Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bob

My friend, Bob McC. 
1936 -2014

April 1960, Fort Devens, Massachusetts.  I had just completed Army basic training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey and spent a week's leave at home in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.  


Bob (standing behind the kneeling me on the left with his hand on is hip) during a break between classes at Ft. Devens, Mass. 1960


I arrived at Ft. Devens for schooling in the Army Security Agency. I was eighteen years old, alone and scared.  


Bob (left), me (right) - goofing around during break between classes at Ft. Devens, Mass - 1960

I don't remember when I met Bob but I quickly became friends with this big guy. Everybody liked Bob but he was my best friend.  I felt privileged.  We had so many adventures together, memories that I will never forget as long as I am alive.


Bob (left in back) and me (right n front) - 1960

During the fifty-four years we've been friends I only saw Bob get mad at me once.  That was when we were washing our clothes at a laundromat in the nearby town in Ayre, Mass. We were both pulling out the clothes from the dryer.  As we were doing so I put one of Bob's underwear over his head as he was bent over taking more clothes out of the dryer.  With his underwear over his head he stood up and looked at me through the leg hole.  I was laughing so hard I was choking.  Bob pulled the underwear from his head and looked at it and realized that he had on his head.  He was so embarrassed and lit into me with a stream of invectives like you never heard.  Over the years since then I've often relived that memory with Bob, much to our mutual enjoyment.


Bob at his single-wide in Delaware - 1978

I could write a book, a long one about our friendship and all the ups and downs and the adventures.  But perhaps the most unique thing about our friendship is that for all the years Bob and I were best friends during our Army days I never had a clue that he was gay nor did he have a clue I was gay.  I was friendly with Bob but I was never interested in him THAT way, nor was he interested in me in THAT way.


Bob and I at the Collonade cafeteria in Philadelphia, PA - 1982 - we both worked in the city and used to meet for lunch once a week

The revelation that we were both gay was when I came out to everyone in March of 1963.  I was out of the Army (discharged in January 1963 as was Bob) by then and living by myself in a small furnished efficiency apartment in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.


Bob and I playing pool at the Double L in Rehoboth before they turned it into a dance bar - 2004

I had had enough of living a double life and I wrote everyone I knew and told them I was a "homosexual" (the term for gays in those pre-Stonewall days).  Bob, who then was living in Norwood, Pennsylvania, immediately dropped what he was doing and appeared at my apartment.  He told me he was gay too!


Me (blurred) and Bob at his double wide at "The Ranch" - Bob had many friends and got a lot of phone calls. When I lived in Pennsylvania I used to call Bob almost every evening - 2006

He told me he was shocked that I was gay as I was when he told me he was gay.  Thus began a new phase of our friendship, which was always close.  Bob knew nothing about the gay scene.  He wanted to know "where to go."


Bob on the backyard swing at my home in center city Philadelphia June 1971 - Bob was the toast of Gay Philadelphia - everybody knew and liked him

I took Bob to his first gay bar. It was the Westbury Bar in Philadelphia, PA. Back then when one gay man introduced another gay man to the gay bar scene, he was called his "Mother."  For years I used to tell everyone I was Bob's "Mother", much to our mutual enjoyment.


Once Bob was out, it didn't take him too long to make friends - here he is with "Bob H." and "Phil" - 1980
Don't know what the serious discussion was about but I do know these were two hot guys who both Bob and I liked

Once Bob was introduced to the gay scene, it  didn't take him too long to "catch on."  He quickly made many friends.  


One of Bob's many admirers - The Venture Inn, Philadelphia - Halloween 1980

Eventually Bob met the love of his life, Jim.  



Bob, Jim and Me - 1986

Both Bob and I worked in center city Philadelphia for many years.  Bob eventually grew tired of the commute and stress of working in the city and left to start a new life in rural Sussex County Delaware.  The year was 1976.  Bob lived in a shed on his recently purchased tract of twenty-two wooded acres outside Georgetown, Delaware.


