Tonight, I had dinner with one of the greatest men, I thought I knew. All of my 25 years I’ve known Robert Troyer, to me, “Popo”, to others Bob, as the man who could fix anything and makes the worlds best homemade ice cream. How many times have I had to interview someone in my family for a school project, about 100 I’m sure. How have I never asked him these questions? I am admitting to myself that it is because I have taken him for granted. The Grandpa who lives close to me and I see more often than just on holidays. Why I would interview someone I see all the time, I already know him. Wrong.
For 25 years I have known this man, my grandpa, as the man who would pick me up in his Sears work truck on his lunch breaks and take me to get ice cream at Foster’s Freeze, down the street. The man who never let me win when we played Rummi and who would let me play doctor for hours on end while he really wanted to watch the game. The man who never left without fixing every door that squeaked, or cupboard that didn’t close. The man who caught geckos with me on our family trip to Hawaii and was never too good to play in the pool with my brothers and me. The super man who knew the answers and could make it work again. Popo. Tonight, at dinner, I asked questions.
Robert Troyer was born at Long Beach Community Hospital, where years later a surgeon would tell him that the tonsils he had removed weren’t thrown away but thrown down the hill, the hospital was perched on. Palm trees lined the streets that the Circle Drive-in was on, and when a group of monkeys got loose from the zoo, he got to keep one. Long before he had a monkey for a pet, Robert’s dad drove to California with his brothers and sisters from Oklahoma. At age 3, memories started to stick, and he was able to remember that his dad worked at McDonald Douglas and his Uncle Dan was the brains of the family.
In the 8th grade Bob’s oldest sister came home with her best friend, Shirley and something clicked. Shirley had a boyfriend who she would later marry and have a daughter with, but that didn’t stop him from telling her she had a cute backside and flirting when she’d come around. From meeting in the 8th grade to watching Shirley get married and raise a daughter, he always knew she was something more. Years passed and after Tammy’s dad passed away, Bob swooped in to take a chance. Fast-forward and Shirley and Bob are married and Tammy has a Step-Dad.
Before working for Firestone Rubber Company for 12 long years, The Army needed help in Korea, and Bob was drafted to ship out. Working in supply, Bob was able to stay out of harms way, when delivering boots and supplies to other soldiers. For 16 years after returning home, Custom Drapery was what brought home the bacon until retirement. At age 57, it was time to enjoy evening walks around the park with Shirl and a game of pool on Fridays. Retirement has been enjoyable but settling down didn’t happen over night. After officially retiring, every house on the block’s front yard was perfectly manicured and there was never a need to hire-out because the handy works of Bob were readily available.
Not only did Bob find a Wife in Shirley, he gained a daughter, Tammy who would later bless him with 3 grandkids of his own. We may not share any blood, or genetic traits, but we still get a lot from our Popo. When there wasn’t a yard to be raked, or a washing machine to be fixed, there was always a grandchild ready to play.
When asked what events stood out in Bob’s life, it wasn’t going to war that he answered with; it was the passing of his parents and his sisters passing away. Watching his wife recover from triple bi-pass surgery, his daughter survive cancer…twice, taking his grandson to the hospital after he slipped and fell on vacation in Hawaii. It was watching the people he loved suffer, and how it made him feel. It wasn’t winning an award, or getting recognized, it was the feelings that his family gave him that stood out. I may not have gotten my eyes from my Popo, but I like to think I got a lot of my family pride from him. When there is a bond as strong as Bob’s to his family, you don’t need to share a bloodline.
Today there weren’t any custom draperies to hang, or any washing machines to repair, but there was a household and a wife to take care of. Pride in not his neighbors lawn, but in his own rose garden, and this time, a chemo appointment listed under his name. How could it be his turn? He has already watched more than half his family suffer, why should he have to have a go at it. Waking up in wonder, and going to sleep at night not knowing what will happen has become Bob’s biggest thought. With well-developed cancer, everyday is a little different than it used to be. The doctor’s appointments are his, and the guessing game is one we don’t know how to win, yet. With the family Bob has worked so hard to get, he has all he needs to beat the bad, and bring on the good.
Tonight I had dinner with a super man that I thought I knew, and then I had dessert with a man I’m proud to know, and call Popo.