On Tuesday my father’s brother died. He was in his 70s and had led a good, full life. He was a devout Catholic and worked at his faith, especially later in life. Uncle Bobby spent a lot of time with my family when I was growing up. He never married and, consequently, never settled down. He was the youngest in his family and his “Peter Pan” approach to life was very endearing to us younger nieces and nephews. He was an adult playmate.
Bobby loved to laugh. He drank, smoked, and laughed. God was gracious to give him the time he did as Bobby never did anything to take care of himself until much later in life. Even then the term “take care of himself” had a different meaning for him.
Bobby always shuttled from place to place and from relative to relative. He was like a blood vessel in the body – he moved around. He was also a network for the family. In an era when everyone was scattered far and wide, he kept us in touch. We could depend on him for rides to the distant relatives, and they likewise. He carried news from house to house, kinda like a throw back to another time.
Bobby was a breath of fresh (although smoky) air when he arrived at the house. I could always smell him first. I could smell the smoke from my bedroom and would jump out of bed and run down to the kitchen to see my favorite uncle.
He was loud, he was big (although thin), he was fun, and he was love and life in motion. He slept in a bed in our attic. On the days when he arrived, he usually slept for 24 hours as he had been up the previous 36 partying. My mom would get our dog Penny to get bobby up when she had decided that he had slept enough.
How I envied him. He kept coming and going off with friends doing wonderfully mysterious things. I was too young to ever go anywhere, so I wanted to go really badly.
I am grateful for the times we shared. Bobby was so grateful for all the things my parents did for him. Our house was his home more than any place else. Not long ago he sent me a letter that I e-mailed to my brother and sisters. He was increasingly sentimental with age.
I remember the time in the 70s when he came to visit me. I made the mistake of leaving him alone with my stereo system. When I came home he told me it didn’t work. Somehow he did something, and the system never worked well again.
I remember one time he asked me to take him to my father’s grave. There was no marker on the grave and he was very upset. He made me stop at our family’s church on the way home to have a Mass said for my dad. I ended up in the church’s music group for 2 years.
After my father died and my mom (well we always called her “ma”) moved to California, Bobby had no place to land his feet in Boston. He traveled less often to Massachusetts. I met him once or twice in Milford visiting some of his friends.
He became the ultimate AA enrollee – it became his life’s work. I think he also stopped smoking. If he did the house in Burlington never lost the smoky feel from generations of smoke.
Bobby became affiliated with a group in Canada. I think they were priests or monks. He used to go up once a month and play cards with them. He had some serious God instruction from some of these folks. He loved them.
Bobby often talked about going to visit his pals Herman and Wolfgang in Germany. He definitely was going to Germany “next year”, but by boat. He would not fly.
He was a great sport. He allowed us to invade his house for some family reunion time in Vermont in 1993.
In 1992 I made a video of the extended Dorey family. I had to start with Bobby and his very large dog Pal. The temperature in the house was a mean 80 degrees. It was sub zero outside. He sent a dear message to my mother. I don’t remember if she ever got to see it. I think she did.
Bobby was merciless in making fun of our French Canadian heritage – in the nicest of ways. He kept us laughing about ourselves.
Bobby called me 10 days before he died. In the old days we talked for 4 or 5 hours. Don’t ask me who was crazier. I think Bobby liked me because I was like him. Boy could we talk!
He talked about going to visit the monastery next month, spoke about his dog, his condition, and his surgery. He didn’t talk too long – he was on oxygen. He said his roommate had e-mail but he didn’t know his address. I gave him mine and asked him to have his roommate write me.
You see – I don’t do letters, I do e-mail. I sent an e-mail to my family and asked them to contact him. I thought he was lonely. One sister had a package of pictures in the mail when he died. One had a package waiting to be mailed. I had a note on my shelf reminding me to write Bobby. I never did – just another opportunity for giving blessings lost.
