Goodbye, Bob

This is a hard blog post to write; blogging is a medium with narrow shoulders, and any blog is an edited sub-set of your whole life. So I haven’t mentioned my father-in-law Bob “Snuffy” Smith’s illness with cancer, even though it’s been a huge part of our lives since last fall.

Bob was diagnosed with bone cancer in December, the day after Barb won her contested election for PA State Representative. He was in and out of the hospital (mostly in) since then, went through three rounds of chemo, and finally came home for hospice care about a month or so ago. He died at home two Thursdays ago, in the morning.

I loved Bob very, very, very much. He had the gift of genuinely liking people. He listened carefully, spoke slowly, and was unfailingly honest, enthusiastic, and genuine. As Scott Seiber, a motorcycling friend of Bob’s said, “Bob was everyone’s hero — but he always made you feel like you were his hero.” One of the proudest moments of my life was when Bob and I were stuck in the big Northeast blackout of 2003, on the second day of a motorcycle trip, far from home with only 100 miles of range in our tanks. I was able to use my Mysterious Cellular Internet Powers to locate a luxury mountaintop hotel 90 miles away that had its own generator, and we slept that night in style. Bob always got a look in his eyes when he told that story, and that look always made me feel like a million damn dollars. And Bob made everybody feel that way, for about a million reasons. As Kate pointed out, he was making people feel that way who just met him in the last three weeks of his life.

It’d be trite to say that he taught me about motorcycles, although it’s true. It’d be trite to say that I learned about the Cowboy Code from him (if anybody is “all cattle and no hat”, it was Bob and his mellow, grizzled, storied and honored friends — I still stumble across mentions of them in books), though it’s true. It’d be insufficient to say that I miss him, although that’s more than true. I miss him very, very, very much.


Bob and Barb live two doors down from us. Having Bob go through hospice care at home felt right. We didn’t have to make pilgrimages out to where Bob was, we could just lead our lives all together. I learned that dying is a process, and we went through it together. We all got to say our goodbyes at home. I worked from home one day a week, and participated in his care, and was home the morning Bob died.

I’m embarassed to be crying on the train, so I’m going to stop here. Well, rather, I guess I’m going to switch back to a more familiar heart-not-on-the-sleeve blog mode, and say that the day after Bob died, I finally got my motorcycle running again, after a year of tinkering on it.
I’d like to be able to say that Mysterious Hands were guiding me. Except it’s not mysterious; I just tried to emulate Bob’s patience, and his careful approach, and to just see what was going on.

And sure enough, I found the problem — a simple thing, once I finally stopped poking at the wrong end of the bike — and now I’m up and running with the 16MM Commando Projector, having built a platform for it for the sidecar, and I know Bob would have loved that. So we’re showing “Meatballs” this Saturday night at Northbrook Canoe Company, and Bob, I love and miss you very much.

2 responses to “Goodbye, Bob”

  1. Truer words were never said, or written. I am terribly sorry for your loss, which of course I share with you. You and Kate and Barb and Lydia and Matt were all amazing during Bob’s illness, not to mention the man himself who went steady on right to the finish. It was a great gift to have known him, even though that gift seems snatched away. Maybe I can sense Bob’s presence, too, by trying to make his baked beans and corn pudding. As he might put it, they were the BEST!


  2. No more words to say.. just beautifully put John.
    I hope GDI went well and sorry we were out of town. Looking forward to the next one.


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