His name was Bob. I met him when I was 17. He was a spry, old man with silver, thinning hair. His thick, black glasses rested on his slender nose. He was of a small frame and always wore khaki pants, a white shirt, and suspenders. His narrow, green eyes would dance when he laughed.
I met Bob at a local tavern in the town where I lived. I worked the midnight shift at a donut shop nearby, and would stop by the tavern every morning for a hamburger. They were famous for their hamburgers there. Folks from church didn’t think it right for me to go in there around drinking and smoking. The people were kind to me in there, and I grew to love all of them, especially old Bob. Each morning when I went by, Bob was there.
“Hey Little One,” he said smiling. Bob called me this from the moment we met.
“Hey Bob,” I said back, climbing up on the barstool next to him. “How’s it going?”
“Oh, pretty good, Little One. My old buddy Arthur came to see me again this morning, so I’m a little cranky.” “Arthur?”
“Yes, you know…Arthur…Arthur Arthritis. He comes to visit me every morning. I wish he’d stay home for a change. That fellow gets on my nerves.”
“You’re funny Bob,” I said giggling.
Bob had a way about him like no one I’d ever known. He didn’t have much. He lived in an apartment above the tavern. I had gone up there for dinner one night at his request. I had never seen someone so excited.
“Come on in Little One,” Bob said waving his arm. His smile warmed my heart just to look at him.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Fine, fine, even better now that you’re here,” he replied. “Come on in and have a seat.”
I walked into a tiny room occupied by an old table and two chairs. Bob walked over and pulled out a chair for me. “Here, here, sit right down Little One.”
“Thanks Bob,” I said.
“You’re in for a treat tonight,” he said. His eyes were beaming.
The table was set with his finest china. His china consisted of the hard, plastic dishes they made years ago. You would have thought they were plates of gold. Bob walked over to his apartment-sized stove and grabbed a frying pan. I couldn’t see what was in it.
“You ever had fried okra before?” he asked. The truth is, I had never eaten it. I was too finicky.
“Uh, no Bob, I don’t think I have,” I said.
“Well, you’ll love this,” he told me. “I made it especially for you.”
This man had practically nothing, yet he took what he did have to make this feast for me. What generosity and love from an old man who lived above a tavern.
“It looks delicious Bob,” I told him. His eyes beamed again. I ate all of the okra he put on my plate. I ate everything he put before me as though I’d never eaten before. I had more trouble choking back my tears than I did swallowing the okra. It was actually quite good.
Years later, old Bob was able to move out of the apartment above the tavern, and into a house of his own. He quit drinking and smoking. He took up gardening, and planted all kinds of vegetables and flowering bushes. He was happier than I’d ever seen him. He planted a beautiful, yellow rose bush in front of his house. He told me it was for me. Every year, I’d get a phone call in the spring.
“Your rose bush is blooming. Get on over here, and I’ll put together a bouquet for you.”
“Okay Bob, give me a little bit, and I’ll be over.”
I’d arrive, and we’d sit and talk about Arthur visiting him again. He’d offer to whip up some fried okra for me. We always had a nice visit. I so loved that man. I was always at ease in his home. Like I said, he had a way about him.
This past spring, Bob never phoned. My friend went home to be with Jesus. I learned a lot from old Bob. I’ll miss him terribly. I’ll miss his fried okra, stories about Arthur, and the yellow roses. Bob taught me a lot. He was a very rich man.