Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Saying Goodbye

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan. 

These lines, taken from the poem "Tithonus" by Tennyson were the only things I could think of when I got the news.  Yesterday, at 4am, I opened my inbox and realized this world, this world we occupy while alive, had just lost one of the most remarkable people I have ever met.  My heart sank and yet at the same time rejoiced, knowing a person I care about greatly no longer had to be in pain. When I would ask him how he was feeling, and he stopped using the saying "With my fingers, but of course!" and started saying "fair to midland", and then just "midland", I knew things weren't good.  And like in the myth about Tithonus, Bob was ready to go.  He didn't want to be in a body that was failing--something I understand completely.

I know this is a cycling blog, and this may seem like an odd thing to write about, however, Bob was a big part of the cycling community.  Although his time on the bike was diminishing when I met him about seven years ago, he still drove around with a bike rack on his car, working the ham radio at any bike event that needed him (Horribly Hilly, Quadrupedal and Dairyland Dare were his favorites) and all around just being really kind to all cyclists (he lived right off a major training route).

I suppose I'm writing this more for myself than anyone else.  It helps me process my feelings and deal with a loss--something I'm just not good at.  I doubt Bob knew how important he was to me.  I doubt he knew what a positive impact he had on those around him--although I hope he had some idea.  There wasn't a time when I got to work with him that I didn't smile afterwards and think how lucky I am to know such a shining star.  His depth of knowledge, something I would call brilliance, held me in awe, and yet I'm not sure if I ever saw an ego.  Bob just wanted to share the gifts he collected, whether it be from his garden, books he read or stories about travel.  His, what I would call a photographic, memory just made everything he shared that much more vivid.  

I don't know how to honor someone who is no longer made of cells and water but I feel the need to try.  Here are some things I will never forget about him, things that are just so specially "Bob".

-He would bow to me each time he saw me, not one of those half bows, but the full kind left for royalty, and would say "Glorious Leader!"--to which I would in turn bow and say "Glorious Follower!"

-If I got him talking about Zinfandel wine, it was magical.  The only thing which seemed to make him happier was talking about his grandkids.

-Bob had such a refined palate.  We would have mini contests while I trained him by talking about one ingredient and seeing who could top each other on ways to prepare it.  He won...always.

-He would visit anyplace I told him I liked on my travels or from my hometown, Minneapolis.  Somehow I got him so hooked on Kramarczuk's and Surdyk's in Northeast Minneapolis that he filled his car with sausage and wine each time he visited his kids up there.

-He loved animals, so much so that I think he felt their pain.  Although killing is a part of farm life, he lived on a farm with his wife, it was never easy for him.  He and his wife sought out the most humane way or place to take a life and he honored each animal that was taken.

-His sense of humor needed an extra cup of coffee to keep up with. Bob thought at such a rapid pace that if I wasn't 100% on my game, I'd be lost.  His wit and ability to find humor in almost anything blew me away.  He and another client of mine would spew out limericks during class--always outdoing the last--and boo at each other when one would falter.  This would cause a fit of laughter amongst the rest of us who were too slow to even try to keep up.

-Bob was one of the most caring, thoughtful men I've ever met.  Almost every kind gesture was made in quiet--not wanting any recognition or thanks--he just did really nice things because he wanted to.  He cared so deeply for his wife, friends, family (he considered his friends family I think), and pets.  It was that type of caring that just "is" with no ulterior motives.  Something I can only strive to coming close to.  

-And finally, he was just okay being himself.  I loved this about him.  He'd show up in Duluth Trading Company Firehose pants, a blue button up shirt, dirt from the farm under his fingernails, hair sometimes askew, he'd joke that he smelled like the goats (but I never thought so) and yet he was still so composed.  I thought it was great someone could have one foot in a very civilized urban world (he loved Paris), and at the same time one foot happily stuck in the farm muck.  

I won't lie.  I'm really going to miss Bob.  Thankfully, when I ride out to see the baby goats, which will be born in March, a piece of him will be there waiting.  I have to thank Judy and Bev for introducing me to him and his wife, Donna, who supported his love for going to Harbor.

I chose this photo because I think it embodied Bob to the max.
Photo by Dipesh Navsaria

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