He so easily could have been a brat.
The fifth child in a Virginia family, he was born to three older sisters and an older brother. And because the family was so very Virginian, the girls ruled.
Oh my gracious, how they loved their “Bob-o-link!”
Were he alive today, my dad would grimace, scoldingly, at the nickname. (He also probably would curse.)
Were he alive today, that scolding grimace (and accompanying four-letter word) would probably be the only time you’d recognize something other than childlike wonder emanating from his face.
My dad died two years ago yesterday, and in writing this, I’m not seeking either to expel personal emotions or to solicit condolences.
I’m just writing to honor his life.
I also should say that I was relieved when he died.
I was relieved because, for the last few years of his life, he was very frail. His needs were taxing my mom. He needed to die.
As for the years that came ahead of those? I have one vision: Dad, with eyebrows raised and a jaw dropped just enough to create an “O” with his mouth.
My vision is Dad, amazed.
I’m not kidding.
Robbins (“Bob-o-link”) Gates was born – and probably died – amazed.
I remember one time when he and Mom visited me in New York. We were having dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue , and my parents were expressing curiosity following some bad vibes that had just occurred with friends of theirs – friends with whom they’d shared a rented house on Cape Cod.
I had been in that house for one week of the two-week rental. I knew the players. And so, after listening to Mom and Dad’s description of events, I shared my perspective.
Eyebrows raised, mouth slightly opened, my dad looked across the table at me.
“How did you get to be so wise?” he asked.
I smiled, shrugged, and offered that I had simply observed.
I don’t know that I got my wisdom from Dad, but I know I got some serious DNA. My soul may be older than his, but I think a part of me still inherited that beautiful wonder.
It is because of Dad that I want to learn.
It is because of Dad that I am never sure.
It is because of Dad that I feel the world is my oyster.
I may have been born old, but because of Dad, I get to feel young.
Wherever you are.
Keep being amazed.
It is your sense of wonder that keeps us all going, and we need that.
POSTSCRIPT: Gratitude to my sister, Martha, for providing the first line.