Thursday, January 24, 2019

My Brother Bobby

     You may be wondering why Bobby always wore a baseball cap.  Even now,  I can see Bobby sitting in the "Camp", a tiny room between the bedroom and the bathroom, a space, nothing more than a cubby hole. Wearing his tortoise shelled round glasses and his baseball cap, he is thumbing through a stack of his beloved "Weekly Readers" which he has compiled into a book between two cardboard covers. He's laced them all together with the help of a long shoe lace. There he sits at age seven looking professorial.

     But why the baseball cap, you ask? Well here's the story.  To save money, my Dad would cart the three boys off to Mr. Kahn's for a haircut - Mr. Kahn was an old Jewish barber who lived in the Hill District, the Black part of town in Pittsburgh. His haircuts were fifty cents a cut.

      Problem was Mr. Kahn used an electric clipper and would shave the boys almost bald. This way they wouldn't have to come back too soon.  The twins' hair grew quickly, but somehow Bobby's did not. So Bobby wore his baseball cap to cover up the shame of being bald.

     Bobby has other peculiarities. He often walked on his toes. We called him "Toey" and we taunted him saying, "Hey Toey, come down off your toes." He also ate mud or grit from in between the bricks of our house. Was it for nourishment?  Was he missing an essential nutrient in his diet? 

     Bobby was exceptional in math - if the twins got stuck with math homework, they could turn to him. Bobby played the viola in the high school orchestra and was accepted at the University of Wisconsin. He was the first in our family to leave home, moving to San Francisco. Bobby was gay. He died at the age of fifty-five from a heart attack, too young to go.

    Though peculiar in his ways, Bobby was at ease in his own skin. He enjoyed life with friends and good entertainment.  He was frugal like my Dad.  He left each sibling an unexpected inheritance which was a boon to me in my hour of need.

    I can still see Bobby thumbing through his Weekly Readers and sorting through his President cards. He could tell you the year each president was born. Bobby was funny too, doing imitations of neighbors and family. He had Mrs. Greenberg, an eccentric red headed neighbor who wore peddle pushers down to a T. And he imitated Grandma Helen with her European accent spouting her favorite refrain, "Guess who I bumped to?"  upon returning from a walk down Murray Avenue. Bobby's imitations never failed to delight us. Forty years later, we were still bursting at the seams listening to Bobby.

     Oh, how I miss him. 

No comments: