But obituaries neglect the personal stories of love and friendship, as of course they must. Here is one of those.
I met Bob in NYC in the 80s. He was quite famous, and a good friend of my first husband. As soon as we met, Bob and I found an easy rapport, a gentle teasing, a mutual admiration. That first night we went to Sammy's Romanian on the Lower East Side and drank vodka set in blocks of ice and veal chops the size of a dictionary. The night was long and riotous, and involved spontaneous singing and even dancing that continued in the streets.
Another night, Bob took us to a Russian nightclub in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. No veal chops, but vodka and blintzes and more dancing, Bob pointing out Russian mobsters and regaling us with stories of crime.
A night with Bob back then always meant fun and stories of crimes and misdemeanors that made me shudder and laugh in equal measure.
Eventually that first marriage ended, and some friends took sides, as often happens. I was sad to lose Bob back then. But I moved to RI, got remarried, had kids. Imagine my surprise when I learned Bob, the most NY New Yorker, had also moved to RI.
When we were scheduled to do an event together one night in Providence, I confess I had a little trepidation. That first marriage was a lifetime ago. But would Bob feel that way too?
He did. He greeted me with a hug I still remember. In a few words, he placed the past where it belonged and even apologized for taking sides. A foolish thing to do, he said. And just like that he was back in my life.
One night he came to dinner and sat in my backyard, charming everyone. When I was asked to edit Providence Noir, Bob was the first person I asked to contribute. He was having some health problems, but still managed to write a knock out story in his inimitable style. Please read it if you haven't yet.
He was eager to help out with publicity for Providence Noir and joined in for the launch and other readings. Just a couple weeks ago, there was a reading at a library in Johnston, RI. I want to do this for you, Bob emailed me. I wrote back: yay! Can't wait to see you!
Uncharacteristically Bob was a no show that night. Days later I learned he died from complications of surgery.
One more story about my old friend: Bob had been teaching writing for years at the University of RI. A writer on the faculty there was apparently angry over a review I wrote of her memoir long ago, when I stil lived in NYC. For years I've been hearing about this, how stung she was and therefore did not care much for me. This bothered Bob deeply, more than it bothered me, I think. He told me he wanted her to know me and see how (his words) wonderful I was. He wanted me to teach there, or at least be involved in the summer writers conference they held, both of which had been blocked by this person apparently. Would you have lunch with her if I came? he asked me. Can we mend this? I told him I had no ill will toward her and would happily have lunch. If it's a bust, I told him, at least I get to spend time with you. That earned me a big hug. Sadly the lunch didn't happen. But Bob reminded me of what's important, what to let go of, what to keep.
How I wish we could have kept him a little longer.