Life is good, and sweet and short.
A great man left this earth recently. He was not famous, nor perfect, nor rich in material goods, but in the wealth that matters, he was blessed. He loved his family, his friends, his community and his God. He was loved in return by all who knew him. He sang like an angel, one tune continuing right on into another seamlessly as he strummed his guitar. He loved his children, his wife, his music, his home, and his work.
He was a second father to me, always speaking to me with respect, listening to what I had to say, occasionally giving his advice — always good — and always making me laugh. He took me into his family without question, without being asked. I was not the only one. There were others who he took under his wing, taught the basics of life survival — get an education, get a job, work hard, love your children, do good wherever and whenever you can.
He worked non-stop — yet always had time for his family, his friends. He never met a stranger. He invited who his family sometimes thought were “stragglers” in for a meal, but they were always good people who became family friends.
The first time I saw him, I was a child, it was a cold winter afternoon, and he was hard at work in his cement block garage with a fire going in a small pot-belly stove, humming and tapping tacks into a piece of upholstery, and as I passed by the door he said “Hey!!!” in his mock tough tone and with his mock scowl. As soon as I jumped in surprise, he gave a genuine smile at having gotten the reaction he’d sought, and then he said “Hi “ What was that in his mouth? A mouthful of upholstery tacks; what an amazing talent — the man could hold tacks in his mouth, hum a tune, talk and work all at the same time. As far as I know, he never swallowed a tack. He sure did a great job of upholstering beautiful furniture.
My Second Daddy was a bit eccentric – driving his personally restored antique car, riding his plain and simple black bicycle around town, driving his small airplane on the neighborhood street as he gave it a test-drive after doing a little work on it… (Yes, that really did say “driving his small airplane on the neighborhood street…” ) He didn’t care what people thought, and he didn’t pass judgment on others. He was not pretentious, he was not vain. He was direct, and honest, and caring.
Just a few years ago, I saw him in his workshop, an old barn that stood behind the historic bed & breakfast he’d restored in a quaint and amazing little town in Florida. There sat his sewing machine, his tools, his trade. I have a treasured photo of him — he thoroughly enjoyed posing, moving here & there for me to get the perfect shot — standing in front of that barn beside his beloved bike, looking dapper, smiling, full of mischief.
There was more than one wife over the years; there were many children. There was his hometown, and later, his adopted hometown. And music; there was always his music… There were jam sessions in his living room when we were youngsters & he was a young adult, and there were jam sessions in his kitchen when we were adults and he was a young eighty. Those rooms were always full of family and friends, smiles and happiness. His voice was smooth and comforting, and never seemed to change, and when he strummed that guitar, his eyes twinkled.
My Second Daddy’s oldest daughter is my friend, Sam, and she has her dad’s sense of what’s right, his sense of humor, mock crankiness and genuine mischief, and big heart. When Sam and I were about 18 years old, we sat on red vinyl-topped stools in his kitchen, and he pointed to her and to me, back and forth, and told us “Remember, this is what lasts. Friendship and love. This is what lasts.” I am blessed to have known him, and all his children, and especially to count Sam as my good, good lifelong friend.
The last time I saw my Daddy Bob, he lifted my hand, kissed the back of it, and said “You’re a good girl, Emma Ann. I love you.” I love him, too.
A great man left this earth, but while he was here. he lived and he loved. He changed my life.