The Lost of a Brother/Friend

January 14, 2019 by  

Bob and me on the grounds of Rainbow Ridge Publishing House.

There are brothers born of the blood and brothers born of the spirit. Robert Friedman, Bob, was my brother born of the spirit. We referred to each other as "brothers from different mothers." On January 7, 2019, I received an email informing me that Bob had passed away. He suffered from a neurological disease that burned through his brain like a California wildfire. I went to visit him a few days before his passing, fearful that he would not recognize me but he did. He rested quietly, not talking as I held his hand, meditating. When it was time to leave I leleaned over his bed and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "You kissed me!" He exclaimed with some surprise. "I think a nearly 50-year friendship is worthy of a kiss. They do it in Europe on both cheeks but I can't reach the other side. "Both Cheeks?" He said. Beth, his companion said," he's waiting for you to kiss the other one." The kiss awakened him like it did Sleeping Beauty. It was the last exchange we would have.

Some people come into your life for a season but there are still others who are embroidered into your life. Bob was such a person to me. When I met him I was in my early twenties, a young writer looking for a place to publish. I had been a magazine writer and newspaper columnist in New York City. Bob was Managing Editor of the Hampton Roads City Magazine,Metro. I approached him about writing an article. Being direct, as he was prone to be, I would discover as I got to know him, he told me, "We don't publish ethnic material." I responded in kind, "I don't write ethnic material." I challenged him to give me an assignment and let me show what I could do. He assigned me an article on the Martial arts. My piece, The Lure of the Dragon,was the cover story of the next edition and lead to my being named a Contributing Editor of the magazine. I was Metro's first Black writer because Bob gave me a chance to prove myself...and that was only the beginning.

Eventually, I went back to New York. Before I left, Bob told me of his dream to start a publishing house. "I want you to be my first author," he said. A couple of years went by. I forgot Bob's request and found a publisher for my first book. A letter came from Bob asking for my manuscript. He had established Donning/Hirschfeld Publishers. In an act of faith, and to keep my promise, I broke my contract with Amuru Press and sent Bob the manuscript to Kung Fu: The Master-The Book of Kitabu. It was a collection of my poetry. Once again, Bob had taken a chance on my work. His faith in me established me as a published poet. I returned to Virginia to promote the book and to a deeper relationship with Bob. He invited me to his home for dinner with his wife and children, many times. Even after their divorce, he included me in his new relationships. I included him in mine as well. Bob was my best man at my wedding.

Bob played multiple roles in my life. At one point, he organized a Martial arts class for me to teach him and some friends of his. Bob loved Metaphysical themes and he would eventually publish many such books. He founded two other publishing houses after Donning/Hirschfeld. They were Hampton Roads Publishing and Rainbow Ridge. I was published by each of the companies and was also Publicity Director of Hampton Roads Publishing. Bob was deeply invested in my writing career, and thus, my mission. So many writers owed their careers to Bob. He published Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations With God which became a bestseller. He became publisher of Richard Bach, author of the famed,Jonathan Livingston Seagull and co-wrote a book with Eckhart Tolle which became the movie, Milton's Secret,starring Michelle Rodriguez. Despite his accomplishments, he remained humble and approachable. He loved his children, Jonathan, Mathew, Mark, and Sophie and took pride in their endeavors. My own daughter, LaKita gave me a plush angel who says the "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer to remember Bob by and clipped my nails as a way of showing her desire to touch me in a more intimate way. In times like these, your loved ones can make a huge difference."Mr. Bob will always be part of your life," she said. She was right. I have nearly 50 years of memory and a library of books to remember him by. I will never forget when I was in the hospital Bob and Beth came down from Charlottesville to see me. I was tired of hospital food, so I asked him to bring me something to eat. Per my request, he smuggled in a Chili Dog with cheese. He hid it in the inside pocket of his Sport's coat. The aroma was embedded in his clothes. We all laughed about that.

Soon friends and family will gather to honor his memory as a group. We will have a lot to share. I will always remember that we never failed to say how much we loved each other...two brothers from different mothers.

At Bob's request, my first book, Kung Fu: The Master and his will be republished this year. That event will bring us full circle. His son, Jonathan, who has assumed the duties of the publisher, will honor his father's wishes.


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