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Day 2 of a Month of Writing: Brother Bob’s Birthday

Bob & Me in '63

Bob & Me in ’63

For years he was my oldest brother Robert. Bob was my grandpa, Bob was my uncle and Rob was my cousin (who was born on Robert’s 5th Birthday). Teammates and coaches started calling him Bob in high school, it stuck and eventually only members of my parents generation called him by his given name.

I’ve known him my whole life, I made my debut one summer while he was on hiatus from elementary school. His birthday marks the start of a new year for me more aptly than Baby New Year himself. When September second lands on a Monday Bob’s birthday is a national holiday. More than just an age changer, his birthday marks the end of summer and march toward fall, a new school year. On his eighteenth birthday  (when the drinking age in Minnesota was eighteen) his birthday was the day he moved to college. A lot of new freedoms for one of the youngest in the freshman class. He settled into campus life with his roommate, high school classmate and football teammate whose name also was Bob. Why  complicate things? I was at home starting my final year of elementary school.

An even bigger milestone was the year his birthday landed on the first day of ninth grade, the birthday he nearly died. A few days earlier during football practice Robert had taken a blow to the gut which left him particularly sore. A visit to the doctor reassured my mother he would be fine but on his birthday morning he was in agony and my brother Steve raced to the basement to retrieve my mother from the laundry, who then began tracking down my dad at his job site.  The house phone which kept her tethered by a cord, no cell phones, someone in a trailer on a construction site running off to locate Chuck Rose the electrician whose hysterical wife was on the phone. Dad raced up in the family station wagon. I remember Robert,  in excruciating pain, seated and easing down the staircase on his butt, one painful step at a time. He was placed in the back seat, a white handkerchief tied to the antenna which (along with the blaring of his horn) was to alert other traffic that my dad was not stopping until Robert was at the hospital. Not until I was a parent myself and experienced having a really sick child did I realize how terrified they must have been. The doctors explained to my parents a couple of possible scenarios, some with less than favorable potential outcomes and whisked him into exploratory surgery. Once they had him open it was discovered he had appendicitis and gangrene had begun setting in. Further delay would have been terminal. I remember wanting to know what color “gain green” was, I was seven, about the age Robert was when I arrived.  Today is his daughters first day of ninth grade, he saw her off at the bus this morning.

Bob is the least talkative of us three Rose kids but definitely likes things the loudest. A stereo aficionado, he gave me a love of The Who, my first CD player, my last turntable and picked out the JVC boombox I got for high school graduation from my parents. That monster saw me through college dorm rooms and apartments in three states and burned out eventually playing lullabies to his eldest (Rose) niece and nephew.  His delight in loud noise carries over to the cinema as well. If there are explosions, over the top dialogue and ridiculous characters, Bob will typically love it. It was Bob (and his wife Michelle) who encouraged my brother Steve and I to both watch Breaking Bad. I’m not going to say all of his recommendations are spot on but I did enjoy the exploits of Walt and Jesse.

Bob was the perfectionist of the three of us as well, he could burn through a bottle of 409 and a roll of paper towels simply  cleaning up the whitewalls and polishing the chrome of a Schwinn. The attention to detail has carried over into his affection for cars, most specifically a small fleet of ’86 Mustangs, some convertibles, some squad cars.

As a kid, an age gap like the one between Bob and I keeps you interested in different activities and with little in common. Though I delighted in watching him run track and play football, marveled at his artistic skills and enjoyed his Rod Stewart selection for nightly dinner music, it wasn’t until I headed off to St. Cloud State and we were both adults that Bob and I became friends. I have great memories of his visits to St. Cloud, times shared at the cabin, attending a Who concert with him and our cousin Rick.

During a rough financial time for my folks, it was Bob that financed my college, under the condition that I not tell Dad where I got the money and hurt his pride. I kept my promise and eventually repaid the interest-free loan in small installments over the years. He not once ever asked for it. That’s how he is, sort of strong and silent but with a good sense of humor, a big kid who likes his toys. I texted him a birthday greeting this morning and he called back (doesn’t like to text) and his wife will likely tell him I wrote a story about him. Happy Birthday brother Bob, wishing you many more!

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