This is the Schneider-Farris Family's Blog. Keep up with what we are doing by logging into this site regularly! (The reason this site is called "Tragedy and Triumph" is that when I first founded this site, my husband, Dan, had been in a horrible accident, and he recovered. His recovery was a miracle! Go back to the 2005 archives to read our story.)

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Remembering My Uncle Bobby (1935--2014)

Every person in this world may have a very strange or "different" or "weird" or "odd" relative.  My Uncle Bobby was the nicest and kindest person in the world, but he definitely could have been labeled "strange" or "different" or "a bit odd."

As a child, I didn't quite know how odd he was, but when I visited my grandparents in their big house in Belmont Shore in Long Beach, California, my brother, sister, and I knew his room was "off-limits" to us. We were allowed in all other rooms of the house, but his room was a mysterious territory and he certainly was our mysterious uncle.

Most of the time when we visited Grandma Fannie and Grandpa Max Schneider on Sundays, Uncle Bobby was sleeping upstairs in that room that did not allow us in.

You see, Uncle Bobby almost lived the lifestyle of a vampire!  He slept all day long and stayed awake all night.  During those long nights, he would read or write letters.  He read the books and newspapers and magazines he collected.  I heard that his room was piled to the top with those magazines and newspapers that collected dust.

When I grew up and moved into my Grandma Fannie's house when I was 22 years old, I decided to open the door to Uncle Bobby's mysterious off-limits room.  At that time, Uncle Bobby only visited Grandma on weekends since he lived in Marina del Rey.   The room was tidy, but had a stuffy smell since the windows were never opened in that room.  It was really dark inside.  There were many magazines stacked in the room and his clothes hung neatly in the closet.

There was a new addition put on the house when my Grandpa Max was alive which included two additional rooms and a bathroom.  One of those rooms, which was fixed up like a study, Grandma explained, was Bobby's domain and was off-limits, just like his bedroom was.  No one was supposed to go inside that room or touch anything in it.

Once I went in that room and Grandma was frantic.

"Bobby will be mad!" Grandma exclaimed.  She was horrified he would find out I'd been inside.  She told me Bobby liked to just sit in that room since it was so clean and perfectly furnished.

Uncle Bobby was really clean.  When he visited on weekends, he'd arrive at 2:00 am in the morning since he didn't want to battle the Los Angeles traffic.  He would drive on Hwy 1, Pacific Coast Highway, from Marina del Rey to Long Beach. in the middle of the night.  When he arrived he would shower in Grandma's huge upstairs bathroom and clean everything in that bathroom, so I always knew he had arrived.

Grandma spent most of the week shopping for Bobby before his visits.  That saved food, mostly frozen dinners, was off-limits to me.  When Grandma Fannie ate out, she would always order more than she could possibly eat and bring food home from restaurants just for Bobby.

Also, Uncle Bobby was an "never-ending student."  He took one course at a time at different universities and eventually graduated from college with a four-year degree.

He just was unable to work, but Grandpa Max made sure he was taken care of and after Grandpa Max died, my Grandma Fannie and then my father, made sure he was okay.  My father continued to make sure Uncle Bobby was taken care of until the end of his life.

For a short time he was in the volunteer military so he would not be drafted.

My dad gave Uncle Bobby his old 1963 Thunderbird which he drove until it could no longer be driven.  The car was a classic. In time, the car broke down and could not be driven at all.  Too bad it got towed away when Bobby didn't pay for the car's license registration renewal....

When I became engaged to Dan Farris in 1978, Dan and Uncle Bobby had wonderful and long talks about history and religion.  Uncle Bobby, like Dan, had an amazing memory.  He remembered every person in the family's date of birth and date of death.  He remembered every anniversary date too.

I still remember the day I turned 10 years old.  Uncle Bobby told me I'd never be just "one-digit" again and I was getting old!

When we called Bobby on the phone, he had a bizarre system that we had to use before he would answer the phone.  We first had to call his number and let the phone ring 12 times and then hang up.  Then we had to dial his number again and ring for eight rings and hang up.  We then did the same thing for four rings.  Next we had to ring two times and hang up.  Then we'd make one last call and,he would answer the phone.

Uncle Bobby also had a mysterious lifetime close friend: Shelley.  As a child, I remember Shelley joining our family at family gatherings, and she attended my wedding on April 7, 1979.  Actually, that was the last time I saw Shelley until a year after my uncle's death which was in 2015.  When Uncle Bobby would talk about Shelley, I was sure he was making her up and that she'd either passed away or had left him long ago.

My Wedding 1979 - Bobby and Shelley are standing next to my Grandma Fannie who is wearing the mink 

We found out a month after Bobby's death which was April 17, 2014 that he had passed away.  My dad called his younger brother on his birthday, which is May 14, but there was no answer, so he tried "Bobby's other phone number" and Shelley answered and told my dad Bobby had died!

In April and May of 2015, my dad and I helped Shelley move from the apartment in Marina del Rey which she shared for 43 years with Bobby to a senior low income apartment in Long Beach.

After that, every time I visited Long Beach, I would take Shelley grocery shopping and as time passed I did more and more for Shelley.  During our times together, Shelley told me more and more about Bobby.  He continued to hoard newspapers and magazines throughout his life and Shelley told me that their living room was piled to the ceiling with newspapers and those newspapers and magazines broke the furniture in their living room.  Also, both Shelley and Bobby hoarded disposable plastic grocery bags.  After my dad and I moved Shelley to Long Beach, we went back to Marina del Rey to clean up the apartment and we must have bagged up about 30 huge lawn and leaf bags full of disposable plastic grocery bags! 

Bobby continued his strange sleeping pattern of sleeping all day and staying awake all night until the end of his life.  Shelley told me they rarely saw one another because of his strange sleep schedule during their 48 years of friendship.

Uncle Bobby attended my mother's funeral in 2011 with plastic bags that included his belongings attached to his belt clip and it was obvious that his clothes were very old and very worn.  He was so happy to be with family though.  By that time, he no longer had a car, so my close friends Marion and Bruce Curtis and I picked him up in Marina del Rey at a restaurant parking lot and took him to Long Beach for the funeral.  I bought him a fanny pack after that so he wouldn't have to put his valuables in plastic bags.

One time when we visited him at the same restaurant near his home in Marina del Rey, his glasses were taped together and he carried nothing with him.  He would not let us see his home, so we always met him at that restaurant location.  My kids said he talked and talked and ate his food very slowly, so they sure remembered that visit.  He told us so much about our family and relatives since he remembered everything!  (He even told us that our great-grandfather, Adoph Regenstreich had changed his name from Abraham Levine to Adoph Regenstreich to protect his family from antisemitism.)

Anyway, I just had to write down my memories of Uncle Bobby since they are so very bizarre!

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Jo Ann Schneider Farris has participated in skating for most of her life as a competitor, coach, and author.