I met Rob (blog.hines57.com) about 10 years ago. We were working together at the time and he offered to come over and help me with some construction on my house. We got along rather well and it wasn’t long until I was invited out to his family’s property in central Mississippi to do some hunting. Over that summer and the next winter we spent nearly every weekend out there. That’s where I met Rob’s father Bob.
Bob was one of those people that you can tell you are going to like from the first handshake. He was full of wisdom and was very laid back. The first time I met him he welcomed me into the family and treated me like I was expected to be there the next weekend. He didn’t know it (or maybe he did) but he became a role model for me. A strong man with a strong sense of “right”. His word meant a lot to him the word of God meant more. His character and his faith in God were evident in all that he did. He worked incessantly at what we called “the cabin” so that it was always ready anytime his children and grandchildren wanted to use it.
One evening I came out of the woods from hunting a little early and found Bob sitting on the porch with a bottle of Seagrams VO. He invited me to join him and we sat on the porch of the cabin watching the Mississippi sun set over the pines. Bob had lived in that cabin for a while when he was young and as we sat there that night, sipping Seagrams out of red plastic cups he shared stories of his life with me. Bob was a trained Tinsmith and a professor for Mississippi College. His southern values and redneck upbringing were a slick cover for a man who was obviously much deeper and much smarter than he let on.
After that night I made it a point to get back early from hunting whenever I could. That summer and the next I spent as many evenings as I could sitting on that porch. It’s a time in my life that I will always remember and his advice and stories gave me guidance that I would need badly over the next several years. One Christmas I invited Bob and his wife to join us along with his son Rob and family for dinner. That day I went out and bought a special bottle of Seagrams VO for Bob because I knew he liked it. After dinner the men had a single drink out of that bottle and it was relegated to the back of my liquor cabinet.
When I met Bob he had already survived one fight with cancer. After that year we moved away to Chicago for work and I only got to speak to him a couple of times after that.
One of the things I miss most about those days is sitting on that porch talking with him and one of the things that I regret most in my life is not taking the time to go to his funeral when he lost his last fight with cancer. I don’t remember why I couldn’t go, at the time whatever was happening at work seemed vastly important. Now, I can’t remember what it was but I can regret not leaving it for something that turned out to be more important to me. A lesson for the future.
After Bob died I kept that bottle of Seagrams. On occasion when I thought of sitting on that porch with him those many evenings or when I had spent an enjoyable time with his son and family I’d take that bottle down, walk out on the porch and have a few sips to remember those conversations. Bob wasn’t a big drinker nor am I. As far as I know the only time he drank at all was those few sips sitting on the porch on those evenings deep in the Mississippi woods. It seems odd to remember a man of God in such a way but it was something that we shared and it seemed most appropriate.
Last night Rob and family came over for a Christmas warm-up dinner. We had traditional sweets and roast chicken with stuffing. While I was digging through the liquor cabinet searching for bourbon to make bourbon balls I picked that bottle of Seagrams up and set it out of the way on the kitchen counter. Later, as Rob was leaving I noticed it and drank down the last swallow straight from the bottle. It was a good night. We had enjoyed good food and good conversation with Bob’s family. It was a good time to remember him.
The empty bottle sits on top of my bookshelf where it’ll stay to remind me of regrets to avoid but also that family is more important than work, that adherence to your word reflects how you value yourself, that hard work and sweat for those that you love are a small price to pay for the joy it brings them and that a sip of good Canadian Whiskey while reflecting on the ever evolving masterpiece that God has created can be a recipe for happiness beyond your worth.