The first time I met him, he leapt over the still to be varnished bar, swiping his palms across his jeans, leaving traces of sawdust behind before extending his hand to shake mine. Little did I know, from that moment on, we would spend the rest of his life together.
“Rob Ross—Damn glad to meet you,” he said.
Shifting my resume from one hand to the other, I accepted his greeting. I was there to apply for a job at the soon to open Bar & Grill. He was the General Manger.
I wasn’t looking for a new life partner, recently (amicably) divorced, with two children at home, I was just looking for a job.
As we discussed my qualifications, I tried to stay focused on answering his questions, but was distracted by the sensation that we had met before, or perhaps we were supposed to meet now. It was as if a stage had been set—and the play had just begun.
Any attraction to him had nothing to do with his general appearance. His manner of dress understandable for physical labour; blue jeans and work boots, but was that really a baby blue, wide collared, polyester button-down shirt he wore? His thick, dark hair parted way over on one side, bangs flopping in front of his eyes. The style (rather, lack of) better suited for a mid-1970’s high-school yearbook picture.
I got the job. Our working relationship began, with under-tones of something more. Within a few months we were living together, a few years later; married, blending our separate families into one. I came into the relationship with a son and daughter, as did he. Once we added a dog and cat to the mix, we jokingly referred to ourselves as the Brady Bunch. All was good…yah, right!
Battles for territory, typical sibling rivalry, maintaining joint-custody with ex’s, household and money issues, differences of opinions all took their toll. I still hadn’t talked him into updating his hairstyle, but I did manage to throw out the baby-blue polyester shirt, and pretended to help him look for it the next time he wanted to wear it. We found ways to work through it all…we belonged together.
I gave up the Bar-biz first, to go back to school, Rob followed soon after to pursue the career he was meant for; Car Sales Management. He even got a decent haircut. The one and only thing that ever offended him was when it was implied that he must be less than reputable, because of his job. Whatever Dealership he worked for, the customers were treated with the utmost respect and were grateful for having dealt him.
Everyone who met Rob instantly liked him. He was full of energy unmatched by any. He knew every joke ever told and delivered the punch-line perfectly.
He convinced our kids to skip down the street instead of just walking. Co-conspired with them to play a game they called, “How long will it take Genny to put back the knick-knack we moved just before she got home?”
In later years he would teach our grandsons how to dance to the Bee Gee’s “Tragedy,” the theme from “Grease” and the hit zydeco song “Don’t Mess with My Toot-Toot.”
He carried a photograph of a sunrise in his pocket, taken from the balcony of a cruise-ship we had vacationing on. It was his happy place and whenever anything was getting him down, all he had to do was look at the picture, and everything was fine again. His love of life was infectious. He was the only one who could get away with teasing my sister, my mom, my grandma. For special occasions I always knew to plan on a few extra people at our dinner table. Rob would seek out those that would be alone and insist they come to our house.
He treated me like a precious gift, to be protected, respected and adored. He started the coffee every morning, and made my lunch (for me to take to work) every day, usually including a silly little note for me to find at the bottom of the bag. He put up with my grumpy moods, and encouraged me to reach for the stars.
I had a weird obsession (I think I’m over it now) with moving every couple of years. He would come home from work and find me scanning the Real Estate Newsletters, knowing full well what that meant. Within a few months, we would be packing up and moving on to a different city in Ontario, Canada. I always chose the most run-down house to transform. At least, I thought that was what I was doing. The only time Rob every got mad at me was when I picked a real dump for us to call home, and he yelled at me, “When are you going to realize you are worth more than this?”
And then one day, I came home from work and told him about an Island called Roatan.
He listened patiently as I described it, where it was, how much it meant to me to go there. Without hesitation he said, “Great! Next year we’ll take a cruise that stops in Roatan.” I told him that wasn’t enough…I want to move there.
He gazed at me as if I was a two year old needing to be told why they shouldn’t draw pictures on the walls of their bedroom. Gently explaining that we had responsibilities in Canada, we had a beautiful home, jobs, and family; we couldn’t just pack up and leave.
I knew he was right, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Roatan. For the next few months I talked about it nonstop, I asked how long he thought we would have to wait to move to Roatan. The first time I suggested it, the number he answered back was 10-15 years. Knowing how much it meant to me he was now down to 5. He booked us to take a cruise there in February (this was early July.)
On July 23rd, 2006 the day after my 43rd birthday, nine days after his 46th birthday, Rob and I sat in our backyard, enjoying our morning coffee. I, of course, was talking about Roatan. He turned to me and said, “This means so much to you…I’ll find a way to get you there sooner.” I knew he meant it, I knew we would be moving to Roatan within a year or so.
I went back into the house for just a few moments, unknown to me, the play that had started fifteen years before, was about take a final curtain call.
When I returned to our backyard, my beloved Rob had suffered a massive heart attack…and was gone. He would not being coming to Roatan with me.
For the next year I gave not one thought to Roatan, or going there without him. But the time came when I lay in my bed, missing him desperately, and I swear, he whispered in my ear, “It’s time for you to move to Roatan.”
Forever cruising into the Sunrise!
Robert Alan Ross
1960 – 2006
Always Loved, Remembered & Missed
Soon after moving to Roatan, I married again, to Dave Barons. Dave and Rob had been good friends for many years. Dave misses his friend too.