It was winter in South Texas and we sat in his El Camino while watching “Blazing Saddles” on the drive inn movie screen. Mel Brooks movies were never my favorites but we were there to drink a six-pack and finish a pack of cigarettes so it really didn’t matter. The actor’s lines were ridiculous, and we couldn’t help but laugh at the flick in the state we were in. It had to be the beer.
Bobby was unlike most older brothers that I had heard of . . . we actually enjoyed each other’s company and he was non-judgmental about what I said or did in my 16-year old life. He encouraged me to challenge myself and step outside of my box. We were friends even though we were 8 years apart, and he often gave me a leg up on what was going to transpire in my world by explaining what had happened in his in similar situations.
The El Camino’s muffler was missing and she made a loud noise when Bob fired her up after the movie had ended. We heard a lot of yelling as we drove past the cars in our path and we left long entrails of carbon monoxide smoke as we exited the theatre. We were enjoying the attention we were given.
Music was something that made a connection between us. I can’t remember the tunes we were listening to on that specific night but I’m sure that it was loud as we made our way to Surfside Beach. It was Bobby that introduced me to The Beatles way back when as well as classic rock in its early years. He also influenced me in his faith, his solitude, and his martial arts appreciation. I would laugh when he would try to imitate Bruce Lee’s kicks when he had the long boxing bag set up in his apartment. I was very amazed at his art - he had a gift for sketching, painting, and sculpting. Though I often had the imagination for art I could never come close to creating what he did with his own two hands.
As we drove down the moonlit beach I was thinking about THE OUTSIDERS, a book I had read at school. Bob & I were almost like Darrell and “Ponyboy,” his younger brother in the story. Although our parents were still alive, we had drama and dysfunction in our childhood and Bobby was the one who mentored me and looked out for me at times in our youth. Even though we sometimes did things that we shouldn’t he knew where the line was drawn and he would never let me cross over it, even if he was way over on the other side. I knew that he would make good choices as a parent if he ever got the chance. After doing a couple of donuts in the sand, Bob found an exit on the east end and hurried through the soft ruts without getting stuck. We were done for the night.
A year went by and Bob met the love of his life at the place I worked. After they married, they let me stay with them when I was having problems at home. I don’t know what I would have done or where I would have gone if it hadn’t been for Bob. The drama in a young person’s life is ten times as intense as in any other age and he seemed to recognize himself in me. Besides opening his door, he offered counsel in a non-condescending way and helped me to get on with my life.
People grow apart, especially when there are miles that separate them. They also grow apart with ideas that grow bigger than family. I’ll always have fond memories of my big brother and the adventures we had. We survived childhood together.