Tuesday, April 21, 2015


My best friend Rob MacLennan died last September from complications of Parkinson's and dementia. I have been reluctant to write about it since then. Maybe I somehow think if I don't write about it, he really didn't pass on. His wife is in Scotland this week and will be spreading some of his ashes there. Last fall one of his friends spread some of his ashes in the White Mountains where he used to love to hike in the fall. And this summer his wife is going to spread the rest of his ashes in their favorite beachside town in Maine.

Rob was my best friend. I knew him longer than anyone in his family except for his brother. When I joined IBM on January 26, 1970, Rob was the first one to welcome me. I can still see his smiling face and his hand reaching out for mine. We hit it off right away. Rob lived in the Back Bay as Kathy and I did. The IBM office was in Copley Square and we used to walk to work. We didn't own cars until a few years later. We used to go to the Y after work and we would also run on the Esplanade. And we all used to get together for cookouts on the Esplanade. I had a hibachi and we would carry it over Storrow Drive to a beautiful point overlooking the Charles, and watch the sun set.

Times were simpler then. The original Hawaii 5.0 with Jack Lord was on in the middle of the week. Rob had a color tv so I would pick up a bag of Wise potato chips and a quart of Pepsi and walk over to his apartment. From that time on we always called each other Robo and Frano!

In 1974 my job moved to Waltham and then in 1978 we moved to Danbury Ct. We would talk on the phone and when we visited Kathy's mother in Topsfield, I would try to drop in and see Rob, who lived a few miles away. And of course, we always called ourselves Robo and Frano!

We retired to Newburyport in 2008 and Rob and Fran had moved here a few years before. We used to joke that we were going to grow old together. Shortly after Rob was diagnosed with Parkinsons and he gradually declined. He also had dementia. He couldn't drive anymore so I had the privilege of driving my best friend all around town a couple of times a week. We went to therapy, did errands, went out to lunch and breakfast, went for walks,  got haircuts and drove around and looked at the new houses being built and all the renovations being done.  These were some of the happiest times of my life. We talked about the old days, and wondered where the people we worked with in Boston were. And when you get to our age, you also learn where all the public restrooms are! Rob loved the lobster rolls at Bob and the breakfasts at Nancy's Marshside  and the Agawam Diner. I can still see Rob eating French toast at Nancy's with apple crisp and whipped cream piles on top. And he ate it all!

And during all these rides, Rob never complained, not once. One time he did say he was tired of being sick, but that was it. And this was after he was diagnosed with melanoma and had to have surgery on his groin area. And on top of all this he fell at the Y and broke his hip. He was determined to exercise several days a week. I found a miniature pair of ice skates in a store in Newburyport and gave them to Rob. And I said to Rob, " you have had some tough breaks. But we are going to keep fighting until hell freezes over, and when it does, we are going to get the skates out and keep fighting."
Rob kept these skates on the bathroom sink and looked at them every day. And he certainly did fight the good fight.

After Rob left IBM he became the facility manager at the beautiful Trinity Church in Copley Square in Boston. Not only was Spaceship Earth a better place because Rob was here, the town of Topsfield was a better place because of the all the committees Rob was on and the Trinity Church was a better place because of his efforts there. His memorial service was held at the Trinity Church in November. I was honored to be one of the two eulogists. Its pretty tough to compress someone's life into 5 minutes. A lot of what I wrote here is what I said.

I closed with the Roman poet Catullus's poem to his dead brother. And to my best friend Rob, frater, ave atque vale!


Last week I tilled the vegetable garden. Every fall, right after Thanksgiving, I spread the bale of hay that we used for the fall decorations-pumpkin, gourds, and corn stalks, on top of the vegetable garden and let the hay rest for the winter. Then in the spring I take the hay off, after the snow melts and it dries up, and keep it on the side and will use it for mulch during the season.
    As I till the garden, and sometimes I use a Mantis Tiller and sometimes I do it by hand with a shovel, I think about how I am doing the same thing as my father did every spring, my grandfather and my great grandfather. And the Native Americans, the Incas, the Maya's, the Aztecs and so many other civilizations throughout history. I can't help but feel that connection. And have you ever smelled fresh, tilled soil? It has a distinctive aroma. It's like smelling fresh roasted coffee.
And the better the soil, the fresher the smell, especially if you till in all the compost in the fall.
  Early in May I will plant the cool weather crops- lettuce, broccoli, brussel sprouts and the potatoes. Then in mid May, if there is no frost in sight, the tomatoes, beans, and what else I decide on. I like to add some different crops each year. So every April  hope springs eternal and so does the tilling of the garden.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Today is the opening of Major League Baseball. The Cardinals play at the Cubs. This is always an exciting day for me. I love to follow baseball and I have a library of several hundred baseball books. And one of the great pleasures in life, for me, is getting up in the morning, and reading the box scores of the previous days games in the Boston Globe, while sipping the morning coffee.

To get in the mood I just watched some scenes on YouTube from the Field of Dreams movie. I watched James Earl Jones great speech about baseball and people will come. And then I watched the scene with Kevin Costner playing catch with his father. Joe Jackson tells him if you build it (the field) he will come. And of course, he meant Kevin's father. What a scene. I got moist eyes watching that. My father has been gone 35 years now. I can't play catch with him anymore. But I do think of him every day. And I carry his last drivers license in my wallet, as I have done since he died. So in a sense he is always with me!

To all the sons and daughters out there, get out there and play catch with your father and if he can't play catch, hug him and kiss him. And if he is not nearby, call him. Talk to him. Don't tweet, text or email. Before you know it, he will be walking out into the cornfield.