I remember very the first time I met him. I couldn't have been 12 years old or so; I really can't remember my exact age.
I was ordered by the Juvenile Judge, Marion Gooding to go with this strange woman and eat Thanksgiving Day dinner with her family, rather than be locked up in a cage at the Duval County Juvenile Shelter.
Having been raised my entire childhood in a Jacksonville, Florida Orphanage; I had never sat down at a dinner table with a real family. My meals were all institutional style settings, like eating lunch in a prison, a mental institution or maybe even a school cafeteria.
On and off, over the next thirty years, I continued to see the Usher family. Even then, he and I never had, what one would consider to be, Â‘a real conversation.' It was just sort of understood that he liked me and I liked him and I guess that was all that really mattered.
In April of 1993, I was telephoned and told that he was in the hospital and that most likely he would not survive more than a day or two. I remember feeling a very strange numbness come over me; one that I had only felt once before in my life; that being when his wife died on January the 18th, 1983. Never having had parents; I am not sure if this was the feeling that someone would experience when losing a mother or a father.
When I arrived at the hospital, I saw his son and daughter, Gene and Peggy, in the waiting room. They told me that dad looked terrible. I knew immediately that I was not going to go to his room to see him. George Victor Usher had always been a very neat and clean individual. I did not want to disrespect him by seeing him in any other condition, other than him being neat and clean. One day, I remember asking him why it was so important for him to be neat and clean, considering he was in the construction business. He told me: "I'm not neat and clean because of myself. I keep myself neat and clean because if people are going to allow me to be in their presence; I own them the respect of being neat and clean."
Before hearing that statement; no one had ever impressed me with plain simple words before.
I knew that his death was just hours, if not minutes away. I also knew that I did not want to be at the hospital when he died. I just could not bring myself to prepare for the sadness that was about to happen. I battled inside my heart and finally decided that I had to have at least one conversation with him before he parted from this earth. I asked everyone if I could have a few minutes alone with him in his room. When the room cleared, I walked in and I looked into his face. I immediately turned away and said "Dad, I want to talk to you but I am not going to look at you because you don't look neat and clean today and I know that's important to you."
Looking up at the ceiling, I stood there having no idea what I should say. All at once, from out of nowhere I said: "Dad, have you ever heard the story about the three little pigs? I never quite got that darn story but I think it just came to me. Once upon a time there was this little pig who wanted to build a house. He had no idea how to do that. He came across a man who built houses and he asked him if he could use straw to build himself a house. The man did not answer, so the pig didn't build a house. Some years later, that same little pig came back and asked the man if he could build a house out of sticks. Again the man did not answer, so the little pig went away again. Five years later, the pig returned and this time he knew that he knew the answer. Nevertheless, he asks the man if he could build a strong house out of bricks. The man smiled and still he did not answer. Very confused, once again, the little pig went away.
Dad, today that little piggy has returned and he wants to report to you that he has finally completed his own house. It is neat, it is clean and it is strong. I decided not to construct it from straw, or sticks or bricks. Using only the materials I received from you; honor, respect and most of all your dignity. I don't think my house will never fall."
I looked down into his face and saw one large tear roll down his cheek.
"Thank you Dad. I love you, but I think you already knew that part of the story."
The next day he died.
The Books, Stories and Audio CDs of Roger Dean Kiser