On behalf of my family, I say goodbye to Uncle Bobby, to the good and the imperfect. His laugh, his humor, his kindnesses and love are silent from the world forever. They are silent except in the hearts and minds of those whose lives he touched. I’m sure Bobby is in heaven now, and he is probably trying to get God to turn up the heat.
In all God’s love,
The children of Ray and Lorraine Dorey
PS – I encourage everyone to stop where you are. Stop thinking all those distracting thoughts and pay attention to the now: where you are, whom you are with, and what you are doing. Remember that people are always more important than things, than work, play, music, deadlines, plans, everything. They are our work – they are our ministries – they are our mission field.
Take some time to appreciate the friends, family and people God has graced you with in life. Really look at them, and see them. They are far more precious than things, money, or anything else. They are fragile and just here on loan. Treat them as a precious gift, knowing their Maker watches and appreciates.
Uncle Bob – The Rest of the Story
I learned some things about my uncle at his funeral and I want to record them before they are lost.
Bobby loved to read, especially war and military stories. He was always telling his friends what books they should read.
Bobby grew into an incredible helper. Person after person told me of all the ways and times Bobby had helped them and others.
One man said he felt as if an angel had touched him. A woman said that Bobby stood by her for 7 years while she struggled to attain lasting sobriety in her life. There is a parade of people who have lived or stayed in Bobby’s house.
One man told me that Bob was personally responsible for the improvement in the lives of 60 men and their families. They also said that Bob was an integral and part of the AA community in the entire area, one who could not be easily replaced.
Bobby carried his wandering spirit into the world of AA. He never locked in on just one meeting; he attended different meeting at different locations. The AA crowd actually tagged him with a name for this (which I forgot to write down.)
Bobby also kept his rule breaker heart. A few of us laughed together that Bobby brought us all to a closed AA meeting. I remember him saying after the meeting I attended “I’m gonna catch hell for this.” Maybe Bob thought a little hell in his life was good.
Bobby loved pictures.There were photographs everywhere in his house. None of them was labeled.
Bob’s friends from Milford once came to visit him in Burlington. They went to a very classy restaurant for dinner. Bobby ordered his dinner last – and ordered it to go. You see – they had chosen Friday night to visit and – there was a card game that night. That was a sacred thing to Bob. When he got outside Bobby realized that he had forgotten something. He rapped on the window to get the attention of the table by the window, to get those people to get his friends’ attention.
The son of the Milford couple told me how Bobby once lived in part of their house. He also told me that Bobby had taught him to pray.
The wife of my cousin told me that Bob got her husband sober. “If he didn’t, I could not have married him.” We all cried at the funeral.
She also told me that Bobby would speak with her about angels and other such things. She would miss their conversations.
Bob never lost his feisty and cantankerous nature. Although he regularly took people into his home to live, he regularly threw then out, and then would ask them to come back. He stayed “spirited” until the end.
Bobby would encourage anyone. He was extremely accepting and non-judgmental. He worked in the trenches with and for people and allowed them to call him at any hour.
Bob was sober for 24 years after drinking for 35 years. He had to fight to keep away from alcohol. That fight gave him a minister’s heart when it came to other AA members.
There was one last card game 10 days before he died. Bobby was still laughing heartily.
I took the pages Bobby had on the wall of his bathroom. This was his word of encouragement for himself, and for whomever else entered his home.
“Look to the day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
For yesterday is already a dream, and
Tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived, makes every
Yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.”
“Counting your blessings is an art which requires a deliberate decision – a decision to…
Think of the love
you’ve received, not the hate.
Think of the smiles you’ve seen, not the frowns.
Think of the praise you’ve been given, not the hurts.
Think of the healing that’s taken place, not the wounds.
Think of the good you’ve done, not the bad.
Think of the prayers you’ve offered, not the distractions.
Think of God’s forgiveness, not your guilt.
Think of the laughter, not the tears.
The secret of joy is found in a grateful heart.”
Bob is buried in the Randolph VA Cemetery – exit 4 on route 89. Stop by whenever you are in the neighborhood. If you look closely, there might even be a card game happening.