It was 8 years ago today that my brother Robes (Robert Pitchforth Patton) died of a brain tumor. I still count the years and months and weeks and days and I still miss him terribly.
When "Robby" was 13 months old, I was born; rocking his little world. A baby sister. A redheaded baby sister. He wasn’t the only child for very long. And, on September 28, 1998, eighteen months and three days after his brain cancer diagnosis, Robes’ death rocked my world. I won’t ever forget it. Staying up two entire nights, true vigils, watching over him as he slipped into a coma and then died. It wasn’t like the movies. The noises were strange. His vital signs raced and his organs shut down. His skin changed. He picked at his clothes. He became weaker and weaker. He was confused and he hallucinated. His body and mind failed him after a short 39 years. A lover of gourmet food and an excellent cook--being spoon fed green jell-o. Bedridden for weeks--a man with a passion for travel. And, a writer by trade--robbed of his keen mind. How does that happen to a healthy young man? Why does that happen to a healthy young man?
our first Christmas together---the day he entered the MTC in 1978---at the NBA All-Star game in NYC in February 1998
I’ve never felt sadness like I felt when it was clear that he was dying. I remember feeling the steady stream of tears down my face and the sick feeling in my stomach. It was Monday morning. We huddled around his hospital bed in their home; me, his wife Kim, her mother Ann, and his college friend Rick Egan. The three kids were still sleeping. We were watching and waiting. Whispering to each other about what was happening. Counting his pulse and respirations. The shock and disbelief that he was dying right in front of us. His strange gasps for breath that none of us anticipated. Was he fighting to stay with us? Two days before, with a frightened look on his face, he said loudly, They can’t take me without your permission. Who was he talking about? Relatives? Friends? Were they in the room? Did he recognize them? Kim went over to him, rubbed his head and said, You have my permission. I told you it was alright to go. It was surreal. Robes died 8 years ago today at 7:00am.
I think about Robes every day. Plenty of things remind me of him (Bruce Springsteen, the Miami Heat, Tito's Tacos, French cheese and chocolate, VW bugs and Levis 501 jeans to name a few). His three kids Ian, Jamel, and Adrienne remind me of him. They were 11, 8 and 3 when their dad died. It makes me so sad that they have been robbed of having their father raise them. He was crazy about his kids. I wanted Robes to take Ian to BYU-Hawaii last month and to help him plan his trip to Costa Rica last year. I want Robes to take Jamel to Europe and scout camp and go bike riding with him. I wish Robes could take Adrienne on Daddy Daughter Dates and watch her practice the baritone and tell her about attending junior high to ease her mind as she settles into middle school. He would be so proud of his kids. They all resemble him (except that the boys are both over six feet tall!). A few years ago Adrienne was so happy that her freckle pattern was the same as her dad’s at her age.
I don’t ever want to forget Robes' great example, his many talents and his love of life. I know I will be with him again but in the meantime I'm sad that he's not here to be a husband, father, brother and son.
Patton family Christmas card in the 60's
Disneyland in the 70's
Portland, OR - January 1998