Dad had a good friend, his best friend, Bob. Bob too, seemed larger that life, a mountain of a man. A playful swat from him would send you flying. His face hidden was behind his full, brown beard, and his steel blue eyes would pierce right through you. At first glance Bob appeared to be a gruff man, but once you spoke to him you found that he was a big teddy bear. Like dad, he was a gentle giant. If you ask his sons they would agree, "Don't poke the bear."
We didn't notice many changes in dad as he aged. His hair didn't turn grey, his build stayed the same. He eventually had to wear glasses, but that was it. Even when he got sick we didn't notice any changes. After he died we looked at some pictures and realized just how frail he became. For us, the changes were so gradual that they weren't
The same was true of Bob. His brown hair and beard became flecked with grey. Over time, the grey turned snow white. But his eyes would still cut like a laser. He was still a big man. I was always happy that dad and Bob got along. I would not have wanted to attempt to break up a fight between them.
Bob and dad were so much alike, yet from very different backgrounds. Dad was a city kid, born, raised and lived his entire life in Boston. Bob was from New Hampshire, and settled in Maine. Both men loved the outdoors. They were both quiet men, with a dry sense of humor you wouldn't expect from them. They were hard working men, and they played hard too. It is no wonder they got along so well.
Before my dad's funeral, my mom and I decided that after the funeral we would give the veteran's Flag from dad's casket to Bob. Bob drove down from Maine for dad's funeral. He teared up when we gave it to him, and he promised to take good care of it. Then, he got into his truck and went home. I thought that when he returned home he would raise the Flag on his flag-pole as a tribute to "Bud." I never thought about it again.
Bob got sick several years later, and his condition deteriorated. Mom and I saw him just before Christmas. He was no
longer the Bob I remembered. Older, near seventy. His illness made it difficult for him to get around. While we were there, he made several comments about how it wouldn't be long until he saw Bud. It was hard to hear, but in a way it was what I expected to hear from him. In that way he was just like dad. Both new what the end result of their illness would be. But they lived as best they could, and they taunted death, and looked death right in the eye, saying, "I'm right here, come and get me." Strong, tough, and brave to the end, you have to respect that.
Bob died about a week ago. Mom and I attended his memorial service. It was held in a small church in the woods. Those who knew Bob know he would have loved the setting. Well, he did, he chose the church for the service. I think he would have been surprised by the number of people that attended. Bob's sons spoke, as did several others. He lived a good life, as told by his family and friends.
Following the service we paid our respects to Bob's wife. To my surprise, she handed me a bag, and inside
was the Flag, still folded in military fashion. Now it was my turn to tear up, I tried to tell her that the Flag was Bob's, and now hers. She told that one of Bob's final wishes that the Flag be given to me. He had taken care of it for nearly twelve years, and now it was my turn. To say that I was humbled to be thought of in his dying days would be an understatement. With his end in sight, he was thinking of his friend, and his friend's family.
As I held the Flag, I could feel their presence in my present. Two men that I admired, respected and loved, and this
gift from them. I will cherish the Flag, and both of these fine men the rest of my days, and I will be reminded of them each time I look at it.