Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rest in Peace Robert Sweeten

November 4th, 2008

I feel cheated by the universe.
I feel like I'm much too young to have lost this many people.
I'm aware that it's a very selfish way to feel, but I can't keep from feeling it.
I'm tired of burying my friends.

It wasn't long enough. It never is.

I have a lot of memories of Bob. They are fragmented because he drifted in and out of my life over the years. I'd always kept him in my thoughts, even when I hadn't seen him for a few years. I hope that he kept me in his thoughts as well.

Bob worked with computers, he got me interested in them and convinced my mother to buy our first one when I was in the third grade.

He worked for Parsons in Pasadena, CA as a network administrator. His job took him all over the world and he was full of stories. Years after returning from the Middle East, he still checked under his car for sleeping Arabs. He spoke many languages and appreciated many cultures.

His character was larger than life for me. I saw him as sort of a super-hero of the technological age.

He loved taking pictures. He had all of his photos transferred to slides so he could display them on an ancient projector in his tiny kitchen. I remember spending almost four hours clicking through his photos of Saudi Arabia and Beijing. He had a story for every slide.

No matter where he was in the world, he always sent us a huge box of See's candies every year at Christmas.

He was a collector. His house was full of artifacts from his travels as well as trinkets from everyday life. There were rare paintings and sculptures alongside bottle caps and baseball cards. He kept everything. I once collected over $75 in loose change from bowls and jars around his place.

He gave me the first thing I ever owned: a tiny stuffed polar bear on the day I was born. I still have it.

We watched the Rose Parade together and he took me to a soda fountain for french fries and a chocolate coke. He said it was his favorite place, but I think he just said that because he knew I would like it.

He took us to Hawaii one year for no reason other than he wanted us to have a good time. I remember his face lighting up when he took me and his neice Chelsea for ice cream on the beach in Maui. He was so happy to bring joy to children.

He had a wicked sense of humor that you would completely miss if you weren't listening.

We shared a peaceful nature and a desire to help the people around us. Bob always had good advice for me and always understood where I was coming from. He never once made me feel bad for being overweight like every other adult in my life did. He never made me feel like a child. He never talked down to me. He constantly encouraged me to pursue art and computers.

He had no children of his own.

He loved my mother. My dad always said that they should have been together, not in a jealous or angry way, but just as a statement of fact. She only saw him as a friend.

Some people in his life drew on his kind nature and sucked him dry.

At the end he was living in the pool house of a friend. Barely getting by. He had to take a second job to support the leaching personalities with which he had unwittingly surrounded himself. The economy had him worrying about losing his first job. He had exhausted his savings, sold his painstakingly gathered mementos, dipped into his IRA and 401K accounts, and been saddled with a debt that he didn't deserve.

Even for all of his travels and experiences, he had not done enough living to be ready to die. Or maybe I have not done enough living to be ready to let him go.

I can't console myself with the idea that it gets easier, because it doesn't. I've been here enough to know.

You just push it further back to keep it at bay, but these are the wounds that stay fresh, no matter how long you leave them to heal.