This past weekend my step-father-in-law passed away at the age of 79. I’d known Bob Bruss for just over twenty years. In that time we’d shared many conversations about marriage, life, in-laws, and a thousand other things that I’m not always sure how to quantify.
And we talked about writing.
He was always supportive of my writing, even if it was not the type of thing he was into. He wasn’t a big science fiction or fantasy type of guy. He preferred his made up stories to have some level of history to wrap themselves around. Still, he’d ask me how my current project was going, and I appreciated it.
I’m not sure when I found out he was a writer as well. Instead of prose, he focused on poetry. He would jot notes down about life, growing up, and places he’d seen. Over the years he might mention having written a new poem here or there. And at some point, either Courtney or I mentioned that he could potentially take those poems and publish them. I’m not sure if he felt like it might be too big of a task or if he wasn’t sure how to begin. A few more years went by and then Courtney gave him a gift for Christmas that said we’d help him compile everything and get it published.
Which really meant, I’d help him gather up his stuff and get him published.
We’d started the process just before Covid hit. And while 2020 wasn’t great for anyone, for Bob it was a spiral downward as his health began to really deteriate. We’d joke privately that we needed to be extra diligent as if COVID got anywhere near him we knew that would be the straw that broke the camel’s back for sure. He landed in the ICU for 14 days at one point.
Suffice to say, he wasn’t really feeling working the book. Suddenly I was worried that we might never finish it before he passed away.
And then, he rallied. As 2021 came on, he seemed to be more like his younger self. And with that came a flurry of emails with notes and thoughts about how to present the poems. He enlisted my mother-in-law, Bonnie, to help type them up, and sure enough we managed to get everything out there and publish it on Amazon.
Bonnie told me later that he was so proud once he held a physical copy in his hand. And as someone who has been lucky enough to have that moment a couple of times… I understood.
Now that he’s passed on, I found myself thinking about that process. That had we not gotten another two years he wouldn’t have been able to see his work out there. Wouldn’t be able to see others read selections. Or even have one of the poems turned into a song.
I figured he wouldn’t mind if I shared one of my personal favorites here. Given that I sometimes (always) have a hard time throwing things out, this one really spoke to me.
My Favorite Old Chair – Bob Bruss
(from Other Things Sweet – A Collection of Poems)
Once I had a favorite old chair
It’s where I would sit and never share.
It was made of green leather and had a high back
The arm rests discolored and turned shades of black.
The cushion was crushed and it sagged where I sat
It was really quite comfy; and I liked it like that.
Under the cushion, down in the cracks
It held all the crumbs I had dropped from my snacks.
I liked that old chair, it fit like a glove
The feelings I had seemed to border on love.
I’d sit there for hours while watching TV
And bask in the comfort of its arms around me.
But all good things must come to an end
The time had come to say goodbye to you my friend.
My wife was insisting, the chair had to go
I can’t face the fact, please say it’s not so.
The chair now resides at the home of a friend
I can’t face the fact that it’s come to an end.
But still on occasion I go visit there
And take a few minutes to sit in my chair.
If you wanted to read his work, you can find his book here.
John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.
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