Angel Unaware

It’s been several weeks since I posted a message to what is supposed to be a weekly blog. The reason for my absence from this website is my obsession with a writing project of a far different kind; a screenplay of all things, for which my administrative professional career did not prepare me in the least.

My interest in writing this particular screenplay stems from a serendipitous moment this past February. I came across a brief interview via You Tube in which Cheryl Rogers Barnett, the oldest daughter of Dale and Roy Rogers, assured the interviewer that there was no difference between the characters we saw portrayed in each episode of The Roy Rogers Show and the real life couple she called mom and dad.

My purpose for writing the screenplay is the result of a comment made by Cheryl’s husband Larry near the end of the interview. He spoke of a time when Roy showed him a video taken at one of their rodeo shows. It was Dale and Roy’s custom to conclude each show by making a circuit of the arena and shaking hands with every child along the railing.

At a point in the rodeo video Roy pointed to a section in the audience where children with physical disabilities were gathered. Roy’s comment to his son-in-law was that they never saw children like this in the audience before Dale wrote her book Angel Unaware. His comment resonated with me immediately. It brought back a host of childhood memories, complete with all the joys and sorrows of life and their perpetual ramifications, which cannot be avoided.

Dale’s book, published in 1953, recounts the brief life – a scant two years – of Robin Elizabeth Rogers, Dale and Roy’s only natural born child. We had this book in our home. My mother purchased a copy, I believe, as a consequence of hearing Dale speak at The Church of the Open Door in downtown Los Angeles. She took me with her most likely because she knew I was an avid fan of Dale and Roy’s television show.

My mother passed away in 2017 so I cannot verify the accuracy of what follows. Rather ihis is me trying to piece together events, which occurred more than sixty years ago. But even if my memory is faulty, how I remember things is key to why I committed these past few months to a writing project well outside of my prior experiences.

What possessed my mother to venture into Los Angeles from the relative safety of our suburban home to hear Dale speak and to purchase her book was that she shared the same blood distinction that Dale had, a negative Rh factor. Little was known of this condition in the early fifties other than it did pose a threat to an unborn child if precautions were not taken at birth. How it affected the unborn’s prenatal development, if at all, was still subject to speculation.

I believe my mother feared that the child she was carrying would suffer the same fate as Robin Rogers, a child born with Down syndrome, a potentially fatal heart condition and a short life expectancy.

We know now that Down syndrome is the result of a chromosomal anomaly, but not then. My brother was born without any outward sign of a problem. My mother, however, was never free of the fear that there was something wrong with him as a consequence of her blood type. She carried this secret with her until the final days of her life, when I was her caregiver and she unburdened herself by sharing some intimate stories about her life and ours as a family.

Larry Barnett’s comment brought all of this to the forefront of my thinking, touching sensitive and unresolved issues, which must remain forever buried with the bodies of those I loved.  So this message, which shares the title of Dale’s book and my screenplay, is intended to introduce a new blog series, allowing me to share a personal journey of remembrance and discovery with the potential of a happy ending.

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