had met him. I think they would have like each other.