Emotionally, I can be difficult to figure. I can be stoic through the most trying of circumstances, and yet the most trivial things will set me off. I will find myself with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye in the unlikeliest moments. Hell, I’ll even weep like a little girl at the end of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (The old one, not the 2005 Johnny Depp remake.)
One week ago today, I sat in the chapel at the Fox and Weeks funeral home in Savannah at Rob “Acidman” Smith’s memorial service.
I had caravanned down to Savannah with Eric, the Straight White Guy his ownself, with me riding along with the Mistress of Sarcasm, who was returning home after a visit with the ’rents. After parting ways with the Mistress, Eric and I had hooked up with a cross-section of Jawja Blodgers for a late pre-funeral lunch. After that, we checked in at the La Quinta on Abercorn – notable, in part, for its unusual Night Auditor – and prepared ourselves to attend the Memorial Service.
The service was well-attended but not overly crowded. Before it began, I went to the front of the chapel, where the family had placed a display of photographs from Rob’s life. Rob and I grew up under very different circumstances and led very different lives, but you’d not know it from the photographs. We were contemporaries, you see, both Children of 1952, and so the style of our childhood portraits was the same. We had the same periods of long hair, beards, bohemian existence. Had my life been similarly documented, I am not sure it could be told apart from Rob’s...and yet, as I looked at the photographs, my eyes were dry.
There was a box, a small wooden box, sitting there on a table, adjacent to a few sprays of flowers. It had Rob’s name on it...and the image of a guitar. It was the last resting place of Rob’s earthly remains. I looked upon it – and still, my eyes were dry.
We gathered in the chapel then, we Bloggy Friends of Rob, with his family, and listened to a service with a perfunctory shot of religious content, a service that mostly consisted of reminiscences of Rob’s life. It was just the kind of service Rob would have liked: the Skeptical Minister and all! I listened, remembering the way Rob’s writing would make me laugh – or grit my teeth. I listened, thinking of how he had transformed himself between October of last year and April of this year. I listened, remembering the dinner we had had less than two months ago at the Cuban place on Posey. Rob had joined me, She Who Must Be Obeyed, the Mistress of Sarcasm, and boyfriend Mickey for a few plateloads of churrasco steaks, and we had had a Big Time. It was walking distance from where we sat. Still, my eyes were dry.
I saw Rob’s kids – golden-haired Samantha, and young Quinton. Ahh, that kid will be breaking hearts. I thought of Rob’s frustration and anger at not being able to be a part of his son’s life the way he wanted to be; I thought of Quinton as an adult, reading through Rob’s archives, his heart breaking with remembered loss. And still, my eyes were dry.
Blogging is a strange enterprise. I discovered Rob back in the fall of 2004, back when I was a Neophyte Blodger, as a link on Allahpundit’s sidebar. Alas, Allahpundit is no more, but that link...
I am a great believer in the Power of the Blogroll. It’s a system of referrals, recommendations. If you enjoy one person’s writing, chances are better that you will enjoy what that person reads. It’s way, way better than trolling for Random Crap in the Bloggy-Sphere. And, in its own strange way, it’s what brought me to Savannah on this muggy day in June, 2006.
For Rob Smith, simply by way of his writing – his “ceaseless quest for adoration from people who don’t know me” – was the focus of a community. It was a community that grew by accretion over time, a bizarre amalgam of writers residing in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maritime Canada – hell, even New Jersey, Australia and Tanzania – all with their own unique relationship to Rob and his writing.
In my case, once I started reading Gut Rumbles and leaving occasional comments, Rob would leave comments at my site and even throw out a link once in a while. He took an especial delight in giving me shit on account of my cats. Then came the day Rob added my site to the blogroll at Gut Rumbles – a signal honor.
Every once in a while, I would leave a comment at Gut Rumbles or put up a post at my own site that would elicit an e-mail from Rob. Almost without exception, these comments or posts had to do with family matters: parents, grandparents, children. For these were the things that really mattered to Rob. He could – and would – write about anything that crossed his mind. Politics? The Overweening Nanny Government? The guns he didn’t own? Crapping his pants? Nailing a Costa Rican floozie? Roscoe, the Original Bionic Dick? His Southern heritage? That, and more...but you could tell the most important things to Rob were his children Samantha and Quinton, and Mommie, his lone surviving grandparent.
He knew that the Missus and I were regular visitors to Savannah, and one day, when he knew I had been planning to be in town, he had asked me to give him a call. I did so with some trepidation: after all, Rob could be a curmudgeon, and I was a (happily displaced) Yankee, to boot. And yet he had a remarkably easy manner, a gentle - and gentlemanly – voice. He sounded like a friend.
He was unable to meet us that day. Now, of course, I know the reason. But SWMBO and I finally had a chance to see Rob face-to-face, and I am glad the two of us had a chance to see him both before and after his Great Transformation.
These were my thoughts as we left Fox and Weeks, and as we headed out to Rob’s old family home for the post-service gathering. And still my eyes were dry.
All that night, as our group sat at Spanky’s (the Exchange being closed) toasting Rob and remembering good times, my eyes were dry.
But when I read the post Catfish wrote after the service, that’s when I lost it. I wept openly. Not for Rob, who was beyond caring, but for Catfish, who lost a friend of long standing and whose words came straight from the heart.
For myself, when the time comes, I cannot but wish for an epitaph as simple and eloquent, a true gift from the hand of a friend.