That was my Uncle Bob’s motto. Strangely enough, he died last week after a long and happy adulthood. He told me once that he first recognized this when he saw an old black and white movie Knock On Any Door. In it John Derek, Bo’s husband, played a young street tough who figured out early that life wasn’t going to treat him well so it was up to him to do for himself. In the movie, told in flashbacks, Derek’s character does indeed die young. But Derek, who both acted and later directed, was famous for his many love interests and the control he seemingly exerted over their careers. He died at the age of 71. Oddly enough so did Uncle Bob.
Bob was famous in our family for his peripatetic ways and successful life style. Though he died quietly in his sleep, while he was alive, he never stopped taking chances and pushing the envelope. He truly believed that money was made to be spent. He made a lot. And this is what intrigued me, he spent it all. It wasn’t wasteful spending though. He just knew what he wanted from life and damned if he wasn’t going to get it. It wasn’t hurtful spending either. He always took care of the people in his life and when times were tough they came first. He told me he didn’t mind work as long as it was followed by plenty of play. He was a dancer, a romancer and damned if he was ever afraid that he couldn’t solve a problem or find someone who could help him figure it out.
But the main thing I still remember about him was his way with kids. He always talked directly to them as though they mattered. His ability to listen made him a great teacher. And he seemed to know instinctively how to avoid embarrassing them. When you were with Bob, you knew he wouldn’t lie to you if you asked him questions and he wouldn’t let you act like a child just to avoid getting to the real answer. He was frustrating sometimes because he would never answer questions where with just a little thinking you could figure it out for yourself. He seemed to love the puzzle of things and to play with the different ways that you could see information. When I would ask him for help spelling a word, he would take great pleasure in acting out the word’s spelling and meaning so that eventually I would end up with a dictionary in hand and learning much more than just how to spell that word.
I think about Uncle Bob whenever I hear people say they can’t wait for something or other to happen or for time to pass so they can do something. Bob never waited, and he died young, at the happy age of 71.