Great Lovers I have Known—Rob Talbert
I conclude this series with the story of my friend and roommate, Rob Talbert. I have decided that the possibly the most important part of being a great lover is the ability to bounce back from great disappointment and no one, in my opinion, illustrates that better than Rob.
I first knew Rob because he was in my ward, but was not a roommate. Rob was deeply enamored of Marnie McPhie. He told me of his attachment, largely, I suspect, because my brother, Gavin, was dating Marnie’s sister, Libby. I had known Marnie because she also had been in our ward and I remember considering her as spoiled. Although, upon reflection, I may have felt that way because I felt that anyone who would give someone of the quality of Rob Talbert the brush-off would have to be spoiled. But, admittedly, there may have been other more cogent reasons, which I have since forgotten. What I do remember thinking is that Marnie was a sort of professional heartbreaker and I was becoming greatly concerned that it ran in the family, i.e. all of the McPhie sisters were trained to be professional heartbreakers, which, of course, bode very badly for my brother, who, it was clear was becoming increasingly enamored of Libby.
At any rate, Rob, I think, was hoping that because of my sort of being indirectly and almost related to Marnie that I could somehow influence her to cast a kinder eye on Rob. That I was at a loss to know how to do, and probably, considering the fact that I considered her spoiled, I would not have done even if I could figure out how to do it, which I could not, having more than enough problems with my own dating life. I really liked Rob and considered that his being brushed-off by someone as spoiled as Marnie, no matter how much he felt that she was essential to his future happiness, was all to the good. The best thing that came of his attachment to Marnie and his subsequent friendship with me was that we arranged to be roommates the following year.
That first year, however, after the thing with Marnie more or less—actually, more—hit the skids, Rob dated several girls, but since he was not my roommate, I was not really privy to whom they were.
The next year at the very beginning of the year, Rob walked into our apartment, before he had even unloaded his stuff from his car, and went to the phone. He said as he picked up the phone, “Just as a joke, I’m going to ask Jean _____ out.”
“Just as a joke?” I asked incredulously. “Nobody ever asks a girl out just as a joke.”
“I dated her a few times last year, but at the end of the year, whenever I asked her out she was busy, so I’m going to ask her for a date for two months from now.” This he proceeded to do. He asked her out, as I remember it, for the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Her response was, “Sure, I’ll be glad to go out with you then, but couldn’t we do it sometime before then?”
Rob was overjoyed at this response. He took her out for the next few weeks and they became engaged. She told me shortly after they announced their engagement to the roommates that she had indeed given him the “cold shoulder” at the end of the year, but over the summer she had thought better of him and had decided if ever he asked her out again she would give him more encouragement.
The engagement, however, did not go well, or at least, so it seemed to me. When the rest of us had dates on the week-ends, Rob, more often than not, sat home. I had had several roommates who had been engaged and for the most part the engaged couple was together at every possible moment. Rob and Jean, it seemed to me, hardly ever saw each other. I remember, at one time early in the engagement, expressing envy of Rob after I had gone through the excruciating experience of asking a girl out for the week-end.
“At least you don’t have to worry about asking girls out,” I opined.
“Yes,” Rob responded, “but being engaged isn’t the bed of roses you probably think it is.”
I didn’t say anything but I thought, “Oh really? All the engaged couples I knew seemed to think that ‘bed of roses’ was about as accurate a description as you could find.”
Rob always gave as the reason for the fact that they hardly ever did anything together, even on week-ends, was Jean’s involvement in drama. She, according to him, was always either practicing a play or actually in one, so the only time they could be together was during the day for assemblies and for week-end firesides. Even the latter were not guaranteed because she would frequently go home to
on Sundays “to be with her family.” But
they were engaged and they did have the wedding date set, but you could tell
that Rob was not happy. He was having
almost as much trouble fitting himself into her schedule now that they were
engaged as he did the previous year when she kept saying she was too busy to
Finally, however, he announced happily that the wedding invitations had been printed and that he was going up to spend the week-end with her and her family at their home addressing the invitations. Apparently, they spent all day Saturday addressing the invitations. For what happened next I have two explanations—both from Rob. Recently, he told me that it was not nearly as dramatic as I had always said it was, but it was from him that I got the drama. According to what he said when he got back Saturday night, they finished addressing the invitations and then went to a near-by post box. He said as Jean pulled down the cover, she started to put a handful of the invitations in the box and then withdrew them. “I can’t do this,” she said. “I’m sorry, it just won’t work. I thought that it would, but it won’t.” They walked back to the house. He asked if she wanted more time to think about it. She responded that she had thought about it enough. She admired him as a person but she did not love him and that was that.
