Measure Of A Man

Robert was my mother's bestfriend's husband. They all met during college.. my mother, stepfather, Shannon and Robert. I am my mother's only child, and my stepfather's marriage and he doesn't have any kids of his own.. Shannon and Robert had three children, one of which is my age. Being that I never had brothers and sisters, and that our families are so close, I more or less, grew up at their house. It was cool because it was different over at their house.. snack and junk food galore, it was always loud.. kids and dogs running around.. Donkey Kong wars on Nintendo.. the girls always hung up posters of Jonathon Taylor Thomas, which we would tear down and rip up -- everything at my house, on the other hand, was very controlled.. so, it was different, you know? Robert had a twin brother who's name was Earl. Earl had one daughter and she was mine and Sallie's age, and she was like my first girlfriend, I guess. All of the girls in their family are gorgeous.. fair white skin, extremely petite, dark brown hair.. the features come from Robert's side of the family. Robert and Earl were in the construction business, they owned a business together, and Earl lived in the basement at their house. Earl had had a history with drugs, he had also lost his wife, and he just had a hard time dealing in general.. you know? But, I was so young at the time that I don't remember, or didn't know all too much about it. Anyway, one day Robert found Earl attempting to commit suicide.. and he would do so two more times before Earl was found in his car - exhaust pipe stuffed. Like I said, we were so young when it happened, and it was such a big deal.. it's all real hazy. Turned out, that wasn't all.. the building that Robert and Earl owned for their business had burned to the ground just before he died - and the cause of the fire was Arson. Earl had set fire to it for the insurance. Now that he was dead, and the cops knew he had set the fire, they believed Robert was involved and he was sent to prison.. for a long time. Shannon and Robert's basement is pretty big, and is set like an apartment.. a bedroom, living room, kitchen, office, and another living area.. but after that, the basement was always very creepy to me. Robert's incarceration brought our two families even closer. My mother had started her own catering business before I around the time. I think I was in 2nd grade or something? And during the beginning, she and my stepfather had been doing it all from the kitchen out of our house. My grandfather was in the commercial real-estate business, and when he saw how well my mother was starting to do, he bought a 2 story house that is used as an office building and allowed my mother to set up shop - allowing her, also, to expand her own business. My mother loves Shannon, and her kids.. and Robert. So, she basically helped support Shannon and their family while Robert was away, and Shannon worked for my mother as well.. *Fast forward to 2009* -- It seems like he just got out of prison.. only, it's been maybe a few or so.. 2009 was a horrible year for me.. it was the year that I turned 25, had my little mid-mid life crises, was released from jail the morning of my 25th at 5 a.m. and sat in the pouring rain as I waited about an hour for a taxi in a city where it only takes 5 minutes or so for a taxi to get to you anywhere, anytime usually. I was prescribed to benzos.. heavily. The balcony of my apartment sat right above the tennis court, and I would sit out there, drink beer and Jack Daniels, and I'd play guitar.. the people playing tennis would actually enjoy it.. and would talk to my friends and I, on my 3 floor balcony from the tennis court.. my friend Rusty and I would both play acoustic guitar and sing. This one day, I was especially high from the pills.. we were out on my balcony playing and I was wearing a pair of Fear and Loathing sunglasses and video recording us on my old BB Storm. I went inside for a minute to get a mid-day beer, when I heard a knock on my door.. I was extremely paranoid in general during that time, from all the pill use, and I took a 45. with me everywhere I went. So, I looked through the peephole and there was Robert.. (this actually has me smiling right now, thinking about it.. though I wasn't laughing at the time) He's standing there with his hands on his waist and his head high.. this is a man who graduated from the Citadel and was a college rugby star.. his presence was very intimidating.. always. I open the door and he has the same half-grin he always has, and he welcomes himself in.. he looks around as he walks in and I shut the door.. then turns back and looks me up and down real good.. he askes me who is at my apartment and I introduce the two of them and he asks my friend to give us some privacy as we walk out on the balcony and close the french doors. "Boy, you can do better than this." I keep my eyes focused on the floor as I nod. "You know how much I care about you, and how much I appreciate your mother and all she has done for my wife and family.. she was there for my family when I couldn't be.." * Still focusing on the floor * "They said they won't help you out of this, so, I am. I paid both of your fines (just a tad over 3 grand) and you're going to work for me for the time being. -- * Fast forward to July of 2010. I am in rehab out in Tucson, Arizona. I get a card from Robert one day saying, "I'm proud of you, son.. but you let your mother down and I will stick my foot in your ***.. seriously, I really will stick my foot in your ***." - Love, Robert. -- * Fast forward one more time to today * My cell phone rings early this morning and it's my mother.. "Hey, baby.." (Something must be wrong) "I have bad news.. Robert has died." (Huh?) -- I found out while working for Robert, that he, himself, had a pill and alcohol problem. -- Right after I had gotten out of rehab, back in 2011, Shannon's mother died, I was very close to her. My mother was supposed to do the eulogy or whatever.. and had worked pretty hard on what she wrote, which included something from Shannon and her siblings.. but woke up the morning of, sick. I was already dressed and ready to go, my mother was in panic mode.. I knew it was a long shot, but, I say "Momma, I'll do it." She looks at me in a way she never had.. with confidence, with relief. I had never been anything but a constant stress, let alone would I have been trusted to do something like this, that was important to so many people. She called Shannon to tell her, Shannon never questions her.. but I can feel the doubt all around up until the preacher calls me up to speak. The oldest daughter's husband even volunteered when they told him that I was going to do it. Much to my own disbeleif, I didn't stumble over one word as I read.. then I added something real short of my own, an inside joke between myself and Shannon's mother.. *everyone laughs for a second and I feel relief* Afterwards I'm greeted by family and family friends whom I'd known, how much they appreciated it and how proud my mother would've been to see it.. my mother told me about all the phone calls she recieved following the funeral of people calling her to tell her about it. Robert was waiting off to the side smiling, waiting for the crowd to die down before pulling me off to the side and we walk to his truck to get out of the cold and so he can speak to me.. our conversations were always in private. As soon as I shut my door, I look over and he's grinning at me all big.. "I'm not even going to lie to you, son, I didn't know how that was going to go.. but I'm proud of you.. 'all cleaned up' after rehab.. I think you're becoming a man." He looks over at me with his head kinda laid back relaxing, and smiles. -- So, in all this, it has made me think again as to, what makes a man? What is a man? So many men struggle to take care of their wife and their family.. pressures of work.. and all the while trying to maintain his image of a 'man'. I've come to this much for sure, ao far.. "A man = calm and collected on the surface, at times crumbling underneath." But you can't let it show.. you have to be strong.. for her, for your kids, for your image of a man. Robert's business had recently gone under, but that wasn't the beginning of his struggle. He ended his own life with a pistol yesterday afternoon. I will always be gratful for and love him.
ruca28 ruca28
31-35, M
6 Responses May 13, 2012