Bob and Jim at their double-wide in later years at "The Ranch"
For many years I would travel with Bob down to his place in Delaware which he mockingly called "The Ranch".  I along with whoever else would like to have a weekend free of the constraints of living straight in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Oh the many, many fond memories of those weekends at "The Ranch."


Bob with Ray and one of the many "party" weekends at The Ranch - 1982
Visiting Bob over the years at his place in Sussex County, Delaware, I fell in love with Delaware and decided this is where I would retire.  Not only would I be living "near the water" (a life long goal) and living in a state with much lower taxes than my home state of Pennsylvania, I would be nearby my best friend Bob.


Bob (far right), Tommy (big boobs) and Howard (far right) - sometimes 1977 - I called Tommy and Howard this morning and gave them the sad news 

I moved to Delaware in November of 2006.  The previous few years I had noticed changes in Bob.  Mental changes.  It seemed to me he wasn't grasping how to access his e-mail on his computer.  Every time I would visit him, I would have to explain the simple procedure. But when I visited him again,he had forgotten.  Then there were the other "little things."  The signs of cognitive disability.  


Jim, Bob and me - later years when the signs began appearing - Bob still smiling though


A group of us would meet every Wednesday for an "Old Fart's Night Out."  Bob would pick the place to meet.  I would appear at the designated restaurant.  No Bob. No group.  Then I would find he was at another restaurant.  I used to think I was getting confused until one time another member of our group also showed up at the wrong restaurant.  


Me (far left) and Bart and Bob
I'm sorry but I'm making a book out of this blog entry.  I'll wrap it up now.




I mentioned to our mutual friends about Bob's "problem."  They dismissed it.  Thought I was imagining things.  But I knew Bob as well and probably better than any of them. 


Bob and me at one of our many restaurant meals together

The turning point came when I had asked Bob to take a picture of me with my camera.  He couldn't understand how to do it, to take a picture with the camera.  We were at the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.  He almost backed himself right into the canal.  That was whenI knew there was a problem.


Bob and his dog Bonnie

More "instances" occurred during the coming years.  Eventually I called his nephew and told him about his Uncle Bob and maybe he should step in and take control.


I subject Bob to a "selfie" - 2012

Bob and his longtime partner (and now spouse) moved into an assisted care facility a couple of years ago.  Jim was fine, Bob was not.

Bob and Jim at Brandywine Assisted Care - 2013

Jim continued to take care of Bob until even he need help.  Last year Bob was moved to a full care facility.  



Me (Wolfman) and Bob (Frankenstein)  1980 at the Philadelphia Gay Center Halloween party on Kater Street

I remember the last time I visited him.  My friend Pat was with me when we signed the visitors' log.  The name above the log was Jim's.  Pure luck we happened to come in behind Jim.  



"Happy Birthday Bob!" - Philadelphia 1982



"Happy Birthday Bob" (at Rigby's - 2009)

Pat took a few photos of that visit but I won't post them here out of respect for the memory of Bob.  But this was the last time I visited Bob.  I knew it would be the last time.  I don't think he knew who I was.  But I think he did know Jim.  


Bob (center) and longtime friends - 1980

Bob couldn't talk.  He grunted.  He had lost a lot of weight.  I knew this was the last time I would see him. 


Bob with one of his first boyfriends after coming out- visiting me and Bill's apartment in Pennsauken, New Jersey - 1965

This morning I received a comment on my blog posting of yesterday informing me that Bob had passed away yesterday.  Even though I expected Bob to die soon, this news has hit me like a ton of bricks.  I am a mess right now.  


Me and Bob in Provincetown, Mass - 1974 - my first old time photo


Over the past few years several very important people in my life have died.  Most notably my Mother who passed away September 16th, 2010.  At that time I felt part of me died with her.  And now today.  Another part of me has died.  A very big part.  



