Remembering Robert aka Hercules

John Robert and Richard in aug 1970

I’m asking for help from my siblings on this one.  But I will get the ball rolling.  Today, July 28, 2017 would have been Robert’s 73rd birthday.  Almost exactly ten years older than I am.  And in a few days, my brother John will have a birthday as well on August 2.  I only bring that up because of stories I’ve heard about the two competing on who could give the other the most extraordinary birthday present.  I can only remember one but in involved a call to Robert and said, your and your woman be home at 10:00.  Dress comfortable.  A little after that time, a limousine showed up, with a picnic basket full of delightful food and a bottle of wine, glasses, etc.

We are a family of  story tellers.  And there are some doozies out there.  any one of his siblings could talk for hours, if allowed about the talents that Robert developed over the years, his curiosity, his courage, and love for his family, both siblings as well as his own family, including three of the finest men you would ever find anywhere.  They are grown now,all graduated from college, two are married, and one expecting his second child.  Robert loved, encouraged and supported these boys in all the best ways.

Robert and boys

I don’t know how Robert became so wise so young.  Maybe it was the fact that he was an English major, and along the way, studied philosophy.  Stoic is a term that fits him.  He had every right to be outraged but I never saw him lose it.  I never saw or even heard of a time when he verbally or physically hurt anyone.  Many men resort to intimidation or humiliation, in dealing with others.  Not him, not that I know of.  Despite his strong left leaning beliefs and political views, he never got ugly or berated a right wing peer, of which there were many at the Ohio Veteran’s Home where he spent the last few years of his life.

I lived with him, as did other siblings at various times in our adult lives, and I’ve made my mistakes, sometimes at his expense.  Once giving the okay to monogram bath towels he was buying for everyone for Christmas.  They were great towels but the monogram added a huge cost to the bill, that he was not up for.  Belk’s called and I assumed incorrectly he would want to monogram.  A nice big “T” I suspect.  He got the bill, and I heard in the other room “Jesus Christ!!!  Richard, come here.”  After the initial jolt to his pocketbook, he calmed down, and like so many other times, accepted it, and moved on. The list is long of events that within a short period of time, a temporary crisis was resolved with an attitude of acceptance.

The most obvious example of Robert’s stoicism is his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and the years of decline until his early death at age 68.  After his divorce, he lived alone, in an apartment near his office, where he created dynamic resumes.  He would schedule transportation, roll down in his wheelchair, and make his way there.  He would rave about how lucky he was in so many ways, and raved about the public transportation he could access. I remember his words, even in the Ohio Veterans’ Home, he contemplated his fate, half joking, about living out his days under a bridge, but instead, was so fortunate to to live at the VA home.

Even at the VA home, he continued to write resumes for his clients, and served on the board, representing other patients.  He was loved by the care givers, and he showed his appreciation often, even creating a video for you-tube honoring those that took care of the clients. Appreciate, grateful, lucky.  These were all words he used often to describe himself.

I invite my family and Robert’s friends to share your stories, short or long about Robert. I’ll compile them and make sure they are shared with those that loved him. It is important for his children and grandchildren to know what a fine man Robert was. We are who we are thanks to the influence of those that came before. What a gift it may be to more deeply understand the powerful influence that Robert had.




When Friends Die

If you get an inkling to contact a long lost friend, by all means, listen.  Pick up the phone, do an internet search, touch base, and reconnect.  I’ve done that with a few friends and it is incredible what it does to my heart.


I was daydreaming yesterday about people who had a significant impact on my life and of course I thought about Bob. After Bob and Toni  moved to the flat lands, I lost track of him. I planned to find him today and tell him how much I appreciated our friendship back in the 80’s. He passed away a little over two years ago.  I think he suffered some pain in that final phase.  I wish I could have caught up with him before he died.  Besides catching up on all of life, I would have thanked him for all that he taught me.  He would have modestly  made light of it, I’m sure.  But he’d know.  I would have told him told him I loved him like a brother.

I met Bob first when I was taking classes at Appalachian State. He taught Power and Energy. Bob to me was the ultimate Renaissance man. there was no problem he wouldn’t tackle, and would help when needed but would encourage me to do all I could do first. I had an old Mazda pick up truck with a rotary engine that seized up. At his suggestions, I bought an old Ford Courier Pick up and he helped, and in fact, did most of the work, of transferring the engine, including building new motor mounts, and then got the thing running. What to do with the old truck? He taught me how to use a cutting torch. I literally cut the whole truck up and we threw it in the dumpster.
Bob and I became friends that year. I’m not sure how he felt but I felt like I found the big brother I never had. I wanted to learn how to do stuff, and Bob could do stuff. Geez, it seemed like there was nothing he couldn’t do. His generosity was beyond what I had ever experienced. He loved teaching others how to do stuff.  That explains his long career in teaching, and when he wasn’t teaching, he was still teaching.
Bob taught me about spirituality. He taught me about listening to one’s intuition, being open, trusting. I don’t remember his explaining the details about the actual philosophy but he showed it in his daily life. Hard working, embracing challenges, seeing opportunities and hardships as lessons to be learned, love of family, love of life, caring, sharing, giving, non-judgement.
One thing Bob taught me was to listen to my heart. He told me the story of how he met Toni, both walking their dogs on the beach. In no time it seems, they knew and were married. I listen more now, and as a result, my life and relationships are better.

