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A bit about Bob, and a few other things.

Hi Kids 🙂

It’s been a long couple of months. After surgery and a few weeks recovery I went back to work. I have never been so exhausted.  I’m finally getting a handle on that, but it’s been a slow road.

As for the website, the site will go on, however it’s up to all of you to take over the story telling. I don’t have any further information to share, unless it’s about the reunion in Cody later this year, or any other PSA’s that I can help with. So with that, I’m officially requesting that each of you reading this go ahead and write a couple of paragraphs about your time in Saigon, or memories of Bob, if you were personal friends there. It was his wish that this site went on, so please help me out and give me some stories to post. You can submit them through the Contact form that’s on the sidebar. Thank you.

Bob not only left a big hole in my heart, but also a seemingly unending list of things to take care of. I’m just doing what I can now to tie up the loose ends.  I have one more trip to his hometown in Missouri to take care of things there, and then it’s just a matter of final communications and disbursements.  I am very much looking forward to having that part of it behind me. Hopefully by the end of April it will all be done.

One good thing is that I have had the privilege of meeting and spending time with his extended family. They are wonderful people and they had some stories to tell about Bob.  They called him 2Bob because his dad was also Bob, and 2Bob hated that name. So of course, now we all refer to him as 2Bob when we’re together, kind of joking and knowing that he’s smiling down on our poking fun at him. There were, of course, a few interesting things that I learned from his cousins that Bob hadn’t shared with me.  They told me about the parties that he had at the “big house” and his brush with the law when he was younger, long before we met. I have been in constant touch with them since December and they have become family to me too. I have handed over his and his parents remaining ashes to them when I was down there a few weeks ago, and they are taking care of the interment.  I am so grateful for all the help and love that they’ve shown me. They are truly remarkable people. They loved Bob as much as he’d let them, mostly from a distance. They were also very close to Bob’s parents.  His Mom’s younger sister is still there and she and I spent some time getting to know each other. I am so thankful they have been part of this with me.

Bob moved around a lot. Since Saigon he’d lived in at least 8 different states, sometimes maintaining 2 homes at a time.  He wasn’t good with authority figures, so working for someone else was not his way. He always owned his own businesses, and always had 2 more on the back burner if needed.  He told me that his employees thought he was fair but strict. I could completely see that about him. His businesses mostly either revolved around real estate/property management or later in life he did cabinetry/furniture building. It was a pretty high intensity life with the real estate stuff.

He lived in Alabama for a while, building furniture and breeding beagles.  My dog is half beagle and he didn’t like how I spoil her (because you don’t spoil hunting dogs), but he’s also the one that taught her to beg for table scraps so that argument was tossed right out the window. She’s also half rottweiler and very much not a hunting dog unless you count barking at anything that moves. She’s lost a couple of pounds in the last 2 months because she’s not begging at the table anymore. She misses him too, but mostly the rice balls that he’d feed her because he liked to spice up his vegan dishes and they would have upset her, so there was always rice for the dog, even if he wasn’t having any.

Bob gave his Alabama life/business up when his Dad got sick and had spent the year just before I met him helping his parents. His dad passed in Hawaii, where his parents had retired to after leaving their service to our Diplomat Corps in Asia. Dad was also a Marine Vet and WWII hero. Bob idolized him and rightly so.  Bob moved his mom back to their hometown after his dad passed. His mom passed shortly after that, and that’s about the time we met.

For the last 25 years of his life, from Alabama on, he gave up the real estate business and turned his skills with cabinetry and furniture making into an income that was enough to support him. He enjoyed the solitude of it, and didn’t think twice about no longer having high pressure quotas to meet and traveling all of the time. He also tried his hand at internet marketing. He was always talking about the next best way that he was going to make millions for his retirement, but somehow none of that ever worked much.  Small successes here and there kept him going though.

While he was caring for his mom, they lived in a beautiful big (3500 sq ft) house in Missouri, on 20 acres, with a pond and an outbuilding that he’d turned into his wood shop. I visited him there many times. It was so peaceful. Much more peaceful than my life in the city, and some of my favorite memories of him are getting up early and sitting on the back deck together watching the barn swallows hunt the flying bugs around the pond before starting our day. We watched a lot of sunsets from the front porch too. He bought that house so mom would be comfortable after living in a house that overlooked the ocean in Hawaii. The pond was small but at least there was scenery there for mom.  It was beautiful and peaceful, but more than he could handle on his own so he gave it up.

When he moved here, he brought his tool shop and set up in my garage.  He built bunk beds as his main gig. They were easy and in demand. His business took off pretty quickly here because there’s literally about 10 million people within 50 miles of my house and some of them wanted good bunk beds.  He also, occasionally, built some beautiful custom furniture. I have several pieces gracing my house, and I love them. He was quite skilled and woodworking was kind of a meditation for him. He was completely focused on making every element the best it could be, and his furniture showed it.

He was the same way with this website.  He worked on the idea for months before it launched. He wanted it to be the best it could. He’d pre-planned every page, every topic, and every little thing that he had in the side bars, and he loved that people were finding it and spreading the word. We talked about all of it, and I was along with him for the proverbial ride with this site. He was so hopeful that it would reach the people that he remembered from what was probably his favorite time of life. Saigon, in the years before the war, before any real violence, when he was there, was a place where he could do what he wanted, for the most part, as a 16 year old Man. He was always sensitive that there were Saigon Kids after him that didn’t have such a good experience as things got darker there, but he had some insane stories of stuff that he pulled off as a teenager that he’d never have gotten away with in the states. He was a wild child. It was those memories that drove him to making this site.  He gave a lot of hours to learning web mastering, SEO, word press, and everything else that he needed to know. I helped him at first but he surpassed my knowledge pretty quickly. He could learn anything he put his mind to.

