I was a college freshman, Eastern Illinois University, on a full athletic scholarship. Free meals, free tuition, good roommate. Clai Dungy was a track star. Life is good! Brother Bobby (Robert Dale Taylor) was 10 years old and I was his hero. I took him everywhere. We went to football games, wrestling, baseball. We got to ride on the team bus and that was really a big deal for Bobby. In college I missed him and tried to call often. I had no car so trips home were four hours or longer. Usually I hitchhiked (dad worked six days a week for the military making ammunition). WWII was in full force. Dad also taught Sunday school and was our scout master on the army post. Army life was very different. I spent twelve years there. Bobby was named Robert Dale Taylor after his uncle who was a U.S. Marine. Uncle Dale volunteered as soon as the war started. He never came back home. He was killed in Hiroshima and Grandma was crushed, that was her oldest son.
Each night I prayed that God would bless my little brother to help him be strong, athletic, and smart. Bobby’s bedroom was decorated with trophies and newspaper articles from when I made the U.S. Olympic powerlifting team and traveling all over the world. Travels included England, Germany, Australia, and Canada. Life with little brother Bobby was really good. He gave me purpose and a lot of laughs. Sophomore year in college I was elected team captain of the junior varsity football team. We finished the season undefeated.
I was moved to varsity for the last game at Southern Illinois University. They were the previous year’s conference champions. I had trouble sleeping the night before the game. I felt sorry for my roommate Clai who also didn’t get much sleep. Morning breakfast was interrupted by the guy at the main desk in the dorm. “Your dad called and wants you to call him back ASAP, probably to wish you good luck.”
I called and there was a problem. Bobby had chicken pox and a very high fever. He was in the hospital. “Mom is with him and I have to go to work, can you come home? Your mother is a mess and I need your help.” Dad pleads with me. My first thought was “I’ll miss my first varsity game”… but that thought was quickly interrupted by “hey stupid, there will be other games!” I said I would come home. I had to borrow a car, but with the big game no one could loan me one.
Hitchhiking was the only choice and of course it rained all day. Five hours later and soaked to the bone, I arrived home expecting to see and hug my little brother. He’s not here. Mom had stopped crying long enough to tell me that Dad had taken him to the children’s hospital down state where I had just come from. I called the number she gave me and talked to the doctor. The doctor said that Bobby had some kind of seizure, and still a very high fever. Prognosis was not encouraging. I stayed home for a week to help dad deal with both Bobby and Mom. I called my coach and explained, he understood and wished me good luck. After that week I returned to college. Football season was over without me. At least wrestling season was starting soon. I had to make up for classes I missed and started on my wrestling workouts all while still worrying about Bobby, it was a big mess to leave. Sleep was poor but wrestling helped. I was so tired after practice sometimes I missed dinner. I had to make weight anyway from 210lbs for football to 180lbs for wrestling.
I called home every week to see what the news was. Sometimes it was good, and some not so good. It had been several months and Bobby was still not getting better. Neither was Mom. Dad was glad to hear about wrestling success, it was a good start for the season. 3-0 so far. I think it helped Dad. He was always proud of me, and I was always proud of him. God blessed me with a great dad.
I took out my frustrations on my wrestling teammates. Finally, coach told me to ease off and save it for the opponents. Undefeated until National Finals, I got third place. No prayers, no church, I was mad at God! After nationals, I hitched home looking forward to seeing my little brother. “Bobby’s not home, neither is Dad,” said Mom. “Dad took Bobby to a special hospital in Illinois that specializes in children’s medicine.” Several days later Dad left Bobby there so he could come home and go back to work. The special hospital was called Beverly Farm, two brothers, both doctors, had turned their family farm into a children’s hospital. There were dorms, hospital, parent’s living quarters, and farm animals for the children. A totally awesome place!
Bobby was cared for by Mother Barms, an older lady who loved kids. It was her purpose in life. Bobby loved her. That summer I pitched garbage for the city and ran between the stops to keep in shape. Between lifting weights and the job, I was in the best shape of my life!
Dad still worked six days a week for the military and taught Sunday school. Stress filled our lives. Stress at home. Stress at Dad’s job. Stress of the war. And number one stress was Bobby. Uncle Dale, Uncle Dean, and Uncle Herb were all across seas somewhere. Uncle Dale never came home, captured by the Japanese and was killed trying to escape prison camp. Grandma put a gold star in the kitchen window. I never saw her cry!
Senior year was a good year for football and wrestling. I finished top three in U.S. colleges. Tried out for the NFL and was good but not quite good enough. Clai went to medical school and I missed him. He was my rock in times of trouble. Dad called sounding bad. “Bobby is still having seizures.” A week later Bobby died in bed at only twelve years old and lived a life of pain. God finally stopped his life of pain, and ours. We buried him in a little cemetery south of Grandpa’s farm. A beautiful and peaceful place. I had never seen Dad cry, but he did that day. Now years later I fall asleep usually thinking of what could have been. Bobby being a high school football or wrestling star. Maybe a firefighter? Three kids (one girl, two boys). The older boy named Bobby.
I went on to coach football and wrestling in high school and later in college. Each success story I silently dedicated to Bobby. I came back to church and asked God to take me back and allow me to see Bobby again in Heaven. I even taught Sunday school and in every class there was a kid who looked like Bobby.
There is a cabin high in the mountains in Colorado where Bobby’s ashes are spread along with two German shepherds. The two dogs guard Bobby along with Dad’s ashes. A million stars fill the night sky, but one is for Bobby and another for Dad and two for the guard dogs. Bobby waits for his big brother.
God please bless Bobby, Dad, Rommel and Gunny. Only one is missing.