While I regret loosing track of Bob, I can’t thank him enough for being there when I so needed a brother, someone to look up to, to talk to, to ask questions, to learn from.

Thanks Bob, where ever you are. Just wanted you to know how much you mean to me. Now, I think, you know. I’ll see you on the other side.When Friends

Stop Monkeying Around

Stop Monkeying Around

Picture 051.jpg

I have a friend named Earl, who in many ways is like a big brother to me.  Our experiences are profoundly different.  It is not just age.  His life has followed a path that I would never nor could ever follow.  He is a cherub of a man, round and bald, but sweet, kind and funny.  He is full of stories from earlier days of hardship, of fighting, of harsh words, of pain, and resilience.  He is a man that has done what he must.  He is also generous.  He writes poetry, will print it out, frame it and give it as gifts.  And he will buy books that he thinks you will like and write sweet encouraging words on the inside cover.  I was the recipient of poetry and books.  Recently, he gave me “The Daily Stoic” 366 Meditations on wisdom, perseverance and the art of living.  I am a fan of Brene Brown.  He is not.  He says everything she says was written down years ago by wise men, thus the book.  

Copy (2) of on the bikert+on+scooter+2

Picture taken before enlightenment.  And After enlightenment.

For every day of the year, there is a quotation and then commentary by the editors.  Here is the quote from July 8th, my birthday.  “Enough of this miserable, whining life.  Stop monkeying around.  Why are you troubled?  What’s so confounding? The one responsible?  Take a good look.  Or just the matter itself?  Then look at that.  There’s nothing else to look at.  And as far as gods go, by now you could try being more straightforward and kind.  It’s the same, whether you’ve examined these things for a hundred years, or only three.”  –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.37

The editors go on to say that “Character,” Joan Didion would write in one of her best essays “ the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life –is the source from which self-respect springs.”  


In my dealings with students in my 27 year long career in education, with people I encounter, there seems to be those that have pain and suffer, and others that have pain and deal with it.  Some even work to derive benefit from from hardship.  There are those that seem confused as to the origin of their pain, and others that accept that where they are today, is a result and consequence of a life of decisions, that put them in the place they are in.  Some make decisions based on what is easy, and pain relieving, while others are willing to tolerate the discomfort and pain for a great good or greater gain.  Consistently, those that have a long range perspective tend to do better, or seem to have an easier life.

I am fortunate to having had some good mentors along the way, and made few choices that damaged me too much.  Oh, sure, some metal in my hip from a car wreck, my fault for not wearing a seat belt.  I would be more financially stable if not for withdrawing money from my retirement too early, and I would be slimmer and fitter if not for the desire for immediate satisfaction of that creamy doughnut washed down with some hot sweet coffee.  Since my mid twenties, I’ve been searching for answers, little by little, unsatisfied with the fantasy that traditional religions provides.  

What mistakes in judgement I’ve made along the way, I attribute to lack of discipline, or laziness at times.  Other mistakes, were well intentioned, and these are often in the area of relationships.  My marriage of ten years was not wasted time, but it was not easy.  Like kayaking down a river with class four rapids, with only class 2 skills, it was rocky to say the least.  But many valuable lessons were learned the hard way.  I can relate to the saying “The man that carries the cat by the tail can learn the lesson no other way.”

For those that seem to be doing things that I find irrational, unproductive, or even destined to make life even more difficult, I try to remind myself “Not my monkey, not my circus.” or “the man that carries the cat by the tail can learn the lesson no other way”, or from my Al Anon days, “I didn’t create it, can’t control it, can’t cure it.” And finally “Bless them, heal me.”  

Who am I with my limited perspective to think I know what someone else should do with their life?  It is not my place to figure it out for someone else.  All the resources are available for most anyone looking to make their life better, or so it seems.  But maybe not.  I’ve not had it as bad as some folks.  I was spared the genetics that lead to addictions, or mental illness.  I was blessed with good schools, and came up in the 70’s when the economy was more rewarding. I escaped the horrors of war, being too young for the draft. A college education was cheap, and I had the benefit of being strong and healthy.

So I ask, what is missing from my perspective?  I’ve open to your insights.

rt n dd after kayaking June 2016