The only way he altered the story more recently was to say that it never actually got to the post box. At any rate, he came home, terribly, terribly dejected. He shut himself up in his room for at least three days. He told me recently that he remembered it as being three weeks, but, he simply could not have gone without food, or going to class or work for three weeks. But he did do it for several days. After that time, he walked out—long beard and all—and announced, “I think I’m ready to face the world.” He added, “I just hope I don’t have to face Jean. I’m not quite ready for that yet.”
Rob worked in the CougarEat, the hamburger/hot dog section of the Student Union cafeteria and, therefore, met with lots of people. As it turned out, about two or three weeks after his “I’m ready” announcement, Jean did come and ordered a hamburger from Rob. As Rob reported to me later that day, “I saw Jean today and I think it showed me that I am ready to move on with my life.”
Well after a while—I don’t remember how long—Rob began dating again.
The next great crush in his life came shortly before I left the Y. Her name was Marianne (again I don’t remember her last name). Anyway, Marianne was extremely popular with the boys and had lots of suitors. To me, it always seemed that her only real asset was that she bore a striking resemblance to Marlo Thomas, a popular actress of the day. But obviously, Rob saw in her much more than that, although, he did say on a number of occasions that she did have a large number of “hang-ups”. Now why anyone—and especially someone as sharp and smart as Rob—would continue to date someone with a “large number of hang-ups” is beyond me. I suspect that a large number of the large number of girls I dated stopped dating me because they decided I had a large number of hang-ups and I know for fact that if I ever dated a girl that I suspected of having a large number of hang-ups I would have stopped dating her forthwith, but, of course, I was never smart enough to know if a girl had any hang-ups, much less a large number, other than the obvious one that I decided I didn’t like her, so I never dated anyone for any length of time with hang-ups, but I digress.
Anyway, it turns out that Rob became engaged to Marianne and was looking forward to a wedding in the fall and a blissful married life thereafter. Rob went home to work for the summer but he came back because Marianne was giving him all kinds of negative feed-back in her letters. Finally, on July 24th, early in the morning, he called me and asked if he could come up and spend some time with me. I told him that I had a date to the 24th parade, but that afterwards I was available for the whole day. Well after the parade he and I spent the day more or less commiserating. Marianne had given him the engagement ring back and said that she did not want to date him anymore. Rob did, as he had done with Jean, went into a period of total withdrawal, but this time at home, in
Chicago where he lived.
When he came back to finish his MBA at BYU, he told me that he was going to live in a nicer place than we had lived in when we had been roommates. He moved into one of those upscale places with a swimming pool and several other amenities. It didn’t do him any good. I think that he thought if he lived in a more upscale place the girls would also be more upscale. That they were more upscale financially was beyond question, but that they were cuter or in other ways more desirable dating prospects wasn’t. But I get ahead of myself.
Rob and I had been close friends with the
twins, Lynn and Lee. Sometime before I
had left BYU, Lee had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. He had undergone the usual treatments and had
been pronounced safely in remission. In my
own life, I was struggling with a stomach problem which eventually was
diagnosed as spastic colitis, but initially, I was sure that it, like Lee’s
condition, was stomach cancer. I became
more concerned when Rob and I heard that Lee’s cancer had returned with a
vengeance... Consequently, about
October, Lee died.
Although, we were no longer roommates, Rob and I attended the funeral together. It was one of the best funerals I have ever attended. It was made doubly impressive to me by the fact that, because of the constant pain in my stomach, I was sure I would be following in Lee’s path very shortly.
After the funeral, Rob and I sought out
Lynn. Rob had always been especially close to Lynn. But, lo and behold, Lynn
exited the chapel after the funeral holding hands with Marianne, who, just a
few months previous to the funeral had been Rob’s fiancé—a fact well known to Lynn. Rob and Lynn embraced warmly after which Lynn
resumed holding Marianne’s hand. Rob and
Lynn talked with great animation for at least 15 or 20 minutes. In that entire time, Rob did not greet—or
even acknowledge—Marianne’s presence.
She, for her part, was equally silent during that entire conversation,
nor did Lynn say anything to her
nor in anyway acknowledge to Rob that she was there. It was almost as if she were a ghost that
only Lynn could see and interact
with. It was strange. Rob and Lynn, after their long conversation,
again embraced and parted without either Rob or Marianne at anytime
acknowledging the presence of the other.
I greatly admire Rob. Not only for his many obvious fine qualities, but the qualities that made him a “great lover”, foremost of which, in my opinion, is the ability to recover from a huge disappointment and move on without forever holding a grudge.
And did Rob ever marry? He did, and very happily at that.