Bobby died. His wife contacted me yesterday to tell me that he passed away on Saturday. “Covid, Di,” she cried. “My son and I had begged him to get vaccinated.”
It’s unbelievable that a person as substantial as Bobby is gone from this world. He was a man of character and convictions, and like all of us, a few contradictions. Bobby was Mark’s longstanding caregiver and friend, and for the time he was with us, he knew our lives more intimately than almost anyone. He cared for Mark like he was a brother. He visited Mark in the middle of the night in hospitals, held onto him as he wobbled down hallways, coached him to eat and exercise, encouraged him to strengthen his relationships with his kids. More than once, Bobby was with me when Mark almost didn’t make it. Bobby was unfailingly patient and kind to Mark. He taught me a lot about parts of life I didn’t know anything about.
“Bobby brought Mark to life,” Alma reminded me on the phone yesterday. They’re right. Bobby was the consummate storyteller, and he didn’t mind that Mark did not always add much to the conversation. He’d get on a roll and keep rolling. The Steelers, his family, crazy stories from when he used, and many, many stories of sobriety, weight-lifting, and recovery. He loved to make us laugh. After Mark’s craniectomy, he asked if Mark’s head would always look like that. Yes, I said. “Well,” he said, “I guess he can start wearing hats.” He was the definition of that old term, a “man’s man,” yet he also was more able to navigate, talk about, and nuture a man’s feelings than any other man I’ve ever met.
I’ve been thinking about how years ago, when I was raising young kids, my parents would give us an envelope at Christmas each year. Inside was an index card decorated in sparkly marker surrounding the words: “The Gift of Time.” The card would have a few ideas of what that could be, and it was both specific and open. The message was consistent every year: We will show up for you. We will help you. We will love you through the best thing we have to give: ourselves.
Bobby gave our family the gift of time in exactly that way. He gave all that he had to give. And right now, all we can wish for is that we could return that gift to Bobby, too.
Bobby’s death follows a similar story we’ve heard on the news over and over during the pandemic. He thought some of the stories he heard mongering fear about the vaccine and suspicious origins of the virus could be true. He had gotten this far in life on sheer willpower, stubbornness, and faith. He was sure that if life had not gotten him yet, Covid sure as hell couldn’t. Knowing Bobby, I can understand how he came to think this. Knowing Bobby, I wish he hadn’t.
Covid took a very good man from this world, one who was always doing his very best. RIP Bobby. We love you and miss you. I’m sure heaven is a lot more fun today with you up there.