He was a gentle man. You might not guess that at first meeting. But he was. And a gentleman to boot. A gentle man, who took no bullshit. But he’d laugh it off without a lingering thought, and just move on, whereas my grumblings would linger.
He taught me much in our short times together over the years. We were young men when we met in the midwest that October day. It struck me recently that I do, indeed, miss him. We weren’t that close, except when we were together. Then we were inseparable, almost identical roguish twins from different mothers. The rogue part I mean. We didn’t look at all alike, even in our younger days. Robert had wild, longish hair and a bushy mustache. Me, clean shaven, short hair, more buttoned-down looking.
But he was the sophisticated rogue. Six fluent European languages and a good European education meant he was unmatched. I was the junior, more inept one. He was a classical music fanatic. Me? Well I was pretty good at British Invasion musical trivia. He taught me so much. Mostly, he gave me an example of how to approach, and appreciate life.
And he showed me his easy sophistication. He taught me how to buy jewelry from a private Swiss jeweler in Bern. The best quiet bars in Zermatt. The just perfect French phrasing to use on a snotty Paris hotel doorman. But I got even when they mistook me for a French count for that whole week at the Palace in St. Moritz. It was moi who got us the prime table every evening in the discotheque, bypassing the long lineup of mere multimillionaires.
We used to get into trouble. Robert always had the perfect plan for our evening fun. Luckily I was always that one beer behind at 3am, to have the wits to be able to get us out of that perfect plan when something went wrong.
And then would come the laugh. From deep inside of him. That moved all the way up to the squinting, laughing brown eyes. It was forever there when we sped back to the hotel when we inevitably managed to escape whatever fix we were in. Or when we met at the bar waiting for the other’s long flight to arrive.
He lived his life to the fullest measure I could ever imagine. He was his own man to the end. Wouldn’t let his condition get him down, interfere with the full measure.
I miss you Robert. I have yet much to learn.