Roger Ebert's Universe was filled with wordsmiths. I have pored over their tributes and feel honored to know him better through their loving lines. I was never an inner circle friend-yet he was a friend to me and Steve. He reached out, shared his summer hijinks, showed kindness to our kids. I am hobbled with sadness that he is dead. So I must use this spot to say goodbye, and thanks.
I knew Roger in Part A of his life, when he was still tumbleweed. He could do ten things at once while planning the next ten adventures. He collected friends, shared them, led them to the things he loved. He was brilliant, with the laser- like ability to cut to the one true thing. He was a party, with good music, great food and two-way conversations.
I remember that people differentiated Gene and Roger as the Intellect and the Chubby Everyman. Nothing could be further from the truth. Roger's mind was miraculously wired and sparking constantly. His delivery was less academic, but not a molecule less informed. He was a happy cat, open book, connector. I marvel at the pollinators who link people together, joyously sharing any thing they love. He was a master at it.
Once upon a time, a classmate of Mike's brought a news clipping featuring Roger to school for Mike. She believed it was Steve. Others have commented upon their similar appearance and appetites. Roger felt a big-brother kinship with my radio upstart. He offered to take Steve to his AA meetings; he promised Steve would be among friends. He took no offense that Steve eschewed AA, as long as he was sober. He nudged Steve to try the Pritikin regimen. He was a jovial and whip smart guest on the radio. A generous spirit.
Part B of Roger's life was the dream deferred. Chaz. An explorer and consumate sharer, Roger's joys in life multiplied exponentially with her. In this marriage, Roger had a touchstone. The man with wanderlust became moored to life's constants: family, love, roots.
Roger wrote of Chaz with adoration. After 20 years of marriage. Through better and worse. With respect and passion. Wow. Though I do not know Chaz well, she inspires me. She is a connector, too, for she brought Roger new worlds, and a family he cherished. Her spirit guided and fortified him as he navigated the cruel consequences of cancer. What a partner Roger managed to find. Through her, his world became overstuffed; that is the life he dreamed of. And made.
The man loved to write. He also loved the Sun Times and knew his presence stabilized its fortunes. He was at home there. He leaves a family of colleagues, past and present, who appreciate his work ethic and collegiality. They will miss him, and soldier on. Deadlines do not wait. Like death....
As for his website- I mourn the fact that he will not be guiding me to a video, song, poem or a character I should meet. The comments sections of his blog were a virtual coffee shop, where responders civilly discussed their opinions without rancor. Or added new wisdom. It was a model for all virtual communities, and an unending resource for the perpetually curious. Like Roger.
I am richer, as we all are, for living in a city that had Roger Ebert in it. He respected us, entertained us, informed us, loved us.
Stayed with us.
Until he couldn't.
By now he knows if there is a God and an afterlife, and I imagine he will figure out some way to communicate this to us. I'll be looking toward the stars. He would glow in their company.
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