Celebrating Bobby: Stories from His Life

Bob was the youngest of four children in our family, born when I was almost 11 years old. From the first, he was a happy, generous, and an easy-going kid with a big smile and the glint of humor radiating from his dark brown eyes under a thatch of straw-colored hair.

He was also very bright and quite athletic. In little league baseball he earned the moniker of Poncho for his southpaw pitching. In golf he often threw people off with his ambidextrous swing from either hand. Flexible wherever he landed, he seemed to adapt naturally to whatever life presented. Or so we thought. But that came later.

As a child he would be the first to share a candy bar, the least upset when the last soda pop was plucked from right under his nose, the last to complain if there was nothing for dinner but tuna croquettes and a can of Campbell’s baked beans. Like Mother and myself, however, he did have a penchant for lots of Heinz ketchup on fried foods and would groan when the ketchup bottle squeaked on empty.

Unlike Betsy and Billy, the two middle siblings in our family, he was not afraid of vegetables. There was one Thanksgiving, though, when he was scared to death of the turkey and refused to eat it–perhaps foreshadowing a later encounter with birds.

 As a kid he loved to roam the woods and meadows that flanked Mud Lick Creek, near our house in Roanoke, Virginia. He would take his B-B gun with him, hoping to refine his aim on a bird in flight. Most of the time he missed. But he was clearly looking forward to the day when he was good enough to stop a bird on the wing dead cold.

Then one day he came home and put his B-B gun away–for good. “What are you doing that for,” I asked.

“I don’t want to kill anything ever again,” he said. The little bird that had caught the pellets from his gun that day was heavy on his heart. As far as I know, he never went in for any kind of “sport” that harmed any living thing ever again.

Instead, he put his energies into school, where his grades soared and teachers showered him with one accolade after another, including selecting him as a school-crossing guard. He was also helpful at home and quick to forgive his brother and sisters in the scraps that inevitably arose from sibling rivalry.

What we didn’t know was how much Bobby was hurting inside.




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