40 comments:

  1. Ron, I cannot imagine how devastated you must be. You have lost your best friend, and I am so sorry to hear that. However, this is a lovely and touching tribute that hopefully helped you in the midst of your grief. I am sure there will be more to come about Bob. You were fortunate to have had each other as friends. Friendship is not to be underestimated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tony,
      Even though I knew Bob was in falling health and going to die, the news of his death has really knocked me for a loop. I feel as if one of my life supports has been kicked out from under me. Bob was my first friend as an "adult". That is, when I left home to join the Army. He was my friend during all those subsequent year. He was five years older than me thus the irony when we both became aware of both of us being gay, I showed him "the ropes." We always joked about that over the years that I was his "mother." Bob was always the big brother to me prior that revelation. For so many years I used to call him every night and go over my woes with him, many times my romantic woes. He was my confident, confessor, and court jester. He was everything to me except a sexual partner. Our friendship was so unusual in that way. Bob and I had a ball. Whenever I was with Bob the world was technicolor. I know people say this about people who pass away but everybody and I mean everybody liked Bob. I always felt so privileged to have the special distinction of having known him the longest and being his "best friend." Now that he is gone Tony, I am less. First my Mother (who also died in September) and now Bob. Thank you for your condolences Tony.
      Ron

      Delete
  2. Ron,

    Thanks for this poignant and bittersweet story about your friendship with Bob.

    You have my condolences.

    :-)

    -Andy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andy,
      I could write volumes about our friendship. I have hundreds if not over a thousand pictures. Hard to pick out the best ones. Bob was an integral part of my adult life. My life would have been so much less without him.
      Ron

      Delete
  3. xoxoxox Thanks for the gift of Bob's story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the dogs' mother,
      Bob provided me with much enjoyment of life. We would have been a dynamite couple if we were attracted to each other but it was not to be. Funny thing about that, we were never attracted to one another in that way. But we did have a great life together. Now that he's gone, part of me is gone too. But I will always have my memories. Only thing is that I can't share them with him any more.
      Ron

      Delete
  4. my sympathies on the loss of your long term BFF, ron.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anne Marie,
      It's a shame you two never met. He would have LOVED you (saucy female) and you would have loved him. Everyone did, women included. Think Sassy Bear, Spo and the Cajun all rolled into one, that was Bob.
      Ron

      Delete
    2. sassybear&spo&cajun in one? too hot to handle! muy caliente!

      Delete
    3. Anne Marie,
      He was all that. Just ask the cajun. Everybody, but everybody loved Bob. And he was funny. Funny as hell. It was such a shame his later years. So unfair.
      Ron

      Delete
  5. Well Ron - I'm a a little teary eyed right now having read your post. It stirs in me and all of us I believe the wonderment of friendships we've had and still have with people we've loved and continue to love. And the fact that Bob brought you great joy - in his parting one can understand your great loss. What a wonderful tribute you gave him on this blog.

    Pat

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pat,
      Bob was that rarity, a true friend. He liked me through the good and the bad. He never faltered. Plus, was a lot of fun He always made me laugh. He will be missed but I will always have my memories. They are indelible.
      Ron

      Delete
  6. My heart bleeds for you
    Hugs
    Jxxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you John. A sad day here.
      Ron

      Delete
  7. Ron, Bob sounds like a stabilizer from early on. My sincere condolences.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Geo.,
      Bob was my stabilizer. He was 23 years old to my 18 years old. When I met him it was my first time away from home. I thought Bob was so wordily and he wanted to be my friend! I was thrilled. I was "the kid." Then the tables were reversed when I came out and discovered Bob was gay like me. Then I was the "wordily" one at least as it came to traversing the complicated world of the "gay lifestyle." However, Bob was a quick learner and soon overtook me as Mr. Popularity. Every one loved him. Every one. I don't know of one enemy he ever had or someone disliked him. Now me, I have more than my share of folks who don't like me. But Bob never did and he saw me at my worst. That's the test of a true friend, someone who stays with you as a friend even when you are at your worst, which is what Bob did.
      Ron
      Ron

