Tuesday, July 3, 2012

So long Bob

Back in 1984 I was working a part time job as a bouncer at a bar in Wichita called Jammers. For people that remember Jammers, that's really all I need to say. For those that don't, Jammers was a very popular dance club that always had a line down the block. Everyone wanted in and like most bars they had their people that handled their liquor a lot better than others. Jammers was in a 3 story building without a ground floor. You had to walk up two flights of stairs to the front entrance. Once inside there was a stairway that went all the way to a basement. There was then a walkout to a little courtyard. From the landing by the front door, you could look over the railing and see all the way down to the courtyard. It was about a 30 ft. drop.  

I had been working there for about 3-4 days and it was a mid week night. I was still trying to get all oif the employee's names straight and getting to know all of the regulars. I was working the front door by myself and there was a moderate crowd. My front door co-worker had gone somewhere; Bathroom, pitcher run, trash check, etc. Whatever it was, it left me at the door by myself.

I was standing by the front door, scanning the crowd, when a large group of guys started walked in. I can't remember if they were there for a bachelor party, if they were a football team or what but there were a lot of them, some a lot bigger than others, and they were all pretty drunk and in a very loud and obnoxious mood. I asked the first one in the door for I.D and as more of them came in I realized that some of the party wasn't going to be able to come in. Jammers, like most clubs, had a dress code to prevent the gang banger's from coming in and to prevent other problems. Several of the guys did not meet the dress code and a couple of the one's that I had already asked for I.D. didn't have it. I started to explain the situation to them and the mood turned dangerous pretty quick. They started advancing towards me, yelling and screaming and calling me names. I tried to explain to them why they couldn't come in when one of them grabbed me and hit me. I punched him in the face, hit another two as they rushed in but the rest rushed me. I was able to fight them off for a couple of seconds but there were way to many of them and I got dragged out the front door. I was fighting, biting and kicking and then I realized that they had lifted me up over the banister and were trying to throw me over the railing to the courtyard below. I was already scared but the realization of being dropped 30 feet to a most certain death brought on terror and panic. I was sitting on the railing and they were trying to push me over the edge. While they were pushing, they were just beating the hell out of me. I wrapped my legs through the railing and was trying to defend myself and get enough leverage to get back off the railing. Now it was probably only less than a minute but it seemed forever when I noticed the front door open and heard someone yell and then I saw one of the guys in the back drop. Then another. And another. Another one turned around and something cracked him in the head and he fell down the stairs. The calvary had arrived and as more attention was diverted away from me I was able to start making my way off the railing and beating off the crowd. Within a minute or so the fight was over. Most of the guys that had just about killed me were nursing some pretty serious head wounds. The bodies went all the way from the balcony, down the stairs and onto the sidewalk. 

As more people came outside to help and things got sorted out, I realized that the person that saved me was Bob. I had met him a couple of days before. He was dating on of the bartenders and we had really hit it off, but I hadn't really had a chance to get to know him. Bob wasn't a very big guy at all. As a matter of fact he was pretty scrawny. He was about 35 years old (old back then LOL), 5'10" and weighed about a buck fifty, if he was lucky. He was also a lawyer. Now what made Bob so unusual as a knight in shining armor was the fact that he could barely walk. Bob had been in an extremely serious car accident that had killed his wife about 4 years earlier and it had crippled him. He had been in the hospital for months, rehab for years and was able to get around with the help of a cane. When he saw me being dragged out the front door he grabbed his cane and came to the rescue. When he walked outside, he started hitting everything he saw in the head with his cane as hard as he could. Most of those that he hit were knocked out cold and received a severe gash in the process. 

After everything was all done, we walked back into the club and I made the comment that I needed a drink. I wasn't old enough to drink liquor but that never stopped me. The owners knew that some of their employees weren't old enough but they didn't care as long as we were discreet. So I ordered something mixed and Bob looked at me and said "well son, that's half your problem. Real men drink scotch" LOL. I had my first scotch and water. Well, o.k. It was water with a little scotch. Scotch is definitely an acquired taste but as you go the less water you use. Bob's idea of scotch and water was a whole lot of scotch and an ice cube. And he tried to drink it fast enough that the ice never had a chance to affect the scotch in a negative way. 

Bob and I became fast friends. He had a beautiful yet extremely spoiled and ornery little girl, Shelle. She was about 4 years old and had him SO wrapped around her little finger. She was quite the little princess and Bob did everything he could but since her mom had died in the car accident there wasn't much of a positive female presence there. She became quite the tomboy and had her issues growing up but today she is a wonderful young woman with two ornery little boys of her own.

For the next 5 years or so we became really close friends. We would hang out, my girlfriend and I would go over and do BBQ's etc. I was in law enforcement and he was a lawyer so we had a lot of interesting conversations.

Unfortunately, Bob and I lost touch for several years. About 4 years ago I ran into Shelle when I was coming out of a little burger joint. I'm glad that she recognized me because I wouldn't have recognized her. She was a far cry from the little girl that I had known several years ago. She immediately called her dad and put me on the phone with him. It was like all of those years apart disappeared and our conversation took up where it had left off. You can always measure your true friends because those are the ones that even though you you haven't seen each other for years, it only seems like yesterday since you've talked. We hooked back up a couple of days later and we were both shocked at just how much 20 years can change a person. It was funny though when we realized that he knew of Julie from dealings around court and other attorneys but had no Idea that we were married. Small world.

Last September, when I was in Bastrop TX., I called Bob to see how he was doing. He informed me that he had been diagnosed with throat and esophageal cancer. The doctors had given him 6 months. He did have the opportunity to fight it and the success rate was good but the re-occurrence rate was high and the success rate after re-occurrence was low. He just didn't want to fight this for years on end. Quality of life VS quantity. I tried talking to him about it and he reminded me of something that he had said years ago. He said "whether we want to realize it or not we all start the process of dying from the day we are born". He had done the research with the doctors and his mind was made up. So he started the long final process of dying. I made him promise me though that he would wait until I got home. I got back to my hotel and sat in my room, in shock, and cried.

I had made it down to see Bob a couple of times since I got home and it never failed to shock me on just how much the cancer was taking away. I would sit and talk to him for a couple of hours. I would call and we would talk to each other often, sometime more often than others, but as we all know life gets in the way. 

I woke up yesterday morning and it started off as a typical Monday. The girls were here and they were getting their things done so that we could go swimming later in the day. I had just turned on Facebook and noticed a couple of messages but was taking care of a couple of other things. The phone rang and it was Julie. She told me that Shelle had sent her a message stating that she needed to get a hold of me but she couldn't find our number. I immediately called and she told me that overnight, Bob had taken a turn for the worse. He was unresponsive and hospice felt that the end was near. I made arrangements for the girls and drove as fast as I could to get to his side. 

When I got there I gave Shelle a hug and took up vigil beside my friends bed. I held his hand for hours saying prayers that God would help guide him and take him home. I reassured Bob that it was o.k. to let go, that we would all be o.k. and that I would help watch over Shelle. There were several times that we thought that he had finally let go but he kept fighting.

His breathing became more erratic and the social worker finally called hospice to send a nurse. When the nurse came in, I gave Shelle my chair so that she could hold her dad's hand. We gave her some time alone and I went back in about 15 minutes later and sat beside her near the foot of the bed. There were a few other of Bob's close friends there and they came in and stood at the foot of the bed. We were all talking. It may sound strange, our friend was dying, but we were telling "Bob" stories and laughing and talking like he was a part of the conversation. I would like to think that all of our laughing finally made Bob realize that it was all o.k.

At about 5:15pm, we all watched as Bob took his last breath and finally shed all of the pain and suffering that he had endured for the past year. He had finally gone home to his wife and another daughter that had passed away years earlier.

I went to the kitchen, got some glasses and poured 4 shots of scotch. I took them back to the bedroom and we all said a toast and goodbye to Bob.

Robert Charles Manning was a very unique individual. He had a sense of humor that was infectious and  an opinion about everything. Most people that he met walked away liking him even if he didn't like them. You knew your place with Bob and if you weren't sure where it was he would be more than happy to tell you. His personality was outstanding. He called a spade a spade, wasn't afraid to tell you what he thought and LOVED his scotch and cigarettes. His big bristle mustache and broad toothy smile arrived 1 minute before he did. He was rude, crude, socially unacceptable and totally unfit for human consumption yet was a welcome sight everywhere he went.

And he was my friend. And I miss him dearly.

We all love you very much and even though we are sad that you are gone we are glad that you are now without pain.

Rest in peace Bob. I love you.