I bought this music box at an estate a year or two into our return to Bermtopia back in the late 1980s. You cannot imagine the start I got when I lifted the lid and the tinny notes of "Always" whispered across the sale table.
It was one of Young Bob Flynn's "songs." One that carried her through war time, those inevitable moments of less-than-wedded-bliss, exhausting days of work and frenzied days and nights of young parenthood.
With six kids, it had to be Always.
We gave the music box to Young Bob Flynn for Christmas that year. She was charmed by it, and the music box retained a time-honored presence on her bedroom dresser until just a few months ago, when she made her final move to a smaller room at her assisted living facility.
Young Bob Flynn slipped away from us early in the morning October 11. Her second son, the Wonderfully Patient Spouse, was at her side. Silently, gracefully, her lovely soul joined the slips of gold leaf dancing toward dawn, guided by a warm, wet October wind. She was 91 years young.
I've written a bit about a Young Bob Flynn frail and dimmed by age and dementia, but of course, there's another Young Bob Flynn you should know about. A woman who was Montana-tough, yet softened by the Irish inclination for whimsy and wit. Possessed of a formidable intellect, YBF was honed by cultivated mother (first female secretary to the governor of Montana) who died too young and a poetic father who spent too much time in the bars of Butte. She had an encyclopedic mind for literature, music and knowledge in general. The Sisters of Providence guided her into the vocation of nursing, where she flourished professionally not only as a care giver but as an educator.
Young Bob Flynn protected her family ferociously -- not just us, the WPS and his five brothers and sisters, the "out-laws," grandchildren and great grandchildren -- but her own four sisters and brother and her husband, Robt. D.'s, familial crew as well. Let's just say it was (and still is) a quirky lot who benefited from Young Bob Flynn's steady guidance and protection on more than one occasion.
Young Bob Flynn was a Managing Partner in the parenting of my two sons. . . . no doubt because, for a time in the 1980s, it seemed like we were living with her and my father-in-law, Robt. D., about every 45 minutes or so. We lived with them when we moved to Orange County in 1981. They lived with us when Robt. D.'s health took a turn for the worse and he was too weak to travel following a California Christmas visit in 1986. And, when we moved back to Bermtopia, just months after Robt. D.'s death in 1987, we of course stayed with Young Bob Flynn.
She was grandmother, nurse, nanny and co-conspirator all rolled into one. Think Mary Poppins meets Ma Barker. She was relentlessly, enthusiastically indulgent, yet could mete out structure, discipline and justice with skills learned through her experience as a U.S. Army nurse and community college dean -- not to mention a life-long affinity for nuns.
I know my boys, and all her grandchildren, loved her. Ferociously.