A couple of weeks ago, as my wife was cruising Facebook, she asked if I knew a guy named Bobby B; he died. Yes, I have a funny memory including Bobby.
I generally hated going to church because of the ‘boring factor’. It didn’t seem to bother the ‘B’ family however; every Sunday you’d see Dad B and the three B boys all snug as a bug in their seats. A family that sleeps together, keeps together, right? (At this point, should I keep secret that my stepfather Joe also once fell asleep and let out a big snore?)
Sunday school however holds a lot of funny and special memories for me. There was of course the great nasal spray battle written about in this story (link). And then there was the meeting of Betty from this story (link).
Like all of you out there, seventh, eighth and ninth grades, (Jr high years for me), were the years of pimples, growing hair in strange places and generally feeling awkward 23 hours out of the day. The church we attended however had a great youth leader who sponsored several programs that served as valued escape from the world of teenage ‘weirdom’.
I played on the church softball team and the church basketball team and just loved it. Our church didn’t really have an official temple or cathedral; ours doubled as a full sized basketball court. Some of my favorite memories there are those spent in the youth minister sponsored teen all nighters. They really weren’t ‘all’ night but our parents would drop us off around 6pm. The doors would get locked, (a safety violation today, I’m sure), and a parent would pick us up at midnight or later.
The evening’s schedule usually included roller skating, basketball, pizza eating and just general kid blowing off the steam fun. Teenagers have lots and lots of steam and I’m sure that the parents loved these nights as much as we pimply faced teens. Our church was circular or octagonal in structure with a sub level. Sometimes 3-4 of us boys would go downstairs to jog around the circle. Many times we’d pair off two by two and run in separate directions so that when our paths crossed we’d each have a little teenage ‘rugby’…without the ball. Usually a boy named Terry Kimble would be my partner and we’d battle a boy named Steve Wilson and another player.
These all nighters didn’t always have happy endings. Once I drove home a couple of boys who I thought I was friends with, only to find my car stereo stolen the next morning. I wrote about these boys in this story (link).
To be able to play on the church sports teams I mentioned above, I had to attend Sunday School. The youth minister was our coach and he kept track; you had to attend two out of three Sundays in order to play in the game that week. Often times Tom, (a local mortuary owner), would volunteer to drive the church van, picking up those of us who didn’t have a ride, (or whose parents wanted to sleep in….at least I hope they were sleeping, yuk). Luckily none of us passed out asleep during our ride – the goal was to make it to church, not Tom’s place of business.
And so….it was in Sunday School where Bobby B got to be the brunt of a harmless joke.
The B family must have kept late hours because they were always sleepy. My recollection too was that maybe Mom B was not around any longer. I don’t know if there was a divorce or death involved, but perhaps Dad was pulling double duties with his boys, or maybe she just made them all ride the van. So one Sunday school morning, we were all in our lesson circle. Bobby had fallen sound asleep. Leaning back in his folding chair, he wasn’t just asleep, he was moth open snoring!
Terry and I just looked at each other, both of us with the same devious smiles. I rolled up that week’s program into a tight cylinder and handed it to Terry who was seated next to Bobby. Next, Terry very carefully slipped the cylinder into Bobby’s wide open, snoring mouth. And there is where it sat for about 60 seconds.
Everyone was snickering, very quietly, even the youth minister who was providing the lesson that week. After that hilarious minute, Bobby had a quick snore that woke him up. You know how it is when you wake up, you’re briefly out of your element, not fully aware of what’s going on around you? That was Bobby. He realized something was in his mouth after maybe three seconds and looked at us. We were all cracking up. Bobby took it all in stride, smiling and laughing at himself. Just some harmless fun that made for a funny memorable moment.
And that was Bobby, pretty much good natured most of his life. I wasn’t close to Bobby. I only knew him from church. We were the same age and attended all the same schools but we were never in the same classes and back in my day, if you didn’t have the same classes or live in the same alley, you might as well have lived in another city.
My recollection is that Bobby spent most of his life in a wheelchair as a result of some kind of accident, (I think auto). I think he did a little work for charity and tried to hold himself up as some sort of a role model (sorry, I don’t know the cause). And so my impression, (gained only from Facebook and my early teen church years), was that he was a happy person who worked hard to always focus on the positive side of life.
There comes a time when all of us are left with only our love and our memories. I’m working here, trying to share all of my memories with you. Maybe when I’m finished, I’ll be filled only with love….not a bad way to go, eh?