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!

No comments: