Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Blessings Of The Bob (An Uncle-ish Tale)

Once in a while I do this thing where I tell someone who is still within my reach how I feel about them because of the likelihood that we’ll never again see each other. Usually it’s met with shock. People so love to hang onto the notion that everyone they know now, they will know tomorrow; and almost no one wants to say goodbye and all that could mean if there’s any possibility at all that they don’t have to. So when I bring it up, the first thing people will say to me is “are you dying?”

Nope. Not dying. I do believe that the chance I’ll ever again see Phoenix Arizona is slight, and there is at least one person there I’d like to speak to about what I’ve never said before, rather than wait until I suffer my fifth heart attack and try to write something quick on my way to the crematorium.

I have this uncle. His name’s Bob. Robert really, but he goes by Bobby, I’m betting mostly for the same reason I go by Ronnie, because no matter what I’ve said to discourage them, people just won’t let it go away.

I really don’t know him very well; not in the way you’d know a best friend. He moved away from my hometown when he entered the Navy and came back only to visit, and then only rarely. I do remember a little about him from when I was a kid. His mom and dad owned a Santa suit, and Poor Bob would have to be Santa for the kid gift handouts. I only recall the fact I think, because it was the ugliest Santa suit ever and he probably scared the hell out of me with it.

On the only other occasion I can conjure up a memory of he was home on some sort of leave from the Navy and he ended up having to drive one of my friends and I somewhere in the dead of winter. It had just snowed and the roads were a little slick. My bud and I started arguing about the proposition: if one slammed on the emergency brake as a car was in transit, would the brake work, or would it be rendered useless because some secret sensor would spot the speeding of the vehicle and ignore the desired effect in order to save the passengers a sudden pounding to the….

Bobby’d heard enough apparently. He slammed on the emergency brake and we went sliding down Minnehaha Parkway, twirling and twirling as if we were in an amusement park teacup. We definitely shuttup from that moment on; but secretly, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

That’s the crux of this note. My father’s brother is the coolest guy I’ve ever known. Yea, ok, Sean Connery is pretty cool, but I don’t actually KNOW him, so he doesn’t count.

When I was in my mid-teens a friend and I hitchhiked to San Diego planning on hopping a tramp freighter and working our way to Hawaii where we’d live fat and hula happy forever. Of course that was never going to happen, but I didn’t even let it get far enough to find out. I was starved and exhausted, and I smelled like a side of beef still hanging in a rendering plant.

There’s a blessing to having my surname. There’s only one in any given phone book. I called, he came. He fed me, allowed me sleep and a shower and arranged for my passage back to my cranky father’s house. Yea, I forgive him that, he was just looking out for my best interests, no matter how misguided he showed himself to be.

Over the last four decades I travelled to San Diego and then Phoenix to see him and his sister as many times as I could, sometimes on a client’s dime and sometimes on my own. I have never been disappointed with a stay there, I have loved every minute spent with him and the rest of the family. Well, there was this one time…. Nah.

What I really want to say is that I truly considered the two most important men in my life this way; my father was the steel that my frame is made of, and Bobby, his brother, is the fine Corinthian leather appointment. Dad was the rule, Bob is the cool. I hate to say it this way but “honest to God”, that’s what I’ve always thought. Ever say it? Are you insane? We’re not only men, we’re Runeborg men for God’s sake!  Though I have to admit, both my dad and Bob can cry when it’s been warranted, and little has taught me more about being a compassionate soul while still being a leaning post than this simple act.

There’s something else I know about Bob. His wife adores him. Now this may not seem significant to anyone but me, but here’s why it is; not only have they been married for longer than the lifespan of an average Fortune 500 multinational corporation, (Ok, I had a little trouble finding a less silly comparison) but I know her pretty damn well and I can say without reservation that she is a woman who does not tolerate bullshit, that, while sweet, is not so sweet that if presented with a box of puppies, would fawn over them all day! Nay, She would coo for an appropriate amount of time, and then hand the box over to someone standing near so she could get on with her day. Now if this woman adores someone, you damn well know they’re adore-worthy. (I had to make sure I didn’t say adorable cuz I didn’t want to get yelled at by the guy I’m tryin to pedestalize)

So there ya have it. My uncle. Always reminded me of Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson III (or Kookie of 77 Sunset Strip as only you poor ancient people might know him) Always made me believe that being cool and a Runeborg was not a mutual exclusivity. Gave me some tiny bit of hope that I too could be cool (Although that’s long gone, but it was fun while it lasted)

He may be out of my reach, the years have not been kind to my checkbook, but he’s never out of my mind. At my father’s funeral I said if I ever grew up I wanted to be just like my dad. Well, I never did grow up so that possibility has gone by the wayside. But there’s still time for me to be like Bobby, and I think I’m gonna do what I can to make cool happen.

Now I’d send this directly to him, but I can’t of course, that would break the rules of manly manity, my father never once told me he loved me as is the family tradition so I’m sure as hell not gonna throw around the love word here whether I feel it or not. But I am going to make this public, so if he just happens to see it while, oh let’s say perusing woodworking magazines or looking up the meaning of the word antidisestablishmentarianism (like only a really cool guy would do), well then so be it. He can know I love him without my ever having had to say so, as it should be.

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