Friday, November 11, 2011

Keep on Keepin' on

I have mentioned Rob, mentor and close friend, in earlier posts. Rob was about ten years older than I, personable, funny, knowledgeable to some extent about nearly everything. I met Rob in 1971, I think, in Boston. When I worked at Blue Cross there he was my vice-president. He took a senior vice-pesidency at Blue Cross in Chicago in 1979 and surprised me by offering me a vice-presidency there, which I accepted.

We ran together off and on throughout the years in Boston, then non-stop from 1979 to 1983 in Chicago. At that point I left Blue Cross and we saw each other less frequently but kept in touch.

A year or two later he left Chicago, got divorced and married again, and ultimately settled in Georgia. It's the state he was from, but that was a coincidence.

By then, "keeping in touch" pretty much meant a phone call every three or four years, but the conversations were always long and full of laughs.

He fell prey to Alzheimer's Disease, and in the early stages his wife had to separate him from the internet, as he was sending emails containing some lurid stories which he presented as fact, which was highly unlikely.

About six months ago I asked a mutual friend (and former girlfriend of Rob), Maryellen, what she'd heard from or about Rob. She was horrified to learn that I didn't know that he had died "quite a while ago." I googled him and found his obit, and he had been gone for three years.

Although we hadn't seen each other for perhaps twenty-five years, for me the world is emptier now.

This has been a strange year in that regard. My best friend in Vietnam (1966) was Fred. It is quite normal, you might even say routine, for Army friends to lose track of each other, and when we left Vietnam for different assignments that was the last I saw of him.

I never forgot him, and when the internet came along I began searching for him. He had a slightly unusual name, and I found only one person with that name, a resident of McMinnville, Tennessee. I called and it was the wrong Fred.

Around 1997 or so I left a message on a site that was designed to help Vietnam veterans contact each other. I just said I wanted to know that he was out there somewhere and left my email address.

I kept looking and a few years ago found that he had been promoted and gone back to Vietnam around 1970, but that was all I ever found.

Several months ago I got an email from a woman who said "I think you are looking for my grandfather." This wasn't going to end well. If he was alive she'd have let *him* know, not me.

I sent her the details I had about knowing him in Corpus Christi, Texas and in Vietnam, and found the two pictures of him that I knew I had somewhere, scanned them, and sent them to her.

She is Fred's granddaughter, although they never met. Fred took his own life in 1972, shortly before she was born, leaving no information as to why.

It does seem strange that I was still looking for him thirty-nine years after he died, but many things that happened before the advent of the internet haven't made it there yet.

I guess I'm thinking of him today because of Veterans Day, and because a couple of days ago his granddaughter emailed me. She checks on me every three or four weeks.

I hope Rob and Fred are the only two I find out about this year.

Keep on keepin' on, y'hear?


Just Another Wannabe said...

How very sad. Makes me wonder what happened to all the people I've met over the years.

I've only ever had one close friend (other than family) that I could talk to about anything, and we haven't spoken except in short spurts for more than 20 years because his wife refuses to believe we were never more than good friends. There was never anything romantic between us, but there was a closeness neither of us had with anyone else. Sadder still? We live only 15 minutes apart.

But I do understand what you mean when you say the world feels a bit emptier. I think in some ways it's even worse when the person you lost really isn't lost at all - just absent from your life, for the silliest of reasons.

I guess we should never take anyone or anything for granted.

Dramlin said...

JAW: that's very sad -- I have never understood how someone can distrust something they claim to love and still stay with them. People. Who can understand them.
Sinner Man: I found out my grandmother was dead about two years after the fact, because my father didn't see fit to mention it to me. She had Alzheimer's and I was living in another state, and must admit I was quite angry when I found out.
You better keep on keeping on too, you hear?

BrokenDownProgrammer said...

Hey, you two.

I'm pretty slow, and it took me a minute to decode "JAW."

But I got "Sinner Man" right away. Ah ha ha ha ha ha. Could be the name of a song, don'cha think? Or a great name for a rock band.

Seriously, I was a little down for a while over each of these bits of news, especially the suicide. Rob was in his late seventies and none of us lives forever, but Fred would have been only in his forties.

It *is* a shame when third party jealousy comes between friends, and I do *not* understand anyone who would deliberately not notify someone of a grandmother's death.

Just Another Wannabe said...

BDP - I have a very hard time believing there's anything slow about you! lol But I know "feeling down" all too well. Don't ever let yourself fall so far down into that abyss that you forget you have friends who are just an email away. It's way too hard crawling back out sometimes. Hey, yeah - that'd make a great song title!

Hey Dramlin - Good to "see" you again. I hope all is well with you.

Dramlin said...

Gee, the name of a song huh? Who'd have thought? ;-)
JAW: good to see you again too, busy working from home these days and loving it!