On Never Giving Up

When my sister and I were little, we tried to get our mom on that show Queen for a Day. If she won, those nice people would find our father, we reasoned. Little as we were, we couldn’t imagine what skills of euphemism and tact Mom had to call on to tell us the hard truth: that sometimes a person lets himself be lost to us because he wants to be lost to us.

In the past 48 hours I have used every means available to find someone who is lost to me now, though back when this picture was taken he was a virtual member of our family. Finally, yesterday I got in my car and drove 200 miles to look for him in what I thought were the likeliest places.

I had no luck.

The sun was going down when I decided to go to the last place where, some three or four years ago, I heard he had worked: the dining facility on a college campus. It was full dusk by the time I reached that campus and asked the first person I saw where the dining hall was. She wrinkled her nose at the bad news she had for me:  “There are many dining halls,” she said. “As many dining halls as there are dorms.”

“Well, is there a campus center where they sell food?” I asked. There was and she gave me its name.

The place was all but empty when I walked in. I saw only one young man wiping down tables.

“I know this is a long shot but I’m looking for someone who I heard might work in the dining services on this campus. You don’t know anyone named Rob do you?”

Gee no, and that IS a long shot,” he said, shaking his head. “Though I think I do SEE a guy named Rob sometimes. Stay here and I’ll ask.”

 I could hear him asking a woman in a hairnet who had just materialized at the register so I walked that way.

 That lady too shook her head. “But wait, does he cook?”

“Yes, last I heard. He’s a cook.”

She then walked me back to two young guys in chef’s attire standing behind the counter. I gave them Rob’s whole name and explained that he had been like a son to me; I explained that he was to be honored next week at a special dinner establishing his high school’s Wrestling Hall of Fame.

“He’s not here today but serious? He was a wrestler?”  

“State champ!” I said.

Then I took his picture from my wallet.

“God is that ROB?” one cried. “He was this good-lookin’ dude!” said the other.

 “It’s him all right,” said a third person, walking over. “Look at the eyes.”

This first guy gave a low whistle as he took from me the envelope I had ready.  

“I’ll give this to our boss and she’ll give it to him tomorrow,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

I thanked them, got back into my car and began the long drive home in the dark. Still, I felt at peace, and grateful for what seemed like the near-miracle that had pointed me, at the last possible minute, to this one kitchen of the more than dozen kitchens on campus.

I had not been able to see Rob, but I had been able to leave the announcement of the wrestling event, and my very short note, and also,  on a whim, the crinkled original version of the picture you see here, which has not left my wallet in almost 22 years. Maybe it was also miraculous that, just last year, I scanned it into my computer.

Rob is not lost to his community out there:  He has his life, He has his sons. But he is lost to some people back here who miss him keenly, like this wonderful Coach Tremblay, below, who will honor him next week even if he never again sees him again in his life. Not many people will do that for you.

I hope Rob lets us find him this time.


21 thoughts on “On Never Giving Up

  1. You better let us know if Rob shows up. I’m sure you let him know he has somewhere to stay if he does. Ever see the show “If Walls Could Talk”? I can’t imagine, but I think your walls would have a gabfest.

    1. ha ha. A gabfest is right! there was the year Rob lived here, the year Dodson lived here, the year David’s brother and his wife and child and dog lived here…My we have laughed!
      Thanks for this B 🙂

  2. Terry – What a beautiful, heartfelt column. And what an act of determination and love on your part to search and search and search. Thanks for sharing the story. – Phil

  3. Terry, it was persistance that led me to seeing my father again after 28 years. We did stay in touch until 2 years before he died but he never came to Boston again. He was not as close as his letters, sometimes eloquent, indicated. He left a daughter, who, when she was 11 wished Oprah would have us on her show so we could meet for the first time. She felt we didn’t have enough “dirt” in our history to make that happen. We have sporadic letters between us but a meeting seems unlikely. She is now 60. Let us know how your search works out.

  4. Terry, I don’t know that we’ve ever met. I found this weblink while doing a “google” on Larry Tremblay. … VERY interesting to see your writing on Roberto. (I’m still not sure what this site is. Are you a journalist, a blogger?) I just figured I’d post a reply. I was there at the Hall of Fame banquet honoring Roberto Saez, Fall 2011. I was also helping to coach Roberto during his junior year. I helped Larry Tremblay Coach this year (28-2, Sectional Champs, State Runners-up). Lastly, I was an earlier beneficiary of his coaching. I wrestled 4 yrs for him, class of 85. Bottomline: Roberto was a great wrestler and is a good guy. Larry’s a great coach and has made a huge impact on a lot of people! Thanks for your “article”! –Charlie Cowen

    1. Charlie yes, I’m a syndicated columnist AND a blogger. And I too am still connected to WHS wrestling: Cameron Horesy, Rayvoughn Millings and Enderson Naar stayed at my house over February vacation as they were wrestling with you you guys… I have worked with Winchester ABC these many years and can even picture a few of the guys from the Class of ’85. Thanks so much for writing me… and for saluting publicly one great coach!

  5. Funny I came across this blog…I too have wondered what happened to Rob. We were friends when he went to Springfield. I think I actually stayed at your house once! I hope you found him again and that he is healthy and happy.

  6. Hi Terry,
    We met over 20 years ago. I was the admissions counselor at Springfield that worked with Rob. I stumbled across your blog… what a coincidence. If you talk to Rob, tell him I said hello.
    Chris Farmer

    1. Chris I remember you! Small world is right!
      Rob is still right there in Springfield near his two sons, who are, I think, 17 and 14.
      You were so devoted in your work…. Are you stil at the college?

      1. I left Springfield 20 years ago. Have been a high school guidance counselor in Harlem and the Bronx since.

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