What an incredible story, very well written...thank you for sharing! So very sad, I am sorry for your loss...he seems to have been a guiding light during some dark moments.

That was touching. Makes me think, if more people didn't judge and really got to know someone for who they are and what they had to offer, one just might find someone special that can make a difference in their life. Sorry for you loss, thank you for sharing your memories.

I'm so thrilled to hear you're Christian, thank you for making my day, and for your condolences...much appreciated!

Truly evidence that everyone comes into our lives for a reason, season or lifetime. For you, Robert was there for a reason and a lifetime. May you find peace and comfort in knowing he helped set you on the straight and narrow path. You have an opportunity to honor his memory by continuing to stay on that path, grow and evolve. Time will help heal the intense pain, grief, sorrow that I know you're feeling right now. I lost a son right before his 19th birthday, on my mom's birthday, and 3 days before Christmas. I know first-hand, you never get over it, you only get through it, and if you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, please take the time to seek him out...he loves and cares for you deeply, and will make sure others are there for you just when you need someone most. He sent total strangers to care for me the day I learned my son had died.

Thank you, that was sweet.. and I am Christian (Presbyterian) and I'm sorry for your loss.

Thank you, I appreciate that. Namaste

So sorry for your loss... may time ease your sorrow and may you find peace in the happy memories... be strong and honor your friend by continuing to grow into the man he wanted you to be... namaste