We all have Bobs in our life. Mine is seventy-seven. He looks frail at first glance, his hair white and wispy like clouds on a blue sky day. He wears glasses and totters about like he is one misstep from needing a hip replacement, an old Irish golfing cap made of wool perched on his head no matter the weather. He likes to stick things under that hat so he won’t lose them. His lottery ticket, his glasses, the business card with the date of his next doctor’s appointment.

Even though he is seventy-seven, Bob still comes into work every morning, makes it through the day and flops down in a chair at the end of it. On some afternoons, he will come into the office and we will talk. After ten minutes, he will start looking for his glasses to read me something from one of his magazines and I will have to remind him to look under his cap. He will laugh at himself and grin at me.

What I really like about Bob is his wisdom, his perspective and experience. And he has a lot of it. It is not often that you get to work with seventy-seven year old men and so I take the opportunity to listen when I can. He does not mind sharing with me what he has learned even if it exposes an old weakness.

With Bob, it does not end with bits of wisdom or funny stories. He is always bringing me in something to read. Sometimes it is simple, like the weekend section from the newspaper that lets me know what is going on or what the highlights are in the area. Sometimes it is the sports page with a good article on a superstar we both know. Sometimes it is an article from the Smithsonian that he found informative and thought I might enjoy, articles about killer sharks, a revitalized Singapore, or a story about the latest tech the soldiers are using in Afghanistan.

It is wisdom Bob is imparting. I am not foolish enough to think I know it all, so I listen. I know there will always be more to learn, experience and grow from. That is why I try to fill my life with Bobs and books, and listen more than I talk, because at some point I am going to get stuck.

It might be when I am going house shopping for the first time and I find out some of my past financial mistakes are going to haunt me. Perhaps it will be when I fight with the love of my life and she hands me back our engagement ring. Perhaps it will be ten years down the road and I am facing a medical procedure brought on by all the times I boiled my vegetables instead of steaming them. Maybe it will be simple things like the best place to buy tires, or what to prop up my tomatoes with, or what restaurant has the best seafood.

At times like these, I need my best thinking to get me through, to get me relief, to give me the answer. But if I can only make decisions based on what I know, then I need to know more. And that is where Bob comes in. He knows all of this. He has probably done it, seen it, or lived it.

Some day Bob will not come teetering into work. His hat will sit on its place on the shelf and I will remember more of his stories and bits of wisdom than he will. Until then, Bob can talk all he wants.

© Seth Crossman