I talked a little about my Big Bob the other day in my post about our family’s lakehouse and it got me thinking about him. He passed away a little over three years ago and he is missed.
Big Bob was the youngest child in a family of all girls. His daddy passed away when he was 6 months old so Big Bob was raised by his mother and his older sisters. I can promise that this was God’s way of preparing him for his future. He married my grandmother and had two daughters, four granddaughters, two great-granddaughters, and one grandson. He spent his life surrounded by women so obviously he had a high tolerance for pain.
My grandmother has told us some of the stories from their courting days. They were in the same class at Lockney High School. Big Bob was the star football player and pretty cocky. One night Nanny was waiting for him to pick her up for a date and he never showed up. She asked him the next day why he stood her up and he said “Oh I showed up but I saw through the window that you were wearing those pants I don’t like, so I left”. But for all his attitude, he couldn’t stay away from her. He went off to the University of Texas but missed home and Nanny so he came back.
She had a date with another boy that night, but instead ran off and eloped with Big Bob. He took her back to his house and the next morning his mother (whom I’ve been told was a force to be reckoned with) found them in bed together and said “Well, you’ve ruined your life”.
Big Bob was part of the greatest generation. He served in the Navy during WWII. He left his wife and his little girl to go fight for our freedom. While he was gone, Nanny had the neighbor girls take pinup style pictures of her in a green bathing suit to send to him (by the way, she wore that same green swimsuit at the lakehouse 40 years later). He never talked much about those days, but Nanny said that she’ll never forget looking outside and seeing him coming up the front walk in his sailor uniform the day he got home. Not surprisingly (especially considering the sailor uniform), my mother was born the next year.
He worked as an appliance repairman for years and could fix anything. None of the women in my family ever had to buy a new appliance. He’d just find old ones that someone had thrown out, fix them up and you had yourself a new washing machine.
At any given time he had at least three different station wagons. Two were usually Pintos (you know for when he was feeling sporty) and one was always a huge full size wagon perfect for loading up stray appliances. They always smelled of grease, sweat and Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco. It’s one of the smells of my childhood.
My little sister went to this private school and one day Big Bob came to pick her up in the huge white wagon (instead of Nanny in her caddy), but instead of just stopping at the curb, he drove all the way up the ramp to the front door. She was so embarrassed and dove headfirst into the car like she had just robbed the place and yelled “DRIVE, DRIVE, DRIVE!”
He was always a fashion plate. We’re talking jumpsuits, big fur hats, and a jacket that he wore as far back as I can remember. One time he needed new reading glasses, so he went up to Eckerds pharmacy and bought a pair. When he got home, he put them on and Nanny said, “Bob, those are womens glasses” and he said “well what’s the difference? How am I supposed to know these are womens glasses?” and she said “well, they have rhinestones on them”. He had bought a pair of cat eye glasses with multiple rhinestones. I promise he picked them out not because he wanted to be flashy but because they were either the cheapest or the first ones he picked up.
He was always quiet and we always thought he was just watching Walker, Texas Ranger but later he could tell you every word that had been said. I remember one time when I was right out of college, I was crying to Nanny and Mom about how I didn’t have any money and felt so overwhelmed. Big Bob was in the other room, but before I left the next day he handed me $100.00.
A few years before he died, he really started to lose his memory. Nanny said she first noticed it when they were at a wedding and he walked up to her eating a piece of chocolate cake. She asked where he had gotten it and he said “Well, it’s over there on that table. I just went and cut me a piece.” She said she about died when she realized he had been the first one to cut the groom’s cake.
At one point, Nanny really needed a break from taking care of him so Gulley and I drove to Beaumont to stay with him for the weekend while Nanny drove to Houston to relax with my Mom. About 6:00 that first evening we were with him he asked “Y’all think Nanny’s ever going to get out of the bed this morning?”
At the end of the weekend when Nanny got home he said he missed her. She asked him “Where do you think I’ve been?” and he said “Well, I guess you’ve just been at the Walmart.” See, I told y’all that my family can spend an obscene amount of time in Walmart.
Big Bob was truly a man among men. And his Mama was wrong…he didn’t ruin his life, he spent it with the woman he loved dearly for 60 years.