Monday, March 15, 2010

What About Bob

We're outside, puttering, when Bob hollers over. "When ya leavin?"

Bob's one of the hard-core anglers here in Padre Island National Seashore. He's been camped here or near here since November and fishes just about every day. Despite cold, wind and rain. And age. Bob is 71.

He leaves his waders outside to dry, so it always looks like there's another person over there at Bob's. And often, there is.

Bob's a people magnet. I looked up from my book one day and saw Bob climb out of his aging fifth wheel and start to work on something -- a bent fishing pole, a rusty generator, maybe he's filleting some fish. The next time I look up there are three other men there, one with a dog.

So today, Bob wants to know when we are leaving, because he wants to fish us some fish. (Look closely at the picture and you'll see the fish he just caught.) He offers the fish as a thank you for the chili I sent over the other day as a thank you for letting us hook up to his generator for a day. The thank yous never end here. It's kinda nice.

Bob says the chili (I notice his eyes start glistening) tastes almost like that that his wife had made for him -- the wife who died two years ago, just across the street, while the two of them were camping here. Lung cancer.

Linda Jean, was her name. She was his third and fifth wife (he married her twice). The others meant nothing, because combined, he and Linda Jean were married 36 years. Just two years before his wife died, his 18-year-old son Timmy died. In a car accident, while delivering newspapers. He says losing his wife was hard, but losing his son was fatal. He feels he died the day his son died. His son, his funny, gentle, loving son. The 300-plus people at his son's funeral gave Bob a stand ovation for his eulogy to his special son.

Bob says he doesn't believe in God because where was God for those two minutes Timmy needed him to save his life. Then he shows me letters from long-time friends who do believe in God. And send prayers his way. He has lots of friends and writes about 24 letters a month, just keeping in touch.

Bob unfolds his life to us in 20 minutes, all this while we stand here in the street. Eventually, I decline the offer of fish (Allen doesn't eat fish and I don't want the smell in our motor home) and walk back across the street. Then, and I don't really know why, I turn around and holler back, "We're here for four more days."

Maybe deep down I want to accept his thank you, for our thank you. Because, after all, Bob is so nice, and anyway, it's kinda nice when the thank yous never end. 

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