For as long as I can remember, Arville Roberts has been a part of my life. One of my earliest memories is of my parents leaving me with Ma and Arville for the very first time in Tuscaloosa, AL. To the best of my recollection, this was the first time I had been separated from both of my parents at once for any extended period of time. I cried and watched their car go down the street and out of sight as they headed off without me to I don’t know where. The anxiety soon passed as I was led back up to the house and comforted as only Grandparents know how. Although, technically, Arville and I share no blood, he always treated me as if I was his true grandson. He would let me ride in front of him on his riding mower as he cut the grass. He took me for rides in his little red pickup and let me sit in the ‘special’ back seat, which was really just a bench for tools or groceries. I remember him driving past the mine where he worked as and being astonished by the humongous machines bobbing up and down on the horizon.
When Ma and Arville moved to Tullahoma, I spent much more time with the two of them. They would keep me for weekends when my parents went out of town or during the days when my mother had errands to run. I had many life experiences at that house. Arville would let me take his air rifle out to the back yard and I learned how to unload BB after BB into empty soda cans. He recommissioned an old riding mower into a makeshift go-cart for me to drive laps around the house. Together we built a small tree house in the back yard in which I would play for years to come.
As the years passed, I grew up and left for college and I saw less and less of Arville, save major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every time I saw him though, he would ask me the same questions: “You got yerself a little girlfriend?” and “When ya comin over to visit?”
This past summer, I spent in Manchester, living with my parents and I got to see more of Arville than I had in some time. I would drive Ma from Autumn Oaks to the health care center where Arville stayed so she could visit with him a couple times a week. I found myself having to reintroduce myself to him almost every time and each visit my heart sank just a little more, knowing that the times that we had shared were now lost to him. Luckily, though, right before I left the country, I walked Ma to his room for a visit and he was experiencing a rare moment of lucidity. “You’re Tony and Debi’s son, aren’t ya?” I assured him that I was. “Is that my hat yer wearin?” I laughed. Several years ago, I adopted a style of cap that Arville was fond of and I had watched him wear since I was little.
“No, Arv, this one’s mine, but looks a lot like yours.”
That might have been one of the last times I saw or spoke to Arville Roberts. I regret that I could not be there in his final days or be there now to share these thoughts and memories in person. Arville was always a strong Grandfather figure to me. He could always make me laugh, cooked a mean steak, and inadvertently taught me some choice swear words in my youth. I know that his passing is not easy to bear for those who knew and loved him, but we should all be comforted that he is now at peace and that our lives are all richer for having had him with us.