At the prayer service for my buddy Rob, I wasn’t able to bring myself to get up and speak. It was something I should have done, but this is what I meant to say.
Rob was a Yankees fan and yet he went to at least a dozen Twins games with me. Those were trips that I’ll forever cherish. We spent a lot of time talking about life, families, and exploits we did or wished we’d have done.
He was a sports savant. His memory of sporting events was incredible. I’d throw out something like, “1974 NBA Finals” and he’d name the teams with extensive details. I used to Google his answers, until they all turned out to be correct. One day we walked a golf course he’d played in college and he recalled the clubs he used and shots he made. I have no reason to doubt anything he said.
Rob had an incredible caring for others. His heart especially broke for people with AIDS and kids who didn’t have opportunities. He didn’t think I should go to Haiti, that I should help people in the corners of the U.S. Not that he was against the people there, just that he saw so much need here.
He was pretty old school. Refused to use email, until his colleagues made him. Wouldn’t get a cell phone until his family made him. I remember when I got the first text from him. I was amazed – until I found out that it was his wife transcribing. As his illness progressed, he got pretty adept with an iPad to keep up with sports and the world.
He had a deep love for his family. Losing his dad to lung cancer was devastating and he worried much about his mom and sister. We were in Minneapolis ready to go into a basketball game when his mother-in-law died. We drove back immediately to be with his wife and family but also because he had such a great relationship with her.
He was so proud of his kids. He was blessed with a grandson before his passing, but he wanted to watch him grow. Wanted to walk his daughter down an aisle one day. Like all marriages there were some ups and downs, but he was amazed that their relationship grew tighter the more ill he became. He wanted to get old and grouchy with his beautiful wife.
Other than my own wife he was my best friend. We could be brutally honest with each other and it never affected how we felt later. We laughed a lot. We shared things we’ve shared with no one else.
A couple things happened at the end of Rob’s life that I can’t explain. We were able to visit Rob a couple times in the hospital before we left for a trip to San Diego. I could clearly hear him saying to me several times on the trip, “It will be OK.” This took on a new meaning when he passed away. We were trying to make it back to say goodbye to him, but our flight was delayed in Minneapolis. While in the waiting area I had this clear sense of peace. I looked at my watch and it was 10:25pm, the time I found out later they removed the ventilator.
We disagreed on every sports team, but especially in baseball. He would remind me of the 27 World Series championships of the Yankees. I’d have to listen to the endless details about Derek Jeter and many other players. I’d get repeated stories on how his dad got to meet Yankee greats like Mickey Mantle. So in closing, I have to come clean. The morning of the funeral, I slipped a couple Twins cards inside the jacket of this Yankees fan. I figured there wasn’t much he could do about it this time.
This is what I meant to say.