Hard to believe it’s been 20 years.

My father, Peter Robertson, passed somewhere between April 15 and 16, 1997.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, wish for his advice, remember a goofy moment, and feel deeply sad that he left us so soon.  More than anything, though, I feel very grateful for the 36 years I got with him.

He always liked to tell the story of being born in a cabin in Wyoming, though the reality is that my adventure-prone/family-avoidant grandfather had come to Wyoming to try to start a dude ranch, which he abandoned after (1) his father-in-law joined them to keep an eye on him; and (2) his second child (my uncle) was born.  Dad ultimately spent most of his childhood in St. Louis, as a white kid surrounded by privilege who rooted for civil rights and Jackie Robinson.

Image: white woman (Amy) in short sleeve shirt and khaki shorts and older white man (Amy's dad) in a short sleeve shirt and blue pants stand in front of log cabin.

My father and me at the “log cabin” the year before he passed.

He was a lawyer who devoted his professional life to advocating — in state government, at the EEOC, and as a consultant — for civil rights and specifically equal employment opportunity.  Outside his professional life, he enjoyed languages, travel, the coast of Maine, card games, the St. Louis Cardinals, fried eggs over easy, trains, grilling in the snow, pretending to understand my brother’s Chem E thesis, Christmas morning, and his almost endless extended family. Nothing made him happier than gathering everyone around the table — at home or a restaurant — for a long, conversational meal. He’d show up at our colleges or law/grad schools and gather up a big group of classmates and friends to go out to dinner. Nothing fancy – ever.  Most commonly a diner, or some egregiously Americanized Chinese restaurant (lemon chicken, anyone?).  After he passed, many of his professional colleagues told us similar stories:  he was always gathering everyone together for a friendly dinner after any event.  With that in mind, in creating his headstone, Bruce and I paraphrased a line from MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech —

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

and added this plaque:

Peter Clendenin Robertson
November 5, 1935 – April 16, 1997.
“Let us sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

Triangular granite stone about 18" high, bearing a plaque: "Peter Clendenin Robertson, November 5, 1935 - April 16, 1997. "Let us sit down together at a table of brotherhood."

Love and miss him, and am deeply grateful for everyone who has shared his stories over the years.  If you knew him, grab some friends and remember him over a plate of lemon chicken.

Update:  here’s a post with additional fun photos:   https://thoughtsnax.com/2010/11/05/photographic-tribute-to-my-dad/  

One thought on “Hard to believe it’s been 20 years.

  1. Jennifer Glancy

    Then there was that plastic bunny that showed up in unexpected places at unexpected times. I have a dim memory that the bunny once arrived (with a small bag of black licorice jelly beans?) with some horrible (but apparently memorable) pun about the Easter Bani Sadr (I’m guessing most of us haven’t thought about Bani Sadr for a few years)… I forget the context, but not the happiness that accompanied Peter.

    Like

    Reply

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