“Can you use two red peppers and a Vidalia onion?” our neighbor asked me with a tear in the corner of her eye.
On the last Tuesday of May, I was headed out to get tags for our van. I stopped to chat with Louise. Steve was home on hospice. They didn’t know if it would be weeks, months, or a year. She asked Dave to burn off a pile of branches. We offered our washing machine while she was waiting for hers to be serviced. It was a quick conversation.
On the following Sunday, she called to tell us he had passed away.
On Thursday, I attended his visitation. Saw his military photos. Saw the folded flag. He always wore his Vietnam veteran hat. He brought us food from all the VFW picnics. All the bake sales. So many biscuits and hot dogs and cookies. But he never once talked about what he saw. Only told us that he hated when people set off fireworks on our street, because it reminded him of too many things.
He had the kids’ birthdays memorized. Never missed a chance to buy them gifts. He and Louise visited on holidays bearing bags and boxes of treats. Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July. Goodies ended up on our door when sales were too great to pass up. Backpacks, clothes, coloring books, fruit snacks, and the craziest character socks I’ve ever seen. So many tokens of friendship.
We sent homemade jellies and jams. Made fresh bread. We knew his favorite beef jerky and her favorite word search books. We were chastised any time we tried to give them gifts. “You spend that money on your kids! Not on us!” So I started giving them photos of the kids. It was our compromise.
When Steve was first diagnosed with his cancer, I started texting photos. He was upset he had missed bringing their Easter gifts. I tried to tell him we did not expect gifts from a person going through chemo. The last text I received from him was less coherent than the dozens before it. I sent photos the day he died. Not sure if he saw them.
A couple days after he died, Louise came to visit. Held Lewis for the first time. The whirlwind was over and she was left with an empty house. Full of his stuff. Where does a person even start? She started with the crisper. “These were his peppers. I don’t even like peppers. I hope you can use them.” Cancer can take a person so quickly, that even the fresh produce from the meal he requested hasn’t reached its expiration date.
And no one knows when it’s all going to happen. Hospice makes guesses. Doctors make guesses. In the end, it happens in a living room while all the neighborhood dogs bark.
She came with bubbles and playdoh and chalk and bibs. I remind her that we just want to see her, we don’t need gifts, but that’s not how she shows love. Arms heavy with goodies and produce. That’s how she operates. While she tells me his best friend now has cancer and got into the med trial Steve couldn’t get into. Her husband’s surgeries and radiation and chemo didn’t work. But they’re working for someone else. It’s all so arbitrary. This cancer.
Steven Lynn Ross, 70, Carthage, MO, passed away Saturday, June 3, 2017 at his home after a lengthy illness. Steven was born September 26, 1946, in Topeka, Kansas, a son of the late Charles L. Ross and Doris L. Rowe Ross. He was a graduate of Topeka West High School, Class of 1964, and received his BA degree in Education from Emporia State College, Emporia, KS. Steven was a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam Conflict, serving with the 27th Artillery attached to the 101st Airborne. He married Margaret L. Stevenson on September 25, 1970, in Emporia; she survives. Steven was a teacher for 7 years before moving to Carthage, where he and his wife operated the 7-Eleven Convenience Store at the corner of River and Fairview, from 1977 – 1997. In 2001, he went to work for the Carthage Wal-Mart Store as a cashier and Customer Service Manager from 2001 – 2017. He was a member of the Carthage VFW Lodge, Carthage Knights of Pythias, and the Vietnam War Veterans Association and was instrumental in getting the Vietnam Memorial Wall to Carthage.
Additional survivors include a son, Scott L. Ross, Hannibal, MO; a sister, Marcia Ross, Ft. Collins, CO; three brothers, Gary (Linda) Ross, St. Louis, MO, Richard Ross, Topeka, KS and Mark (Julie) Ross, Overland Park, KS.
The body has been cremated. Visitation will be held from 6:00 – 7:00 PM, Thursday, June 8 at Knell Mortuary, 308 W. Chestnut, Carthage, MO 64836. Private family inurnment will be held at a later date. Memorial gifts are suggested to Carthage VFW Post 2590 in care of Knell Mortuary, 308 W. Chestnut Street, Carthage, MO 64836. Online condolences may be expressed through http://www.knellmortuary.com. Arrangements are under the direction and personal care of Knell Mortuary.