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reading tiger

My step-grandfather Bob passed away sometime late yesterday or this morning. I don't really have any details yet.

It was not unexpected. He was in his very late 80s and he was having multiple health and mobility issues as well as significant lapses in lucidity. Last month he went into the hospital for something and was transferred to care, and we all knew it was just a matter of time at that point.

My relationship with Bob was hard to explain to folks. I never called him my grandfather; I always called him by his first name instead. My first grandfather died when I was a teenager; he had a big personality, and he was also very sick for a while, and also had a lot of conflicts with my father, and then he died very unexpectedly in a tragic and slightly gruesome way, and just before Christmas for the frosting on that cake. Basically he was a big-hearted working-class Chicago guy very invested in traditional forms of masculinity, and he had a son who was a scholarly hippie. You can guess how that went.

My grandmother remarried also while I was in high school -- two years after she was widowed and one year after Bob lost his first wife. Bob had something like five children, and they all had children, and suddenly we had insta-relatives that we only saw once or twice a year. I shamefacedly confess I never learned most of their names. They're "Bob's family" to me.

To my siblings, though, Bob is more or less the only grandfather they ever knew (my brother has hazy memories of my granddad but that's all), and his family isn't exactly family but they're not strangers either. They all still seem to live in the Chicago area, which is so typical I've traded jokes about it with people who know. My own family could only manage to get 200 miles away, after all.

I've often remarked that Bob was sort of the kinder, gentler version of my first grandfather. Same background, more or less -- both men, and my grandmother, worked for the phone company and grew up in the south side of Chicago and associated suburbs. They both loved college sports. My father and Bob had a famous friendly rivalry over the fact that Bob rooted for Notre Dame because he was Irish (although not Catholic, and you can color me slightly confused on this point*), and my dad is a Michigan State alumnus. I think Bob also rooted for the Sox but I'll have to ask.

They both drank Old Style. If you're from Chicago, you're smiling now.

He was a sweet man who inherited a strong-willed family very different from his own, and he never blinked. He made my grandmother very happy for a very long time. I'm glad I had a chance to see him in August and introduce him to his great-grandchildren, whose pictures hang proudly on the wall of the upstairs bedroom that I'm sure he hadn't been able to get to for a long time; too many stairs. I'm glad I have recent memories of him to share. Rest well, Bob.

*Not that there are non-Catholic Irish, duh, but that there are non-Catholic Irish who root heavily for Notre Dame.


Bob sounds like a good guy. I'm glad he had a good run and isn't in pain.
He sounds like he was a great guy.