I had not heard from him or even thought of him for a long time. I got a call from the Wombie asking if I knew a Butch Swanson who worked as a Supervisor at the Mary Davis Home. Hmmm, I said. A long pause as I struggled to come up with a "Butch" that I ever knew who worked there. Having worked there for 30 years i knew a lot of people who came and went. when he said a Rollin was his first name I instantly remembered Rollin Swanson.
It was a while ago but I quickly smiled, I remember Rollie. I worked a lot with him and he was always fun to have on the floor with me. Good with the kids, funny with staff, and eager to please.
We all have quirks but his was gold. He bought a lot of it with his money and was always checking the prices so he could buy more when the price went down. He was convinced the monetary system was going to disintegrate and that gold was going to be a valuable commodity if and when that happened. He also simply thought it was a good investment. It might be but I still made fun of his gloomy prediction.
I thought he had moved to New Mexico to be with some family I thought he had out there. I think I checked once, back when Facebook was fun, to see if he had a page but he didn't. I was surprised, then, to discover he'd been up in the Quad-Cities all this time. It would have been nice to see him. I don't remember the circumstances around his leaving the Mary, I think there was a problem, but I do recall hating to see him go. He laughed at my jokes. I always hated to see the good ones go - the ones who have an affinity with the broken kids we had. He was probably broken, too.
I have thought a lot about Rollie since I heard he died. Might be because we are the same age. Might be because he was "one of us" and now he isn't. Might be because I think, perhaps too often, and usually on a motorcycle about life, death, friendship and what it all means. There is a lot of thinking time on a bike. Its just you (even with friends around on their bikes) and the wind, the feel of the bike, the smells (good and not so good), the road and lots of time to think.
I wonder when I die will I be considered a taker or a giver to the world? Did I do enough to make my life worth it? Is the world any better off with me being here, or did I just suck up some air, go through the motions when some other person could have done so much more?
I wonder if Rollin ever thought about that? And now he is dead and given enough time will be forgotten like everyone else. Louis C.K. when asked what happens when we died replied, "Lots of things happen. You just won't be involved in any of it."
I question myself. Am I a good enough friend? Am I a lazy friend? Do I take more than I give? Can I do more? Maybe I'm getting scared about the final accounting? Or maybe I'm sorry that someday I "won't be involved in any of it." I wish I didn't think so much. Or maybe its thinking wrong. Neighbor Tim's mantra is "Keep it simple." Perhaps that is the best way: just do it, and when its gone its gone. Well, it's gone for Rollin and I wish I could have said goodbye. He was up there so close all this time and I didn't know it. I need to get better at this before its all gone. Goodbye, Rollin, and thanks.