Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Melvin Bush: Memories of Melvin (pt. 1)

Readers may be aware that Melvin Bush, a well known personality around campus, passed away recently. Last week I sent out a message to the offices at PSU asking for people to share their memories of Melvin. The response was so enthusiastic that I've decided to break them up into two blog posts, both of which will come this week. It's a wonderful testament to the power that Melvin had to positively affect the people around him.

Today I want to share our longest response, which comes from Tasa in the education department, who was present the very first time Melvin rolled through the door. Her memories of Melvin go beyond just remembering him as a man and friend, but also touch on the strength he represented in his ever day dealings with his condition. He always approached life with dignity and acceptance, and never believed that his condition could hold him back from being who he wanted to be:

Melvin was an important part of my office life for years—whenever I’d hear the automatic door opener click into action in the morning, I’d look up expecting to see him and to hear his voice.  When we got word of his death, I downloaded his picture and posted it on the door so that I could still see his smiling face when I heard that “click."  His picture still graces our door, and having it there means a lot to me and to many of the folks here in the School of Education.
Melvin and I had a real friendship and, like any friendship, there were days when we drove each other crazy! He always knew what he wanted, but I couldn’t always understand his requests; we would go round and round as I made one wrong guess after another, until, finally, the right word would appear in my mind, and we would both be so relieved to finally move on with our conversation. I always marveled at his patience with me and the world in general. I only remember a few times that I ever saw him angry – he had his money stolen off his coffee cart a couple of times, and he was justifiably furious over that, shaking his fist and wishing he could catch the thief and teach him a lesson. Then there was the day he came into my office very upset, a little angry and a lot hurt, because some, ah … person… in the park block had followed him around taunting him for being a retard!  He needed to hear that he was anything but (which he certainly was), to hear that we all respected him (which we did), and that he was both intelligent and valuable (absolutely!) 
To me, this incident was even more of a violation than the robberies. I helped him report this to Campus Security.  How anyone could treat Melvin like that was beyond me – he was so capable and worked around his physical limitations so casually.  He was here, doing his coffee route, day-in and day-out, bare headed in the worst of weather—did I mention he was very stubborn about wearing hats? Melvin knew what he liked and didn't! Customer service was very important to him, and I’m sure he was a great asset to Seattle’s Best. I know he was always ready to do an extra run for those of us who needed a latté or any other special order.   When we didn’t see him for a day or two, one of us would call over to check—and when we first heard that he might not make it back, we shared our grief not only with his family, but with the people at the coffee shop. 
There were many aspects of Melvin to see; not the least was his fondness for the young women on campus—he always had favorites in the office and, as his elder, I was allowed to tease him about this!  But there was one of our graduate students who meant far more to him, and when she went through a devastating and extended illness, finally dying, I stayed in touch with her family for Melvin. When her family contacted us about her death, I contacted Wilma, so that Melvin could be told in a less public area. When he came in the next day, we sat in the lobby as he cried. I tried to be some comfort, and I think I was able to help because I had understood how very much he’d loved her. I was so thankful that he was able to go to her funeral and say good bye, and so appreciated Wilma’s assistance in making that possible! I mention this because he assured me that he knew she was in better place, and no longer in pain.  Remembering this made accepting his death easier.  Wherever you are, Melvin, I hope it’s a much better place with your friends who have gone before and one where you are free of pain and limitations.
I miss you, my friend!

No comments:

Post a Comment