A Somewhat Fictional Tribute to My Cousin, Bob Anderson

Thank God Spring had come. Bob had much to get done now that the days were sweeter and longer. Tulips were pushing their way towards the sun, and needed weeding. His beloved espaliered peach was budding along the scalloped brick wall he built out back, but errant branches were threatening to destroy its symmetry. He would trim it first thing in the morning. The Bombay chest he was fashioning from plans from Winterthur could be finished with about ten hours of focused effort, so he scheduled to have it done and in place in the dining room for Easter dinner. The gilded, coved ceiling in the foyer needed one last coat of varnish, and the bead board ceiling on the back porch could use a fresh coat of forest green paint once the water damaged corner was sealed and patched. Piece of cake, It would all be completed by the end of May, then he would take Doll to Paris for a month of croissants and coffee on the patio of their favorite café.

Life was an extravaganza for Bob and his Doll. They did not simply plant gardens, they planted knot gardens in historically significant shapes, coordinated colors and shrubs with just the appropriately hued leaves. There was not just a fence around the yard. There was a sculpted privet hedge with an archway tall enough for Bob’s six-foot three-inch frame to pass without stooping. Doll, much shorter, strolled through easily from the beginning. Pots of red geraniums lined the brick wall he’d built along the driveway. Tomatoes were encased with walls o’water and early plantings of spinach promised fresh quiche Florentine for Doll’s birthday breakfast.

Bob and Doll started each day sharing cups of freshly ground coffee in the back garden, looking through cookbooks for the perfect recipe for their evening meal, chuckling together remembering this flat souffle or that burned pie. One or the other of them would stop at the organic grocers on the way home to pick up the ingredients for the recipe of the day, and they would cook dinner together with plenty of wine and cheese, Vivaldi on the stereo. After dinner they would sit on the back porch reading each other the daily paper, or chatting with their girls, or hollering at the neighbors as they passed walking their dogs. Sometimes Bob would sneak into the master bedroom, turn down the sheets and leave a chocolate on Doll’s pillow just to be sweet, pretending they were spending the evening in Paris, or Munich, or Beijing. They had traveled to all those places together, under cover, for at one time they had been spies together, but you must forget I said that, and must never ask for details.

They built a cabin on the Shenandoah, and weekends they would drive out for relief from the city. There, after a day of planting trees or mending fences, the tractor awaited his giggling, drunken hand at mowing the tall grass after a fine Jagerfleisch mit Spaetzle dinner and a good number of toasts to the Republic, helloooooing  the neighbors as he swung around the edge of the field.

Bob was a soldier, a corporate executive, a Renaissance man who gloried in planning his gardens, cooking his gourmet meals, hooking rugs with Doll, practicing his woodworking skills, telling silly jokes that sent him into hilarious laughter–he cracked himself up immensely. Bob had many fascinating projects to complete, and it did not matter how much time was required, nor how intricate the details, he would complete them perfectly in the required time. He did not listen to the impatient voices of his wife and daughters. He did not allow the disdain of experts to distract him from working at the proper pace to complete his projects well. Guests learned to walk around a work in progress, barely noticing anything remained to be done. It was perfect in the getting there; would be perfect upon arrival.

So began one of Bob’s vibrant spring days with all its freshness. Bob was ready for it, had watched Doll set out the seedlings for the Beefsteak Tomatoes,  had completed the first pruning of the privet and his peach.  He had waved Doll off to work, planning to surprise her with a chocolate torte for the evening’s dessert. He showered, shaved, put the morning dishes in the dishwasher, poured the last bit of coffee.  Then he sat down and died.

He died… right when everything was new, just when he had so much to do, just when he had the entire Spring months activities planned. He died, and all the planning seemed for naught, all his dreams lost, all his stories stifled, and Doll’s summer, fall and coming winter loomed long and empty.

But at some point about mid July, Doll noticed things getting done just as Bob had planned them. A man who had met Bob and discussed with him the gilded foyer ceiling, stopped by and finished it. A carpenter from Winterthur shellacked the Bombay chest. Neighbors and girls from the grocery stopped by with delicious, perfect meals for Doll and whomever might be visiting. The tomatoes grew tall and full of fruit. The tall grass at the cabin was regularly mowed by some unknown angel, and once, on an especially dark, lonesome night, Doll found her bed turned down and a chocolate on her pillow and felt Bob’s arms around her as her wracking sobs filled the empty house.

Bob died, but all his work, his love, his personal projects continued to be completed just as he had planned, and the joy of knowing him filled the spaces in Doll’s heart and head. She began to travel once again. She plucked juicy peaches from that espaliered tree, ate fresh croissants, and laughed hysterically with her daughters and her grandsons when they remembered Bob’s corny jokes.

Bob died in the spring of the year, just when living was all the rage, but we know, just as Doll knows, that that was not the end of Bob.


Shirley (Doll) reminded me that SHE grew the tomatoes…;-)

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