So this week brought about a very unexpected and shock departure of a much loved family member but that brought the opportunity to write to my door again. To write so soon after someone’s passing is a difficult thing but cathartic too allowing me to concentrate my thoughts on the extraordinary life of a unique individual who was so special and who will forever sit so close to my heart.
(Pictured abt 2006)
Robert McNama was born 24 May 1945 in Milton, Glasgow, Scotland. He was my Uncle and the third of four children born to my Grandma and Granddad McNama, their only son and my mother’s last remaining member of her family excluding herself. He passed away very unexpectedly on the evening of Friday 3 March 2017.
Bob or Bobby as he was known was born, lived and died “special”. At birth he was what I’ve heard my mother describe as a “blue baby”. I am not a medic and know very little about his actual condition but believe that it had something to do with the red blood cells and there not being enough oxygen in his blood which led to the slow development of his brain, a condition which wasn’t reversible and left our Bobby with a permanent disability and a beautiful personality. Supposedly it was a condition that could now easily be treated with a blood transfusion but back in the day when medical knowledge was restricted, he was left untreated but I feel just as he should be for there was nothing our Bobby needed that he wasn’t blessed with already.
His disability brought it’s own challenges for him growing up. We have learnt how he suffered at the hands of many of his peers who just did not understand him and were often cruel as other children can often be. He was sadly ridiculed and tormented both mentally and physically which brings pain to us as his family to think about as we are fiercely protective of him and loved him like no other. He was doted on by three sisters who adored him and he adored them in return.
(Uncle Bob pictured with mum and young Auntie Kay at Colwyn Bay, abt 1959)
(Granddad McNama with Bob and mum, 1954)
He was adored and had a special relationship with his dad too who passed away in 1977 when Bobby was 32. I can only begin to imagine the joy of their reunion together now at last. This particular image of them both together holds great poignancy for us all and conveys the love and devotion between father and son.
(Uncle Bob and Granddad in younger days)
Bobby spent the majority of his adult life in care. His disability meant he could never live an independent life and after the death of Granddad certainly, Grandma wold have struggled to care for Bobby on her own so Bobby was cared for in a number of residential homes but always having plenty of contact and visits back home and with family members. Not all his time in care was happy for Bobby and often he would “abscond” from care maybe after a disagreement with either another resident or a member of staff and Grandma would frequently receive a call to say that Bobby was missing and we would all be on alert and wait anxiously for Bobby to either turn up at home or be found and returned back to care. What always amazes us is how Bobby was never harmed during these times, particularly when he would set about making his way from East Grinstead where he lived to Manchester where we lived with no money and means of transport yet he would somehow always make it. I know he was being watched over and protected at those times by angels, placed in the path of people who would be kind and assist him on his way, offering food, money or whatever he needed to complete his journey home to us every time. I will always treasure this image I have of him and myself as it serves as a reminder of one of those very instances of when Bobby went “missing”. He went at a time when all my family were on holiday but I was the only one at home having come home from University for the weekend. I received a knock at the door one morning to open it and discover our Bobby grinning from ear to ear declaring he’d come to see Pam (his sister). I dread to think what would have happened if I hadn’t been there to let him in with nothing but the clothes on his back. I have no idea how he had made that journey himself or how he had even remembered where we live given how he had only been to that house once or twice before. A phone call anyway to my mum and subsequently his home and Bobby had a holiday for a couple of days with me until my family returned from theirs.
(Bobby and me)
Fortunately, later in life, Bobby was placed in a home he finally seemed content with and the disappearances stopped. He led a rich life with lots and lots of quality experiences and holidays abroad. This newspaper clipping from 2008 of our Bob being given assistance to watch his “beloved” Arsenal team play football raises a smile because Bobby was brought up on Manchester United like his family!!! We think his carer was the Arsenal fan maybe and so Bobby consequentially became converted!
(Bobby’s “dream” of watching Arsenal play coming true – 2008)
Loyalties for football teams might have been easily swayed but his taste in music could never be. He was a Cliff Richard fan through and through. Cliff Richard and James Bond were his heroes. He loved his harmonica and his guitar. (He couldn’t play either but enjoyed strumming and his rendition on the harmonica for his mum at her funeral was perhaps the most moving and strangely most perfectly tuneful thing I will ever remember!)
Bobby made everyone feel wonderful. His happy simplistic view on the world was infectious. Everyone and everything was beautiful. Everybody adored him. His carers loved him and I know his presence has impacted many people for the better. He was completely without guile or malice, loved family and was truly an angel in earthly form! He brought out the best in people and was the best example of human being there ever could be – such a purity and innocence to him that more would do better to adopt in themselves. I am thankful that his last few months on this earth were perhaps his happiest, living finally close to family and seeing them often. We love you and miss you Bobby – you will always be cherished!