The Most Honourable Very Right Reverend Robert Michael Flaherty has left the building. A man who for most of the years I knew him wore shorts with a trench coat; liberated from any impact of mere weather. I went to two formal dances with him seven years apart and he didn’t dance at either but he did grade the skill of the DJ and have a great time.
Rob was the person who so often was there to listen no conditions asked. Many many times he saw me being self-destructive and he would chide and guide but not judge. We spent countless hours sitting around talking about nothing -or singing along to songs- or playing darts or pool during our years at UofI.
When my father reneged on his promise to let me travel if I finished University early and put me to work full time under his eye; Rob got me a second job so I could at least be less hassled two days a week. I still have my “Future Now” mug.
When I felt isolated in Law School Rob set me up with a link to his UofI internet connection so I could chat online with him, Stan in Japan and Tony (this was in 1992/3).
When my heart was broken for the NNth time by the same oblivious fool and I started to become reclusive Rob drove up to DeKalb and physically pulled me out of the flat so I would go out to a restaurant and shoot the breeze with him.
Rob attended my law school graduation and my brother still remembers him as the one who said “cut me some of that butter action” during the lunch after. He was always saying things like that.
Since moving to Europe we haven’t really spoken but texted. For me this is the norm with most people in my life as I live far away. I have spent quite a lot of hours entertained by Rob’s Facebook activity. Rob is one of a very small handful of people that read my books and even gave one protagonism in a post about clearing his bookshelves. Thanks to his Facebook I know his daughter cannot doubt how much he loved her. I think that is invaluable.
Rob was not just a good influence but was himself undeniably optimistic. In December Rob texted to say he was getting divorced but it was going to be his Robaissance: a time for him to reinvent himself and throw himself into new hobbies. Everyone’s time is too short but I feel sure that Rob got the very most possible out of his years and his attitude in the last months was still wholly positive. Rob was an expert at getting value for time in a way that no one else I have EVER met even comes close to.