I met Bob the summer that Violet was born. By this time, we had lived in our house for 6 years and I had walked past Bob’s house – a remarkable, purple-pink cape rimmed by a sea of day lilies – countless times on my way to our neighborhood park. But we didn’t meet until 2013, when I was in those dark days of early motherhood.
It was June and I had just recovered enough from Violet’s delivery to start walking. My then husband had to go back to work when Vi was just a week old and the isolation was palpable. Connecticut was in the throes of an uncharacteristic heat wave (90+ afternoon heat), so I would walk in the early morning. One day, I walked past Bob’s driveway and peered past the tall hedges into his English garden. He was watering his echinacea and bee balm. He waved at me and asked if I was going to school. I realized that it was because I was wearing Violet in a dark purple baby carrier. I walked up his driveway and he told me that he had been watching me walk past for a few days and thought I was a teenager carrying a backpack on my front. He thought it was strange because there was no school in the direction I was going. It was not until that day when I paused in his driveway that he saw the baby. So, I stood in his garden and we talked for almost an hour.
And thus began our friendship. Bob and I would talk almost every day that summer. He was in his eighties and lived alone but often had friends over to talk at the table in his garden. He taught me about plants and flowers. That day lilies are named because each bloom only lasts for a day. He gave me cuttings for my front-yard perennial garden (some lived, some didn’t). When Vi was a small toddler, he would let her chase dragon flies and hummingbirds in the garden while I talked with him about music, plants, or the weather. He was an eccentric guy – always selling cuttings of plants or antique chairs with broken seats at the end of his driveway. I never saw anyone buy a chair.
Last summer and fall, we walked Vi to the park almost every evening. Even if we didn’t stop, we would wave and say hello. Some days, we would talk for so long, Vi would get restless because we would overshoot her bedtime by a half hour. And every Halloween, Bob’s house was one of six or so houses where we would stop. Last year, we stayed in the dark of his garden for almost an hour. He told us we were his only customer. He gave Violet an entire bag of candy.
Last night, I found out that Bob passed away. He was not a close friend but he was my friend nonetheless. Bob was a constant in my new life as a mother. A strange, beautiful part of my life for three years.
I am really going to miss him.
[Adapted from a tribute I wrote about Bob three years ago today].