Bob Scruggs, 1934-2012

He was born in 1934 in Britton, OK.

America was in the midst of the Great Depression at the time, and Oklahoma was suffering it's third year ravaged by drought. Summertime temperatures reached 117 degrees in Oklahoma that year, and so many crops failed and farms went bankrupt that we still talk of the Dust Bowl even today.

He came into this world in October of that year, born into suffering and privation. Bob was tough. Growing up in Depression-era Oklahoma, you had to be. He married, worked, went to school. His wife gifted him with a son, Dave, late in his senior year at Oklahoma University. Shortly after graduation, they left Oklahoma, and she soon gave him two more sons.

He was a man's man; loud and gregarious. He could sell sand in the desert, and if you gave him long enough, get you to commit to a follow-on order. He never belonged to an organization he didn't eventually lead, for everyone that met him naturally wanted to follow him.

In 1989, he coughed up blood. The doctors told him it was lung cancer. Adenocarcinoma, in fact. His doctors gave him six months.

They didn't know Bob Scruggs.

Lung cancer took its measure of the man, and found itself as wanting as the men who tasted his quick right hand, back in his youth. One lobectomy later, he was cancer-free, and he spent years after that thumbing his nose at the death sentence that wasn't.

Then, years later, a routine medical exam found an abnormally high PSA level. It had been a source of disquiet over the years, not knowing where the adenocarcinoma had originated, but they had never found anything. A few tests later, and their fears were confirmed.

Bob had prostate cancer.

He faced it with the same resolve that had seen him defeat lung cancer. He underwent hormone therapy. He underwent radiation seeding. He tried experimental treatments. He did everything but have the damned thing cut out, but by then it was too late.

He joined a prostate cancer support group. Bob being Bob, he was was elected chairman not long thereafter.

He'd get sick, and then he'd rally and get better. Get sick again, and rally again. But every time, every trough was a little lower, every rally a little more feeble. The evil thing about cancer is not the death, it is all the moments it robs from you and your family leading up to that moment.

He fought it, though. Lord, how he fought. When the chemo made him so sick that he couldn't eat, when it was an open question whether starvation would kill him before the prostate cancer, still he fought. When he was too weak for his family to care for him, he was admitted to a skilled nursing facility, and still he fought.

When he was too weak to fight, drowning in his own fluids, his EMT-B son fought in his stead, forcing the Skilled Nursing Facility staff to live up to the first two parts of the name. It was too little, too late.

Bob had no more rallies left in him. He went home, to die on his own terms. Prostate cancer might cause his death, but he'd be damned if it would dictate the last moments of his life. In his last days, he was visited by his friends, his children and his grandchildren – even the one attending West Point. His youngest grandkids gave him a wheelchair ride around the block.

On April 25, 2012, prostate cancer killed Bob Scruggs.

He left behind a wife of over fifty years, three sons, and a passel of grandchildren. They were left with the memory of the strong man he had been, only the shell of which remained when prostate cancer finally claimed him.

Bob was 77 years old when he died. Some of you may call that a full life, and his family would certainly call it a life well-lived.

But as a son, no matter how far you have ventured into manhood yourself, you are never prepared to tell your father goodbye. I know this for a fact.

For a spouse who has listened to a man snore for 57 years, the silence that follows after he is gone is deafening.

 

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