      Delete
  8. Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts

    Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beautifully said Roger. Thank you so much.
      Ron

      Delete
  9. Anonymous8:34 PM

    Ron, I'm so sorry for your loss. Your friendship with Bob was truly special. Enjoyed reading the tribute to Bob.
    Susan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Susan. I'm sorry you never had the opportunity to meet Bob. Every one liked (loved) him, even the gals which sometimes created problems (smile).
      Ron

      Delete
  10. Ron, I truly get that you are a mess. I felt exactly the same way when my best friend from 5/6/7/8th grade passed away.

    My condolences, my prayers, my positive energy is being sent in your direction.

    I so wish I had as many pictures of David and me. This is such a positive post!!!! The wonderful memories!!!

    Peace <3
    Jay

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jay,
      You understand. Bob was my first "adult" friend. So ironic that we didn't know each other were gay until about three years after our friendship. Neither one of us ever suspected. But when we found out, that opened a whole new phase in our friendship. Even though I knew he was failing the last several years, it still came as a punch in the stomach when I was informed that he had died. He was one of the pillars of my life
      Ron

      Delete
  11. Ron,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Bob would be proud of you for this great tribute you wrote. Know more than a few tears slid down my checks while I was reading it. My thoughts are with you.

    Cindy from Sonoma

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cindy,
      I rarely go to funerals but I will go to Bob's. I feel the need to see him one more time to say goodbye. Bob was such a large part of my life. He was the one person who always made me laugh. Even though I "lost" him a few years ago when he began to slip into dementia, hearing this morning that he was actually gone still was a shock. It always is when someone is such a large presence in your life.
      Ron

      Delete
  12. So sorry. There is something special about your bonding at that time in life and how it never altered.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Will,

      Thank you. Yes, Bob and I bonded early on and never lost that bond. Even though the lost the ability to communicate with him last year (dementia), still knowing that he is no longer in they world is a bit overwhelming. Bob was such a big part of my life.
      Ron

      Delete
  13. Ron,
    So sorry for your loss. It's these recent losses that make one realize that those of us our age are winding down in the path of life and soon it will be our turn. In the grand scheme of things, life is short and time is precious. I am so glad to hear that you had one last visit with Bob. I am creating a bucket list of people who I haven't seen for years and trying to track them down for one last communication, if not a personal visit at least a letter or a phone call. I have contacted two people already and am working on finding the third.
    Again, sorry for your loss and remember, Bob is no longer sick.
    Jack

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jack,
      You are so right, when I lose someone like Bob, who was such a major influence on my life, it brings to fore that my life is indeed winding down. I do not fear death, for me that is a release. What I fear is the loneliness that sometimes precedes death. Bob was very fortunate that he had Jim, his longtime partner and spouse who took such great care of him during his final days.
      Jack, you're doing the right thing by contacting your friends who you haven't seen in a longtime for one last communication. Just this past year I was able to help one of Bob's former boyfriends contact him for one last communication. He found me through my blog by searching for Bob's name. I am so glad I was able to help him see Bob one last time.
      You're right, Bob is no longer sick. Many years ago we often talked about how we would go. We always said we didn't want a prolonged illness and yet, this is what happened to Bob. I don't know if he was aware of his illness during the final year and a half of his life but what I do know is that he is at peace now. It is we who he left behind who are in pain. However, this pain will eventually dissipate and we will be left with our cherished memories of this most gentle of gentlemen (as another friend said in his comment).
      Ron

