(This column originally appeared in The News Herald on Sunday, October 23, 2005.)
Hugs all around, and smiles, and some laughs.
We compare bald spots, and aches and pains like the guys on Jaws comparing their scars. We brag about our children, their grades and accomplishments, bestow compliments and accept them.
(We live through our children, after all. We put our arms around them and hang on for dear life. The future is there. Here is the past, we say to the child as we brag to our forefathers about the living future.)
So many faces in the crowd. We don't see them any more, except at family reunions, or weddings or funerals. We don't have family reunions any more, and those of us who were once considered the kids of the family are now at that intermediate age when it seems like nobody's getting married.
I guess you know what that leaves.
I'm thinking it's a shame that it has been so long since I saw so many of these people, and I'm thinking Bobby would be glad to see so many of them gathered up in one place. He'd have something inappropriate and hilarious to say about it.
There are pictures and flowers, as there always are. And tears. But there are inordinate amounts of smiles. Bobby would have appreciated that — it's what he brought into rooms.
Later, after the service at the Flomaton Funeral Home and another one on the green hill overlooking the town, we gather at his house. We are greeted there by a wooden sculpture Roland Hockett might have conceived on a whim.
Bobby built the monument to the recent hurricanes Ivan and Dennis after they dropped trees — twice — on his house. The second time, after repairs from the first time had been significantly completed.
The freeform sculpture stands at the end of the walkway that leads from the street to the front door of the home. It's made of pieces cut from the trees as they were removed from the house, as well as various other debris.
Maybe it's a warning of what can happen if you fight the forces of nature, I thought. Maybe it's a kind of pine ju-ju meant to appease the hurricane gods. Most likely, it's just a typical joke — Bobby's way of saying he's not going to let something like a one-two punch from Mother Nature get him down.
Some people leave memories. Some leave legacies. Some leave monuments.
I snap a picture, and wonder.