My Friend Bob
Today is National Read a Book Day and it reminded me of my friend Bob.
July 21, 2008... page 876... a hand-written xeroxed letter arrives in the mail from Yasnaya Polyana Plantation, Shannon, Mississippi. It's from my friend Bob.
Bob lived life in his own unique way. I had lost touch with Bob after high school until a few years ago when a fellow classmate told me that Bob had written some books of short stories and indeed I was in one of his stories entitled "St. Valentine's Day". Some of his stories were about the people from our home town. Names were changed but often times rhymed with the actual name which made for interesting reading to figure out who these characters were. The next thing I knew, a stack of Bob's books was mailed to my house. I also came to find out that Bob had a mailing list of friends to whom he would send letters with consecutively numbered pages about once a month or as the spirit moved him and of course I wanted to be on his mailing list.
Bob was what I would call eccentric. He had his share of demons to fight in life but he had a gift for writing, was passionate about books, was a history buff and had a soft spot in his heart for animals as well as people who were down and out. Quite exemplary, I would say. Bob lived on a plantation and grew sunflowers and soybeans and had a rent house on the property. He had spent his early years in the military and now lived in Mississippi. Now this was the amazing thing... he had no tv, no computer, had lost his license to driving under the influence but still periodically would drive his car into Tupelo on occasion. Otherwise, he rode his bike to where he had to go. He wrote books. He wrote letters, and would expound on whatever was happening or on his mind at the time. Sometimes his words were "in your face" explicit and not always politically correct, and other times his writing would tug at your heart strings. Each letter would arrive with several interesting stamps on the envelope and each envelope was sealed with exactly 9 pieces of tape.
I bring all of this up now as I came across a few more of his letters as I was tidying my computer room, and this particular letter told about his love for his "small cat with golden tail and golden ears, weighing only 5 lbs., youngest daughter of Portia." Her name was Whitenik. After recently losing my feral cat OC, I sat down to reread his letter and tears came to my eyes. He wrote: "I was with Whitenik when she came into the world and I was with her when she went out." And it seems that Whitenik was born on Friday the 13th. Bob had a knack for documenting the details.
In essence... this letter was an obituary to honor Whitenik's life. You see, she had a bout with a respiratory illness, was "medevacked to Tupelo Small Animal Hospital in the cat taxi", and received antibiotics and IV's, was force fed and received eye drops and her situation improved to the point that she could return home ("given her discharge papers") on June 25, 2008 ("the 132 anniversary of Custer's Last Stand"). On the 26th, she ran out the front door. "Hippety-hop she went out to greet the world, all green below and all blue above. She must have been really happy just then." She returned late evening but alas, on the 28th, she took a turn for the worse and subsequently died.
She spent some time in the freezer and then her remains were placed in her final casket on a "nice mattress and a little silken pillow with flowers embroidered into it. Atop the casket I placed the Stars and Bars. And in the small hours of the 29th, I went out to lower the Mississippi flag to half staff. I expect a fair number of guests at her funeral where there will be a reading of Christopher Smart's (1722-1770) poem: For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry. This poem was not published until 1954, almost 200 years after it's composition. It is a work of great genius and insight."
"She leaves behind her five sisters and three brothers. They are Polkovnik, Dounia, Jackson, Nitchevo, Pearl, Posner, Jeff Davis, and Georgia Boy." He included the dates of their birth.
His final words of tribute: "And I hope that Whitenik's last walk in the world the day she scooted out the door was a wonderful one. That she met a flower, a tree, a kindly fair breeze and that the sun made her rejoice again."
He added a PS to his letter by saying... "This letter will go with Whitenik in the casket. Then 10,000 years from now someone may learn her story."
Sadly, Bob unexpectedly died two years ago this month of a heart attack. I had taken a photo of my grandchildren looking at the stamps on the envelopes of his letters with a magnifying glass and was planning on sending him a photo as I thought he would enjoy it, but it was too late. And I thought it was sad that Bob never used a computer to share his work, his thoughts and his talent with the world, but then again, his way was more personal.
Bob was a quirky and kind-hearted person in his own unique way. My sympathy to his brother Jim and all his friends who will miss his writing and his monthly updates.
May you rest in peace...
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