      Delete
  14. Immeasurably moving, Ron. It's so obviously shaken you to the core. What can I say that hasn't already been said by others? A consolation is how you blessed and enriched each others' lives, and nobody can take that from you. I know you'll have no trouble in holding it in your heart for the rest of your life. Peace and love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Ray. Bob visited England once many years ago. I wish I had went with him. On my bucket list was to visit England with him someday. Sadly, that became impossible once his health (Parkinson's disease) started to fail. Yes, his loss has shaken me to my core, much more so than I had thought it would. But I will always have me memories of my time with Bob. He was a major part of my life and now he is gone. This will take some getting used to. Thank you Ray for your condolences.
      Ron

      Delete
  15. So sorry for your loss. Bob sounded like a fun guy. I keep losing friends and neighbors too and it's' sad but it's all part of the circle of life no matter how much it hurts never to see and talk to tem anymore. That's what I miss the most.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stan,
      Bob was a fun guy. Everyone he came in contact with liked him. He was one of those rare individuals who you liked immediately and made you smile the whole time you were with him. And he also had that ability that made each person he came in contact with feel special. Bob listened. People were drawn to him. I always envied that ability he had. I felt so privileged to be his close friend. And we did have a lot of fun together. Memories that will only be erased from my memory when I die.
      Ron

      Delete
  16. Ron,
    No matter how we may know someone is failing, we are never prepared when it finally comes to pass. That empty, breathlessness, that you’ll never see that smile again.

    Bob was the most gentle of gentlemen and I grateful to have known him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the cajun,
      There have been three times in my life I cried when someone close to me died. My Mother, one of my pets and now Bob. Even though I knew this was coming, hearing the news (from Miles) hit me like a punch in the stomach and literally took my breath away and then a wave of almost unbearable sadness swept over me bringing one of the biggest frogs I've ever had in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes (as is happening now as I type this response). Sometimes we don't realize how much someone is an integral part of one's life until they are abruptly snatched away. The brutal realization that they will never again be at the other end the line to hear the latest piece of gossip, complaints for relive mutual adventures from our past history. Even though Bob started to fade years ago, I always had the comfort knowing that he was still here but now that I know he is gone forever, I feel like part of me has died. If there is a better place we go after we die, I know for sure that Bob is making them laugh up There. Just how lucky was I to have this wonderful person in my life? Few people are so lucky.
      Your statement that "Bob was the most gentle of gentlemen" was so true. I know of nobody who didn't like him, nobody. I was always so proud to have him as my friend. You can imagine as a 18 year old, still wet behind the ears, on my own in the Army and this big bear of a guy, five years old than me, was my friend. What a wonderful entree into the adult world for me. And then I could repay the favor when I came out and Bob knew nothing about the gay world and I was about to introduce him to that world. We always joked about how I was his "mother." Of course once he entered the "gay lifestyle", he gained hundreds more friends, more than I could ever hope for. He possessed that magic elixir for drawing people to him. He will be missed by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. I will always have my memories of our times together. Precious memories of many good times. He always made me laugh. When you were in Bob's company, a smile rarely left your face. Oh how I wish I could talk to him now and ask him what is it like on the "other side." Maybe someday, if there is Something, we can pick up where we left off here on earth. Maybe.
      Ron

      Delete
  17. Please accept my sincere condolences for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm so sorry Ron. A relationship like the one you have described with Bob, is one of life's great blessings. It hurts so much when it ends though. Thinking of you right now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happyman,
      I was very, very lucky to have Bob for my friend, especially at that time of my life (18 years old and away from home the first time). Two of the biggest losses in my life were my Mother four years ago and now Bob. It's interesting but I have a new view on what is left of my life. My priorities have changed. Life altering for sure. Thank you for your condolences.
      Ron

      Delete
  19. Anonymous5:41 PM

    Ron, I'm sorry to say I've never met you, but I crtainly heard a lot about you -- all good things, don't worry. ;-). My name is Roger. I was Scotty's partner for the last twenty years of his life. We worked together and published The Longneck Shopper News, The Sandpiper, and Adventures in Antiquing along with job printing and running a branch post office out on Long Neck Road. I'm sure you must remember Scotty? Hard to believe he will have been dead six years this coming November 5.

