Bobby Silveira died last week.
He was the father of my friends, Mark and Greg. Bobby was 70. He didn’t live with Mark and Greg but he was more a part of their lives than many dads who see their kids every day. Dads who live under the same roof, but in essence, live hundreds of miles away.
We called him Mr. Silveira. As we got older, we called him Bobby. Bobby was in the stands for all his kids’ football games. He was at every event. He took them, and us, on fishing trips. He took us to rock concerts. Can you believe it?
Bobby was as flamboyant as they come. Front row at a Jethro Tull concert, there was Bobby, wearing a white, wide-brimmed hat, white cape overcoat and white pants. Oh, and he was sporting a cane. He was surrounded by an entourage. People must have thought he was someone special, maybe a record producer.
But he was just Bobby. His penchant for ostentatious garb stemmed from his high school days in Lawrence, where he earned the nickname “The Mayor” because of his custom-tailored suits and imported Italian shoes.
During a Bob Dylan concert at the University of Lowell in 1975, Dylan came out in white-face. Bobby, who was in attendance just a row behind us, kept insisting it wasn’t Dylan on the stage. When Joan Baez came on the stage to join Dylan, Bobby shouted, “And that’s not Joan Baez.”
Bobby took an interest, not only in Mark and Greg, but the rest of us; Steve, Billy, Rick, Leo, Ronnie, Jimmy, Peter, Mike, Danny, me and anyone else who happened to be in our group of friends at the time. There were trips to the Converse Factory Outlet to pick up canvas Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
I didn’t know Bobby as well as some of the other guys in our group, but I knew that even though he lived in Bradford, just outside of Haverhill and his hometown of Lawrence, Mr. Silveira was only a phone call away if Mark or Greg ever needed him. You really couldn’t say that about a lot of the dads in our group.
And whereas it is common, or used to be, for moms to threaten their misbehaving kids with, “Wait until your father gets home,” all Mark and Greg’s mom had to do was say, “I’ll call your father.” Not only would Mark and Greg snap to attention, we all did.
Bobby was authoritative. Here we were, a bunch of misguided teens and he spoke to us like young adults. He didn’t treat us as if we were stupid. He appealed to my intelligence. He wanted us to just do the right thing.
Photographs, old and recent, filled the three large poster boards inside the Cataudella Funeral Home in Methuen: Bobby as a young man, bedecked in a three-piece suit and wide-brimmed hat; Bobby on a fishing boat with Mark and Greg; Bobby with his three grandsons; Bobby and his boys fishing for nnorthern pike in Labrador and Newfoundland; Bobby tying a fly on his fishing rod. Not only did his instill a sense of responsibility and maturity in Mark and Greg, he passed along his deep love of fishing.
On a table inside the funeral home was a bright red hat next to a little cap that bore several fishing licenses from several states, a leather fishing pouch and other paraphernalia, the significance of which was for others.
After reuniting with several old friends, and sharing my condolences with Mark, Greg and their mom, who, by the way, remained close friends with Bobby throughout his life, I got in my car and drove home.
I started thinking of what it means to be a dad, a father. I’m sure Bobby made some mistakes along the way and I know I have, too. Parenting is not easy under the best of circumstances. For Bobby to achieve that closeness with his kids and his grandkids, throughout their lives is truly remarkable. It is certainly a goal I hope to achieve, even though I’m not that great a fisherman.
Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.