Bob and I met on line at a point in our lives where we were both grieving and going through major transitions. His mother was dying, and I was going through an ugly divorce. We became friends and talked constantly, and 18 months later when he needed a home and I needed a roommate, I invited him to live at my comparatively little house on my 1/4 acre of land in the Chicago suburbs. The only pond I have happens when it rains and the yard floods. It was a culture shock for him after living in the country for many years, but he never complained. He brought up a truckload of tools and finished goods to sell, and took up residence with me. The rest is a very boring story of day to day life, that included him building furniture in the garage during the day and cooking most of our dinners while I worked my day job. The year after he moved in, I had back surgery and then went through a cancer scare. He did so much for me during that time, I will forever be thankful.  When he got sick with a lung infection that affected his heart and nearly died 2 years ago, as well as last when he got sick again last October, I was able to return the favor. It was not a great romance. We never really hit it off that way, but it was a comfortable, peaceful coexistence with someone that was slightly more than just a friend. We supported each other through some major things, and learned a lot from each other.

Bob never stopped learning. As a life long student myself, it’s one of the things I respected the most about him. His grades were terrible in High School. I found some of his report cards that he’d kept and they made me laugh. True to form, he didn’t want to learn what they were teaching. He never did do things the way any of the authorities required. His grades showed that. Later in life, he’d study things that interested him for weeks on the internet. He’d learn it from every angle and be able to argue its tenets it to anyone willing to discuss it. In his final few years he’d become a fairly strict vegan, and preached the vegan life until the day he died. Both times that he was in the hospital, we joked that he needed to get out of the hospital because the food there was killing people. I was bringing him food from home because it literally made him sicker to eat their mass produced hospital food. He legitimately had cured himself of heart disease and kept lung cancer at bay for several years through nutrition. He was passionate about sharing his story, and teaching people how to start living healthier.  He had just enrolled in a course to get certified as a nutrition and life coach, and he intended to spread the world far and wide about how all health issues can be solved by nutrition. It was the thing that he was most passionate about and it occupied most of his time for the last few years. He couldn’t build bunk beds anymore after the heart failure prevented heavy lifting, but he could and did do everything he could to learn what would keep him alive longer.  His cardiologist became a good friend while Bob was in the hospital in December. He’d sit with Bob on his breaks and just shoot the breeze. He respected Bob and was amazed that he’d come back almost completely from nearly total heart failure. He’d never seen that happen with meds, but food and exercise had done it and the doctor was amazed. That kind of thing was how Bob wanted to change the world. If he could get a few doctors preaching lifestyle instead of meds, that made him exceedingly hopeful for the future of medicine.  He was after all, the living evidence that diet matters.  He was disappointed that I never got on that bandwagon with him, because of course he thought it would be best for me. I am allergic to too many vegetables, and his juices were not for the weak stomached. He never stopped trying, in a gentle way, to get me to eat less meat, or more greens.  He just kept setting the example, and studying on how to make himself healthier. That’s how he was.  I, of course, resisted. I still can’t see myself doing what he did, but my diet has changed for the better, and I’m doing OK.

Bob was full of contradictions if you look at his life as a whole. He lived fast and big for a long time, but was happiest in his country house working in solitude. When I met him he was deeply humble and very spiritual and just went about his day to day with love in his heart trusting that things would be all right. He taught me about things like the I Ching, and some of the ceremonies and customs that he’d learned along the way from different Shaman and Kahunas. Learning about his previous life in the fast lane was kind of a shocker for me because that is not how he presented himself, but over the years I could see where he integrated the lessons he learned during that time into his way of being. He loved telling stories about his younger years but he’d finish most of them with “glad I don’t have to do that anymore”.

His best friend here was my next door neighbor who is a refugee from the Sandinistas in El Salvador.  He had great respect for what Jorge had been through and what he’s made of himself here through hard work and help from family, and they talked a lot about that. He made sure to tell me that Jorge would take care of me if I ever needed help. He was right. Jorge and I have had many conversations about Bob in the last couple of months. It’s nice to have that. He’s also helping me with a couple of things that Bob left behind to finish. It’s also nice to have that.

Bob also left me in your care. He loved his friends from Saigon, and asked specifically that I keep this site going. I’ve heard from a few of you and I truly appreciate the kindness that you have shown.  I hope I have given you a glimpse of this very private man, without violating too much of his privacy.  His favorite thing to do was talk story- A tradition that he learned while living in Hawaii after High school, and again later in the late 70’s/early 80’s. It’s hard to summarize a life that I’ve heard in 1000 stories into a few short paragraphs, but here it is.

Enough grief. Bob would want us to celebrate his life, with some loud music and ba muoi ba.

Rock onnnnn Bob, wherever you are.

Now back to being a site about all of you, Saigon Kids.

Peace.

Mel

 

 

 

2 comments to A bit about Bob, and a few other things.

  • Damn this pandemic! Being of the senior age, my wife and I have been in quarantine these many months. But about a year ago I began looking forward to marking the 60th anniversary of my arrival in Saigon. I recall the oven blast that hit my face as I deplaned at Tan Son Nguyen.

    We’ve got two Vietnamese restaurants near to our house. The anniversary of my arrival in Saigon was on July 13. Today is August 14. I completely forgot to go eat a bowl of pho. Damn you pandemic!

  • Melanie

    Happy Anniversary Bruce! This pandemic is messing with everyone. I have a Pho restaurant near me here but I haven’t tried it yet. Bob made his own version for our dinner on many evenings and it was delicious. I don’t want to spoil those memories. You can still celebrate a day late. Go have some Pho 🙂
    Peace,
    Mel

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