I just lost my mentor, my best friend, my confidant, my advisor in all things, my sounding board, my guiding light, my go-to guy, my Dad. I am absolutely gutted. I don’t know what I am going to do without that daily call. That daily chat, that check-in, and that laugh. I don’t know what I am going to do without him.
My Dad was a great man. Just about everyone he met will tell you the same. He touched a lot of lives through business and volunteering or through just living life. He was an athlete (baseball pitcher), newspaper man (Atlanta Constitution), and a marketing and PR man known throughout the world. He was an author of 8 books and 2 stage productions. He is in the UNC Journalism School Hall of Fame for Marketing and PR and was on the Board of Governors for many years of that same institution. He fought in the Korean war rising to the rank of Captain. He has awards and accolades a plenty, like I said, My Dad was a great man.
But that was the public man, and he was indeed great. But I miss the private man, the man who raised me to always believe in myself. The man who taught me to never give up. To forget about the past, you can’t change it, work on a better tomorrow. The man who taught me that it’s important to give back to the community when you have been blessed with enough. The man who taught me to believe in God and my fellow man. The man who listened to me when I cried and helped me to understand how to make it better for myself. The man who taught me to love music and poetry, reading and travel. The man who taught me gentleness, and sharing, the value of laughter, a good joke, the joy of sarcasm, the comfort of friendship, the toughness of business and the ease of kindness. The man who taught me the might of truth and right and that justice is not always what you want it to be, but it can also surprise you.
Growing up my Dad would buy us games like Word Power, Scrabble and games to improve our little minds. One night while playing Word Power my Dad looked at me dumbfounded and said, “You’re kidding me, you don’t know the meaning of ennui?” I think I was 8. We (my Dad and me) would play Gin Rummy (10 cards), 3 games at a time while watching the CBS line-up of All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett. Sometimes it was Backgammon. Sometimes it was even poker! But if we weren’t playing some kind of game or working a puzzle together at night, Dad was working a pattern-less crossword puzzle. He liked to keep his mind occupied, often reading 2-3 books at a time. I have picked up this habit and absolutely cannot just sit and watch t.v., I have to be doing something else as well, knitting, needlepoint, crossword, something.
As I got into my teens we didn’t always see eye to eye, my Dad and I. In fact we had quite a few world class blow-outs. But we never stopped communicating with one another. In my twenties I moved back home and went to college, my rebellion over. My once close relationship with my Dad quickly resumed over discussions of my classes, papers, exams, etc. When I wrote my thesis my Dad had a fever of 103 an abscessed tooth and a screaming headache, yet there he was editing my final draft so I wouldn’t miss the deadline. I didn’t miss the deadline and I received Honors. Thanks Dad.
Throughout my professional career, My Dad has been my advisor, my mentor, my colleague, my editor, my cheerleader, my supporter, my biggest fan, my sounding board and more. He has been more than invaluable to me, he is the secret sauce. He is the one I got my sense of humor from, my sarcastic wit from, my writing ability from, my analytic skills from, my creative thinking from, my editing skills from (why use 10 words when 3 will suffice?), I am who I am because of him. The best of me came for him, and I was still learning from him every day. He was so positive, so engaged, so funny, so current, so active, so smart, so attuned and so alive…
And now he is gone. At 89 he has left this mortal coil for a better place and here I remain to carry on without him. And carry on I must for that is what he would expect and what he would have wanted. He died surrounded by family with a daughter hugging him on each side, telling him how much he was loved. So I will figure it out with all the tools he has provided me with. I will figure out how to carry on but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to say good bye.
H. Zane Robbins January 17, 1930- August 25, 2019