Bob Hamm, Robert Hamm, Robert H. Hamm, I think that it was “H,” for Harry. I should remember, because those middle initials are important in America, where every Tom, Dick and Harry is named John, Robert or William, and family names repeat pretty damn quick too.
Bob died this week. No details are available, but Bob was not well, and men in his family died famously young. Bob was a little over 60, like me.
We met when we were both 17, and in our first year of college. We met in Communications 101, the mandatory speech class where we were supposed to lose our Nu Yawk accents, which was intended to make us more employable after graduation. All students had to take the class in their first semester, I guess they figured that it would take four years to lose it all together.
Our first assignment was to pick something, anything, and read it in front of the class. Most of the students read something very ordinary and boring. Me, though, I read the Preface to the Picture of Dorian Grey, which is a bold conception of the artistic dilemma, and Bob read something about disagreeable Aztec Gods. On this basis, we connected immediately.
For anyone who may have been at my wedding, Bob was my best man. No one present will ever forget his toast to the groom. It was a long Hindu prayer, delivered in the original Sanskrit. Then he explained it in English, something about a cucumber and a vine, it took about five minutes. He was completely serious the whole time, most of my relatives found it somewhat confusing.
Against all odds, we both went on to long term marriages and raised a total of five relatively well adjusted children. Most of this was accomplished at a great distance, but we stayed in touch, sometimes barely.
I’ll miss him.