|Malcolm Anderson Younger, aka Bobo|
I used to have a letter that he wrote to me. I lost it to water damage about 20 years ago, but I know what it said. He wrote it on May 27, 1957. He had just put my Grandmother on a train to Louisville, Kentucky. She was coming to help Mother. You see, I was seven days old, the third child and my oldest brother was only four and a half years older than I. Mother had her hands full. Bobo’s letter said that he was sending me the best gift he could possibly send. He sent Neenie. He assured me that I was a very welcome addition to the family. He told me how much he admired my Mother and my Daddy. He added that they were all thrilled that I was a girl, because they needed a baby girl in the family. Then, he told me that he would pray for me every day of my life.
What an amazing promise, and I’m certain that he kept it. I’m sure it has made all the difference in my life. It was a wonderful letter! My mother gave it to me when I was a teenager and I kept and cherished it until it was lost, along with much of the memorabilia of my childhood. The love he gave me in that letter remains in my heart today.
There are many things, facts, I could tell you about him. What I want to tell here, though, is how I remember him. The smell of coffee in the morning makes me think of him. My folks weren’t coffee drinkers, but he was. When I woke up in the morning and smelled coffee, I knew that Bobo was in the house. If I got up quickly enough, I was likely to see him in a chair, reading the morning paper, doing the crossword puzzle.
I was 10 the year my great-grandmother, Bigmama, died. Bigmama and I were grand friends, and her death was the first death that was personal to me. I felt a loss at her passing. We gathered at the family cemetery in the tiny town of Oakland, Tennessee to bury her. I was overcome with grief, the first true grief I’d ever experienced. I was sitting next to Bobo and as I melted into tears, he put his arm around me and gathered me to his side. He pulled the ever-present handkerchief from his coat and wiped my eyes. He told me to hang onto the handkerchief, in case I needed it. He told me not to be sad, that everything was going to be okay.
He came to see me graduate from high school and was still with us when I came home from my first day at work as the hostess at a busy restaurant. I hobbled in the door. My feet were killing me! Bobo sat down beside me and rubbed my feet. He smiled and said, “Poor little working girl! Poor little girl.” I knew he was teasing me, but he was rubbing my feet and he could have said anything he wanted to at that moment.
When I was to be married, I asked him if he would help officiate at my wedding. That brought on even more teasing. He told me that his fee was going to be quite large. He complained when I showed him the scripture I wanted read. He gave me a bad time about the cost of tuxedo rental. He told me he was an old man and he couldn’t stand that long. In March, before my June wedding, he told me that he needed me to come to his house before the wedding and get some stuff he had for me. So we made plans to make a quick trip to Missouri near the end of May. I knew that he had refinished an antique washstand for me. I had no idea that he had built a hope chest for me. I was so surprised when I got to his house and there it was. It is beautiful and to this day, it is my most prized possession. He designed it and built it out of walnut. For me. A beautiful and cherished gift.
I got dressed on my wedding day and different family members were coming in for pictures before the ceremony began. Bobo came in and told me he had something special for me. He had a dime to put in my shoe for good luck. He told me that he had gotten it the day I was born and saved it for this day. Another cherished possession.
During the wedding, as my groom and I knelt on the bench, Bobo prayed over us. We were kneeling with our hands clasped and he had his hand over ours as he prayed, squeezing tighly. Before he was finished, one of his hands was on my cheek. I opened my eyes and his face was wet with tears. He’d have sworn, I’m sure, that the tears were a result of a tear duct issue he had, but I know that they were tears of joy.
The last time I saw him was just shortly after the wedding. We were ready to start out on a great adventure, my groom and I. We were driving to Florida to a tech school and then on to Germany for our first duty assignment in the Air Force. It was mid-afternoon and really time to go. I was avoiding my husband like the plague, sitting in the kitchen with my grandparents. As much as I wanted to start my new life, it was so hard to think that I was going to walk out that door and get in the car and drive away. The minutes ticked on and I said one silly thing after the other. Finally, Bobo took my chin and made me look in his eyes. He said, “Mollianne. Its time for you to go. Your husband is waiting and it is time. Everything is going to be okay.”
That is the last thing he said to me. That is what I carry in my heart. Everything is going to be okay. It has to be! Bobo said so.
When I think of him, I think of a man called by God who spent his adult life in the ministry. A man who answered the call to duty and served (and was decorated) as a chaplain in the Pacific during World War II. I think of his engaging smile and piercing eyes. The practical jokes he played on his friends. The way he used to whistle under his breath. The manner in which he absolutely adored his wife and daughter. The pride he had in his grandchildren. His amazing woodworking skills. His quick step. A camera in his hands as he documented my childhood. Coffee and a newspaper. Crossword puzzles. Those coveralls he wore when he retired. His amazing intellect. His hands that were gnarled with his old pal, Arthur. The schwitzel he drank every night before bed. The love that he showed to all he met, both in his words and his deeds.
He’s been gone a long time, but he is very much alive in my heart. His name lives on, carried down from generation to generation. My brother is Terry Malcolm. My brother’s son is Terry Malcolm, Jr. My grandson is Malcolm. I have a great-nephew who is also Malcolm and one who is Anderson. Bobo was a man who left a legacy so mighty in our family that his grandchildren who never knew him, or if they did-they can’t possibly really remember him, have named their children in his honor. That, my friends, says a lot about the man, Malcolm Anderson Younger.
Happy Birthday, Bobo. I know that if you were here today, instead of saying that you were 103, you'd say that you were nearly 110. I love you and I miss you.