My dear friend Robert died yesterday. He leaves behind a wife and three children.
I still cannot believe it.
The first time I met Robert was at the wedding of his older sister, Carole. This was a wedding of great pageantry and many people; I was attending as a guest of his brother Stephen, and remember that as one of the best events I've ever been to. All of Robert's brothers, their dates and I went out on the town in New York City for days. It would be completely honest to say I was in NYC for 4 days and 1 night as I only slept one night! It was 1987, I think.
Robert was then married to his first wife and didn't have children yet. Twenty years ago brought forth his first child, Matthew and a few years after that his daughter Rebecca was born. I kept up with Robert through Stephen (who has been one of my best friends for over 25 years, after we decided that being romantic wasn't working for us, but being very good friends was a great idea).
The next time I saw Robert was at his brother Stephen's wedding in Chicago, another over-the-top event where six different friends stayed at a lake property outside of Chicago and ended up having a Big Chill kind of stay, complete with running, drinking and soul searching. I remember being glad to run into Robert and his wife at each party for Stephen's wedding and at the many casual events at the lake property, which Robert, Stephen and their siblings had inherited after their parents' deaths in the 1980's.
Stephen and his dear wife, Danusia, became my best friends over the years since their wedding. I have spent Christmas holidays at their home, as well as many weeks in summer and fall and am their children's unofficial GodMother. Each time I went to Chicago to see Stephen and Danusia, Robert was featured in some part of the trip. I grew to love his quiet humor, his exacting and careful methodology and his very calm and loving demeanor.
The only time I saw Robert seething with anger was when his first marriage disintegrated and the circumstances surrounding it. During those years, I saw a lot more of Robert when I visited Chicago to spend time with Stephen, Danusia and their boys. Sometimes Robert would have his two children with him, sometimes he would not. I remember thinking what a great daddy he was; how he spent quality time with those children and kept them shielded a bit where he could. One year I must've gone to Chicago five times, and Robert usually made an appearance a time or two while I was there. Sometimes other friends from the Big Chill weekend of Stephen and Danusia's wedding would fly in, and it would be an incredibly wonderful time. If it was summer, Robert would get out his boat, and take us all out for either motorboat tours on their local lakes or long sailboat excursions on Lake Michigan. I brought my niece a few times, and she was always thrilled when "Uncle Robert" showed up.
Robert met his second wife, Pam, on a sailing trip. I think Pam is 15 years younger than Robert. I adored Pam when I met her! A bunch of us had gone to a great Chicago restaurant, and Pam was glowing about her upcoming wedding. Robert was completely in love with Pam, and I envied them that kind of obvious devotion and happiness. I was in a relationship with my husband at that time, but we were still in the rocky 'figuring it out' period that frequently tanked other relationships in my past. I had been married once, divorced early and thought I would never marry again. But I still envied people who were planning a life together - it's what we;re supposed to do, right?!
I did not attend Robert and Pam's small wedding. Now I can't remember why, but I think it was a financial decision - my early 40's were lean years for me. I saw them frequently after that - nearly always at the big lake house, sometimes at holiday celebrations and I grew to love Pam as a good friend. They visited Ken and I in Colorado, and I continued to go to Chicago frequently, too. I always made a point of including Robert and Pam in any events we had in Chicago. (Chicago is all about huge parties when I visit - I like to cook for crowds.)
We were at Robert and Pam's Lake Geneva vacation home when Robert and Pam announced that they were expecting a baby in 6 months - and I was thrilled for them. Robert's children with his first wife were there, and were so excited about the news.
The next time I saw Robert and Pam, their beautiful baby was 4 months old. I had gotten married in the meantime, and has suffered a pretty bad miscarriage 2 months earlier. Some of the pictures I treasure are photos of Robert, Pam and myself with their lovely dauther, Hannah. Robert was so concerned that it would be hard for me to hold Hannah when I had suffered such a loss, and that made me cry - not holding his delicious baby girl, but his concern for my feelings.
I can't write any more. I am cryinig too hard. Good night and I'll finish tomorrow.