Reflections From a Friend of a Son of a Son of a Sailor
Soon, a woman from a small town in
Robbie Taylor, 40 or 10-years-old (depending on how you count the leap year), probably never realized the impact his life made on my own. Some things were temporary, such as making it as difficult as possible to date his daughter in high school. Others would last forever, like his deep effect on my general attitude toward life.
He taught me lessons in a language I truly understood, but few others used to communicate. For example, he could have told me that culture and trends would come and go in passing, instead he ridiculed my love for the White Stripes. He could have said something about how hard it is to grow up and resist impulse, instead he showed me Social Distortion.
His perpetual force-feed of Jimmy Buffett tunes, however, probably did more for my life than he will ever know.
Rob was a man of simplicity and good-times. He loved his dogs, his dirt bikes and his relaxation. He was at his best trading stories and smiles—I still remember the way he tilted his chin back when he really smiled or laughed.
When I met Rob, I was a less-than-relaxed young teen battling the science fair racket. I wanted to be a doctor, and other than casually playing the guitar, I focused on science. The only interest we seemed to share was his daughter, but he definitely didn’t like that. Our families would go to the beach and I would staunchly resist sing-a-longs and a cappella Buffet performances on the car trips.
Eventually the man was able to spearhead a group trip to a Buffett concert. At the time, I was appalled Buffett may be the first concert I ever attended, but I admit I was excited nonetheless. It didn’t happen immediately, but somewhere during that trip, parrot-headedness became slightly appealing.
The cheesy songs about food items in paradise and the fishily cutesy songs about sharks aren’t what I am talking about. Some years down the road, perhaps I will learn Rob had a lesson in these songs as well. It is tracks like “A Pirate Looks at 40” and “Son of a Son of a Sailor” for which I am currently grateful.
I appreciate the slew of relaxing-on-the-beach jams these days as well, but it’s the aforementioned ballads that weigh heavy as I reflect on Rob’s life. He was a man I think would have been content to be rock star or a motocross champion, but he was also a man who was happy refereeing little league games and meeting at the Stray Cat Café to talk about upcoming beach trips.
The atmosphere he brought with us to Ocean Isle, N.C. was probably worth more than anything the beach itself had to offer. He belonged at the beach, he longed for something. I don’t know what he wanted, but I am not sure he did either. I think he wanted to want, and there is something strangely beautiful about that.
I think Rob saw a lot in the potential in the Buffett-lifestyle. Robbie Taylor barely saw past forty; perhaps if Buffett would have written a song entitled “A Pirate Looks at Fifty,” Rob would have held out another decade.
Yes, I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder
I’m an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late
-Jimmy Buffett, “A Pirate Looks at 40”
Rob wasn’t a Wiseman, but he was wise. The amount of knowledge isn’t near as important as the quality of it. Rob knew the most important piece of knowledge about life is to enjoy every bit of it. I’m glad he passed that along to me, because it wasn’t in any of the books I had been reading. I don’t know what his great-grandfather did for a living, but he may as well have been a sailor.
As a dreamer of dreams and a traveling man
I have chalked up many a mile
Read dozens of books about heroes and crooks
And I learned much from both of their styles
-Jimmy Buffett, “Son of a Son of a Sailor”
My last memory of Rob is fuzzy. I think we ran into each other on one of my trips home, but one of us was in a hurry. My last clear memory is sitting on his porch and trying to play “Margaritaville” by guitar tab while he sang along. It was a summer home from school and I’m not sure how I ended up at his place.
Pirates are rarely known for their parenting abilities, but Rob raised a wonderful daughter who married a wonderful man. Both will give birth to a wonderful granddaughter that would have had a wonderful grandfather. I am glad to have had the opportunity to have known him, even if I regret spending such little time with him lately.
I never would have thought he would be gone so soon. I don’t know if he’s riding some super-bike, laying on some beach, commanding some ship or just sipping on pina coladas while he is picking up shells in front of the beach house he picked out for his friends and family. I only hope that right now, Rob is smiling that smile that I will remember forever.
Yes, Rob many have been a pirate, but he wasn’t 200 years too late. Buffett was wrong about this pirate. He arrived in perfect time to touch every life he encountered, even if he had to leave early.
Rob's obituary tells a little more about a man you all should have met.
I have so much more to say about this. Perhaps I will revisit it at some time, but for now I simply can't think about it anymore. If I come back, I would love to tell you about how I think the man helped my father relax as well, how Rob helped me get my first hangover and how for a period of about two years I spent half of my life as his friend and another half scared to death of him. That's for another time, or it's just for me. Every time I hear a Buffett tune, sip on some frozen concoction or find a sea shell in the sand, I'll remember Rob.