The polls are now closed… In Memoriam. Susie Roff

Hadley Roff, Nancy Pelosi and Susie Roff

Hadley, Nancy and Susie

June 8, 201o

Today is election day and its not OK that Susie is not here.   Susie Roff is to life what Cal Ripken Jr. is to baseball.  She shows up.  Period.  If Susie Roff is absent on election day, I can say with certainty that something has gone terribly wrong.

When I step outside of the garage beneath the Roff residence at precisely 7:00 AM to announce that “the polls are now open”,  I try to pretend that everything is business as usual at Precinct 3218.  Composure is a trait to cultivate for days like today.  Election day, for a poll-inspector such as myself,  is a long  day on public display.  There are dozens of critical tasks with narrow, non-negotiable terms for insuring the integrity of our democratic process.  With errors and emotions impermissible, a typically low voter turnout cast the hours as long and morose as the afternoon shadows on this first Tuesday in June.  I could take a cue from the voters and simply go through the motions, which is as normal as a normal  job requires.  Susie always sees through any airs of normalcy.  Susie would snap “Drop the act!” –  or some equally terse emphatic  – and then proceed to put you at perfect ease with her wide warm smile and easy banter.  Being any way other than yourself is an option ONLY when Susie is not present. In her absence, simply breathing feels awkward.

As polling commences,  Precinct 3218 plays host to a dual procession of voters and ghost.  This attendant stream is a steady reminder of  the vacancy Susie Roff leaves behind.  It is also a reminder that these are all cameo appearances.  No one is here that long.

Two years ago I launched a blog.  A year later it is a clutter of un-categorized, un-tagged links and 2.5 unedited posts.  My reaction to any bump in traffic is to cringe, embarrassed that someone in Budapest or Singapore has stumbled upon my mess.  In the course of an ‘issue driven’ email correspondence, my friend and mentor  Susie Roff encourages me to write.  Suffice to say, when Susie encourages you to do something, she is, in fact, insisting that you do that something.  Often awake 2 hours before dawn, reading op-eds and forwarding some commentary or insight regarding the issues of the day (i.e. health care reform, U.S. policy in Afghanistan, corporate financial malfeasance, the legacy of her friend, House Speaker Pelosi),  Susie maintains a circle of correspondence that spans the globe.  Besides Senators and House Representatives, Susie’s circle of friends and correspondence includes political writers and editorial staff of major newspapers as well as respected, published academics.  To focus and elevate my game, she simply has to casually mention forwarding something I wrote.  I will probably never know whether she actually did this, but after three decades of piddling, I begin to take writing seriously.  I scrap 95% of my blog content to date and relaunch Media[diS]Content as a platform for my best possible writing.  I begin drafting op-eds, project proposals and reviews.  I build web sites pro bono for the opportunity to write copy and artist bios.  I write letters.  I tutor a student  flunking college writing.  That student now makes As & Bs and no longer requires my services.  I write a first and second draft of a short story.  When I pen an op-ed/commentary piece called “Exposing the Census Conspiracy” and post it on my blog as well as Current.com, there is a modest, but significant spike in traffic along with a few positive reviews from the blogosphere (along with a healthy amount of ridicule and criticism on Current.com by people who clearly, by the substance of their comments, read the title but not the article – and for the obvious gaffe become themselves the object of ridicule by people who did read it!).  With a sense of now having something worth submitting to a legit publication, I decide on the Post Chronicle, a well-respected, fast growing on-line news publication, independent of the established media mega-corps and with high editorial and submission standards.  Early yesterday I learn that the Post Chronicle is publishing my article.  Ebullient, I begin immediately to draft an announcement.  I want everyone to know – not only of the publication – but that it is really so much because of Susie Roff’s encouragement and direction that I have such news to announce.  As I clear my head to write about Susie’s role and why she matters – I decide to simply provide a link.  Better than my subjective gush, let people read objective information about Susie’s ‘larger than life’ life.  Only when I ‘google’ her name to find the URL of the location with the best information, I find myself staring at Susie Roff’s obituary.

I am still trying to make sense of what I don’t want to believe.  I was to meet with Susie yesterday to prep the garage for today’s primaries.  I feel cheated.  I will never share with her this small triumph.  It is so significantly personal to me – and I know to her as well – that I strive for and attain my personal best in this pursuit for which I had passion but a deficit of the courage for real commitment.  It was Susie who would plant the seed to ultimately produce that courage and thus enable my dormant capacity for great commitment. I  am working now on the courage (or is it lack thereof ?) to believe something as irrational and naive as that wherever it is that Susie has gone – Susie knows.

As the initial shock and distress began to wane, I understand I am lucky to have known such a remarkable woman in the autumn of her life.  I saw Susie’s husband,  Hadley Roff,  today, sharing with him condolences and appreciation of his late wife’s immeasurable contributions – her intrinsic charm,  uncanny endurance and infectious belief in what good comes our way.  When I relay to him the news of my modest accomplishment, his eyes light up, and for a moment he beams. “Susie would have been thrilled – you must know how happy she would have been – keep up the good work, she would insist upon it.”  As I redouble my resolve to just that, I can think of no greater aspiration than to influence another person’s life as Susie Roff continues to influence mine.

What great fortune is mine that I now say “So long my friend….”

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    • Jim Threlkeld
    • March 22nd, 2011

    Only yesterday did I read in my CU Alumni Bulletin that Susan Trommald Roff passed away. She was one of my best friends in college and we shared some good times in California during the early 60’s.

    Is it possible to receive an obituary? Your blog was excellent.

    Jim Threlkeld
    Denver, CO

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