I don’t love sunflower seeds and sunny day rip currents, and although each can be dangerous, neither had a chance to kill when Roger was around.
He and I were in the kitchen of our house on Shamrock Drive, probably around 2003. Out of nowhere, Roger ran outside to the backyard where Tyler was playing with his friend, Luke. They were in sixth grade.
I asked Tyler to remember that day. “After running around the backyard and playing as normal, Luke dropped to his knees and started choking,” he said. Tye froze, not knowing what to do. At the time, he didn’t realize what was going on and that Luke could die.
“In about five seconds Dad was there.” Roger did the Heimlich maneuver on Luke and dislodged the sunflower seeds from his airway.
I went out the back door, down the hunter green steps, and watched them all standing there in a circle not saying anything. It looked odd.
“He was choking!” Tyler said.
Luke’s mom, Dena, remembers that day, too. Roger brought Luke next door to his house and she came to the door. She saw them together, Roger’s classic lopsided grin, and knew something was up.
“By the look on his face, his grin, and his soft-spoken words, I would have never thought something tragic almost happened,” she said. He gently gave her the details.
She said he was calm and reassuring, and he wanted her to know he didn’t put too much pressure on his ribs.
“Roger just made it all better,” she said.
My boys were never into sunflower seeds before that, and were not allowed to have them after that, baseball game or not.
They now call the act abdominal thrusts. Everyone should educate themselves on how to perform this life-saving action.
You may also want to research what to do when someone gets caught up in a riptide like Tyler did. We were at Onslow Beach on Camp Lejeune, NC. The sun was ripe that day in 2004, and we had our three boys at the time, and a few of Tyler’s friends. Everyone swam and we had sandwiches and sodas that were kept cool in our blue Coleman. As always, I kept my eye on the kids in the ocean. At the time, I didn’t hold much knowledge about rip currents.
Tye and his friends kept drifting to the left of us and I kept waving my arms high to tell them to tread back closer to us, pacing the beach with my hands on my hips. Then, out of nowhere, Tyler went down, and Roger went running. I didn’t even think he had been watching them. He ran into the water then started swimming towards Tyler’s hands that were sticking up. The only part of him we could see.
I didn’t breathe, move, or swallow. Roger reached out to grab at his son but missed. He attempted again but could not get a grasp on Tyler’s young, slippery body. Time was running out, and he gave it another try, a violent one, and got a handful of Tyler somehow. He brought him to the shore, and they both sat on the flat sand.
We all took deep breaths and attempted to relax our fevered hearts.
We’ve since educated ourselves on how to be safe in a rip current thanks to the internet, and hope you do, too.
He saved those two lives, and many more during his days in emergency services. I don’t know how he was able to separate emotions from the act of doing it. His head was always level. He had a true gift.
Another ability he possessed is that of a sixth sense, where he knew something was happening before anyone else did. He saw something I never did in these incidents.
More people should know about what a hero my husband was, and that’s all I have to say about that.
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