I lay in the dark on the night of September 24th / morning of September 25th six years ago thinking “what if he has just got in the car and driven off”. “what if he has vanished and we never hear from him again”. You hear of people doing that. Of families in anguish as a loved one vanishes and is then missing for years. This was all I could think about. Roger was not answering the phone and we had gone to bed worried about him. Not that we could sleep, we just lay there worrying and all I could think of was how we would deal with him being missing. I couldn’t fathom any other potential outcome to this. I certainly couldn’t contemplate the unthinkable.
Earlier on, before bed, our evening had been interrupted by a text from a very dear friend of Roger’s saying she was worried about him. I called her immediately and after chatting to her for ten or so minutes I hung up and relayed to Bruce that we should also be concerned. She had spoken to Roger earlier that day and she was worried. Not just a bit worried but well, she knew Roger very well and if she was calling to say she was worried about him then there was clearly cause for concern.
That gut wreching “shit we need to do something” feeling kicked in for me. I knew Rachael hadn’t made that call lightly and something in her tone told me we shouldn’t dismiss this. It was 10pm. We were in Hampshire. Roger was in Leeds. Bruce called Roger, I texted him. No reply to any of us. I know Bruce called his parents to let them know of the concerns. We all took this seriously and I can’t remember who called the police and put in a “fear for welfare” call. It was all a bit auto pilot. And it’s all a bit fuzzy six years later.
I know at around 1am Bruce and I went to bed, not to sleep but because it felt like the normal thing to do at that time of night and we suddenly needed a bit of normal. He could be missing for a while and we should probably get some sleep. A feeling of this is what they say on the telly in similar situations, isnt it? Get some sleep. And it was there that I lay contemplating him being missing for years. A love of Scotland meant maybe he had got in the car and driven there. That’s where we would start looking in the morning. That was the plan I had in my head as I dozed around 3am.
Except then we got woken at 4am by a phone call from his parents. The police had visited and had confirmed our deepest and most awful of fears: Roger had taken his own life.
It’s hazy after that. I know that Bruce pretty much got straight in the car to Wilmslow to be with his parents. I said goodbye to him in the kitchen and pretty much just sort of collapsed. I can’t imagine how he did that drive. I probably should have done it for him but I had the girls at home and Jonnie two weeks into boarding school.
I didn’t know what to tell the children so I didn’t that morning. Stupidly I thought it would be okay and that they should be at school as our world caved in around us. Thinking that if I could make everything normal this wouldn’t be happening. Hair brushed, shoes polished. Home work checked. Breakfast around the kitchen table. A leisurely drive to drop them at school, whilst inside I was screaming and sobbing. It all seemed straightforward. Like I was having an out of body experience and looking down on normality whilst in my head a million thoughts rolled into one: Rog was gone.
Within hours I couldn’t take it, I needed my children home. I rang Jonnie’s boarding school and spoke to his housemaster, a man I barely knew. I sobbbed down the phone about what had happened and that I didn’t know what to do. Should I get Jonnie now or should I wait to pick him at the end of Saturday as planned. I didn’t know how to make a decision. I guess I wanted him to tell me what to do. Tell me what was best. “Gosh” he said “I’ve never had to deal with something like this before”.
Bollocks. That wasn’t the response I wanted. I decided to get in the car. To go and get him, an hour’s drive away. The plan to just get him out and then get the girls before I told them why their day was disrupted. To come home and sit at the kitchen table and tell them Rog had died. I got as far as getting Jonnie in the car before I crumbled and blurted out “Rog has died. We are going to get the girls”. It was like a damn bursting and suddenly I was sobbing with a bemused 10 year old who was also trying to take it all in too. An hour to get Jonnie, another hour to get from there to the girls. I guess at some point I had called the girls school. They were ready for us. They had set aside a room. With tea, and squash and biscuits and tissues.
They stood outside as I told the children what had happened and consoled them all.
The four of us headed home to try and make sense of what had happened.
At some point my parents phoned to talk about something else. I remember standing in the garden and saying out loud “Dad, Roger has died” and the silence that followed as he tried to take in the enormity of what I had just said. They were abroad. I was at home and whilst not alone I was lonely. I was desperate to be able to talk and to make sense of it all. Bruce, rightly, was with his parents whilst I held the fort at home.
As I sat at the kitchen table yesterday morning there was a lull with work and it gave me a chance to reflect on that morning six years before. Where on September 25th I had sat at the same kitchen table and made phone calls and cups of tea. Where Rachael had arrived and had made similar phone calls to friends. The kitchen table was where we sat as we tried to work out what had happened. Tried to work out where we went from there.
An event that is etched on my memory and never far from my thoughts. We still haven’t made sense of it. I don’t suppose we ever will.
Roger you are never far from our thoughts. Never far from our kitchen table.