Bobby met Roger in painting class many years ago; Roger invited us down to his Stafford home and took Bobby out painting more than once. Horses, dogs, blackberries, swimming in the river, homemade pickles – a fine introduction to a part of Humboldt County we were yet to be familiar with. He was a kick to be around. We were schmoozing at the the Robert F. Kennedy gig when the whispers started going around the room. This is the third time I’ve had to deliver the news to my husband that someone he cares about has died. The first death belonged to a former roommate, driving too fast, crashed and killed. The second was the hardest: his beloved cousin passed away unexpectedly, a sudden heart attack and suddenly he was gone. Gone offstage from the theater of life as my friend would say.
We hadn’t seen that cousin – or his childhood sweetheart wife or their two kids – for 10 years. Although we all liked each other, distance and extended drama had prevented us from visiting the small town where their big family lived. But a couple months before his death, Jim and his family had come through Eureka; they were taking their Portuguese cousin on a road trip and had been trying to reach us. Unfortunately, the number Jim had been dialing was wrong – but he never reached an answering machine or person to tell him so. Luckily, his wife suggested double-checking the number. He finally reached me at home and told me what had happened, that they were still here in town. Since Jim was at a Eureka hotel and Bobby was helping build the Pearl at the time, we decided to surprise Bobby. I warned Bobby’s boss; Jim went strolling over to the Pearl.
The way he told it to me, Bobby saw this guy and thought, “That looks a lot like my cousin Jimmy.” When the guy came over and said hi, the realization that the man actually was cousin Jimmy still took a moment or six to sink in, too out-of-the-blue and out-of-context for his brain to process without great effort. And then he was thrilled. We spent the next two days at the beach, at our house, and then they were gone. And then Jim was gone. Bobby was devastated – but what if we hadn’t had that recent time with him? What if he’d died with 10 years gone by since we last saw him? That would have haunted Bobby for the rest of his own life. That last visit turned out to be a greater gift even than we realized at the time.
And Roger… Bobby spoke to Heidi at the NCJ about his fondness for and experiences with Roger. He did a right fine job.