    Because of my friendship with Scotty and also Mel and Tom, I got to know Bob very well. He was -- and will always remain -- one of the finest people I've ever been lucky enough to know.

    A gentle giant, who could almost literally charm birds off trees. A dear, kind, sweet, good-natured person who was always ready to lend a helping hand. Few have mentioned it, but he was handsome as hell too, although I doubt he ever thought of himself that way. If Bob had a fault, it could only have been that he thought too little of himself, and always undervalued his services. Without Bob's very able practical assistance and moral support I doubt if any of us could have fared as well as we did. I'm happy to see he kept his good looks almost to the end.

    Scotty, Bob, Bart, Dan and Dave, Bob Quay, Mac Emmert (whenever either happened to be in town) and sometimes Mel and Tom and I palled around together for years before you moved to Sussex County from PA. We shared dinner every Wednesday night always at a different restaurant -- a longstanding tradition which pre-dated my arrival in the group -- and home-cooked dinners courtesy of either Scotty or me at our place in "The Woods" every Saturday night.

    For many reasons, Scotty's declining health among them, it was necessary for Scotty and I to move to Florida in 1997, but we never lost touch with our old friends -- and never stopped missing their companionship. Bart, who never ceases to amaze me, called to tell me of Bob's passing last Sunday. I had to give up calling Bob around the time he had to give up his home and move to assisted living. Conversation had become impossible. Bob could hardly speak, and when he did, he rarely made any sense. It was very sad. The last time we talked (about two years ago) I doubt he knew who I was.

    I share your grief, even at this long distance. Every one of us who knew Bob has lost a dear friend. I hope he knew how much he was loved, respected and admired? I tried to tell him any number of times, but he always brushed such thoughts aside.

    Take care, Ron. I am glad he had such a great friend in you. I'm sorry we never got to share any time together.

    God bless ...

    Roger - Longneckerr@Comcast.net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Roger,
      So good to hear from you! I also heard a lot about you (mostly good - smile). Your description of Bob is right on the mark. A "gentle giant" who was perhaps the least self involved gay person I ever knew. I was so fortunate to have him as my best friend during my formative days after I left home and joined the Army. Bob was drafted on January 27, 1960 the same day I joined the Army. I did not meet him until we began school together in April of 1960 at Ft. Devens, Mass. He was my best friend. We did everything together. Never once did the thought enter my mind he was gay (or as he told me later, it never entered his mind I was gay either). Thus it came as quite a shock and the subject of many repeated story tellings in later years that when I came out, he came out too. Although we were never sexually attracted to each other we remained best friends. Seeing his slow and agonizing decline the past ten or so years was very difficult, as you know. Bob and I used to talk on the phone almost every night. Then it got to be where I was the only one talking.
      These years I'm losing more family members and friends but Bob's death has hit me particularly hard, much harder than I thought even though I knew it was coming. I literally felt like part of me was ripped away from me when I knew he was gone.
      I know now (as I have for many years) just how lucky I was to have this exceptional human being as my friend. The countless times we laughed. All of our adventures, which I will never forget. And then he had another whole life away from me which I only heard about like you and Scotty (who I did meet several times).
      This morning Bill and I visited Bart. Isn't it ironic that Bart is still living by himself and doing fine? Bart is 92 years old and still the same Bart. Full of stories and good humor. He's moving a little slower these days but not much else has changed. We visited because I was concerned that Bart was totally alone but he isn't. His new neighbors (both retired) "watch him like a hawk" Bart says. They check in on him every day. He says he hasn't talked to Jim in over two months. He says Jim is in "Dreamsville, Ohio" (la la land) so that's done. j
      I am so glad to hear from you Roger. I also heard from Paul in Missouri today who left a nice comment. I am now encouraged to write and post more about Bob to honor his memory.
      Thank you again.
      Ron

      Delete