An email from my brother with only a name in the subject box means one thing; someone died. I knew who it was without opening the link. For those of us growing up together, there was only one Bubba. He wasn’t the stereotypical bubba of Redneck lore.
Roger Banks was built like a gun safe. Short and stocky, with calves like most guys’ thighs, Bubba appeared strong and solid at first glance. He exceeded expectations. Few of the folks who attended classes with him knew he once took violin lessons or wore two tone loafers with white uppers for a time. Likely everyone who passed him in the halls knew he was a bad ass.
As I glanced at his obituary, I was surprised at what he accomplished in life. Bubba moved from Tuscaloosa in his early twenties. Most of his friends thought he was making a mistake. He had married and divorced, dallied with several mismatched women, and finally settled on a settled lady who none of us thought was right for him. I recognized her name in his obituary. Stayed together till the end.
When Bubba left for Mississippi, he was a renegade sheet rock hanger who’d work like a madman when possible, then spend his downtime hunting and fishing. He eventually became a realtor, and started a construction company. Bubba served as president of his local Homebuilders’ Association, and spent his last years practicing taxidermy.
He wasn’t the leader of our gang; we didn’t really have one, but Bubba was our gravity. He held us together with his strength. He didn’t talk much but made sure we all circled our star in unison.
My overriding vision of Roger Banks was him sitting in a cane chair attached to a homemade platform high on Yank Gaines’ jeep. He looked like Granny Clampett. The only time he put high school English to use was writing letters to Yank at Parris Island. Bubba was likely the most damaged by Yank’s death in Viet Nam yet he was the one we all clung to for needed strength at the funeral.
After reading his obituary, I felt a deep sense of loss, even though I’ve not seen him in forty years. His first wife was best friends with the Mother of my Children. He drove the Mustang from Tuscaloosa, across Eastern Alabama, eventually ending up in Cairo, Georgia, where I married her. A Judge of the Ordinary, confined to a wheelchair, performed the ceremony in a most impersonal way, but the marriage lasted a quarter century.
When Bubba divorced our time together diminished. After he moved away it disappeared. Forty years without a thought. I thought of nothing else all morning after hearing of his death. The usual stuff; personal mortality, finality of someone who played a part in one’s youth disappearing, old memories of more intoxicating times. Why we never reconnected.
Bubba would pine for an old love named Libby when intoxicated and cry when Jimmy Ruffin sang What Becomes of the Brokenhearted. He also sported a scar on his forearm from a macho contest involving a lit cigarette laid between arms. He was not knowledgeable but was smart. He depended on his strength like a blind man depended on his hearing.
He could read a construction blueprint, work out the fractions involved with installing sheetrock, but thought pro wrestling was real. Quiet, sensitive, and a loyal friend; he was lackadaisical about sexual relationships and as stubborn as a glacier.
I was surprised to hear of his passing. I thought he was totally removed from my life, and I assumed he would live much longer. I was also surprised a man I knew for only five years, forty years ago, would cause such a deep sadness.
But Bubba always surprised us.