My encounter with Bob, and his wife / by John Koster

Bob was kicking around the same trading post I was in Bisbee, Arizona and he turned around and asked me what I thought about the hat. I told him I fully approved and he allowed me to take this shot. He asked me if I had the car with the Wisconsin plates outside, and when I answered yes, he told me that he and his wife used to visit his brother in Eagle River, but his brother had long since passed.

Then Bob shared with me that his wife had passed just six weeks ago after having a major stroke on the day after their 48th anniversary. I told him how sorry I was for his loss, and he said, "I don't know what to do. She didn't wake up one morning, and then two days later, we were burying her. Everyone was great, the kids, the family and the neighbors all took care of everything because I couldn't think. I couldn't talk. I couldn't even cry. It just wasn't real. So for a week, everyone was there and it was like a big reunion, like a big party for her, but she wasn't there."

He continued, "Then after a week, and all her clothes were packed away and the house cleaned up and everyone went back to their lives but I couldn't go back to mine. I just stood there in the middle of the living room and expected her to walk in any minute. I stood there for two days waiting for her. I know that sounds crazy, but we never spent a day without each other, for forty-eight years. Finally I lay on the floor and talked to her for a full day, crying and laughing and remembering all the good times and all the really shitty times, too. Then I packed up the car and hit the road and I'm going to take a good long trip with her by my side. I think she'd really like this hat. She always wanted me to get a black one but I thought it made me look like a bad guy, like in the movies."

Bob asked me if I'd have a beer with him across the street and I told him that was the best idea I'd heard all day. So we sat across the street and had a drink and he told me all about his wife Gloria. I had the distinct feeling as he told me story after story that she was sitting right next to us, admiring his beautiful black hat.