Today’s journey was all about celebrating a man with a beautiful soul, as Greg’s dad turned 94. I have known Bob Moore since I was 16 years old, and I have never met a more kind-hearted, compassionate man, nor one filled with more mirth and mischievousness. Born in 1921, he has lived a full life, serving as a young man in the United States Navy, marrying his sweetheart, raising two sons. He owned and operated a hamburger and barbeque drive-in in Noel, MO, that drew hungry patrons from three states, and later took to the air as a private pilot for Peterson Industries in Decatur, AR. He has been an amazing and loving Papa to my three children.
The first time I met Greg’s dad, I was a shy 16 year old, invited to Sunday dinner at their home. I was surprised to find Bob cooking our sumptuous meal alongside Greg’s mom, Leta. I was seated next to Bob at the dining room table, enjoying that meal, when I noticed this jovial man had a dab of mashed potatoes on his cheek. I was too embarrassed to mention this fact, and tried to look anywhere but his cheek when he spoke to me. At last, Greg’s mom noticed the glob of potatoes, and admonished him to wipe his face. Suddenly those bright blue eyes looked straight at me, as he grabbed his napkin, and he asked, “Did you sling potatoes onto my face?” I was mortified! I know I blushed and stammered a denial. Then his eyes crinkled up and he laughed. He was teasing me. I laughed too, relieved. And all my feelings of shyness melted away.
Bob while in the navy. His bride Leta and friends in the background.
Bob has been a second father to me. He taught me about being good-natured when faced with the inevitable, as when I begged him to let me buy a fishing license on the way to the lake. He didn’t think it was necessary, no one was ever checked….and paid my fine with a smile when the game warden headed straight to our fishing boat in the middle of Beaver Lake. I learned from him how to bait a hook and fillet the fish I caught. He taught me about not sweating the small stuff when I borrowed his car and put a scratch the length of his Pontiac down one side. I learned to trust, flying with him in a small plane, with my two babies aboard, through thunderstorms over Texas. He taught me about generosity and not keeping score, as he helped those in his community without any expectation of return. And playfulness as he crawled on the floor with his grandkids.
Most of all, he has taught me about love and sacrifice, tenderness and faithfulness as I watched him care for his wife of 50 plus years as Alzheimer’s slowly robbed him of the woman he had loved for so long. He kept her home with him, and was at her side, holding her hand, when she slipped away. Three years later, he brought his elder son home and cared for him as well as cancer snuffed out his life. Caring is not a big enough word for this man. He knows the value of investing deeply in the lives of others, checking on elderly friends, driving a former boss around for hours to ease his restlessness, responding to calls in the middle of the night when his 97 year old neighbor woke up confused, taking care of his remaining family. He never lost his joy, his sense of humor. Even now, as he walks in the twilight years of his life, he jokes and teases, and his blue eyes, which are dimmer now, still crinkle up when he smiles.
That was a lot of pie…
Today Greg and I, and Greg’s cousin Pam, met at Bob’s house and took him to lunch. We laughed together and chatted as we enjoyed catfish dinners. Although his short-term memory is a little faulty, he easily remembers stories from his youth, and shared some of those tales with us this afternoon. Back at home, we had birthday pie, a decadent chocolate cream from Big R’s in Joplin. Although he protested over the size of his slice of pie, he ate every bite. At 94, he is independent, some might even say stubborn, and reluctant to accept help. However, his generosity knows no bounds. I’m still learning from this man…to live each day, to not complain, to find the good in the situation and see the best in people. From watching him, I’m learning how to age well and when it is time, approach death with calm dignity and grace.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Beautiful young people are accidents of nature. But beautiful old people are works of art.” Bob Moore is a work of art, a lifetime of joys and sorrows, triumphs and challenges overcome, woven together into a marvelous, beautiful tapestry of a life well lived, and shared, without holding back, without regret. I love you, Dad Moore. I am grateful for you, your wisdom, the love you have showered on me, and for journeying with me, from an insecure young woman who didn’t know who she was, to a mature woman with grandchildren of her own, who knows exactly who she is. Happy, happy birthday, dear man.
With cousin Pam.