The Linear Canvas
This journal is about the wrongs and rights of the world, as I see them.

The Linear Canvas

My Cousin, Robby

March 6th, 2012 . by Alexander Fisher

IMG_0006Today I got word of my cousin Robby Fyffe’s death. He was in his mid-50’s. Too young to go. The last few days had me thinking of the times we spent together. Generally that was only once a year during the summer as children. Robby and his twin brother Andy were a few years older than me. Older than my oldest sister by about a year. Being twins makes you think they were a lot alike. Besides being brothers, at times the only thing I think Robby and Andy had in common was a birth date and living in Red Bush, Kentucky.

In the summer of 1964, everything was, as it  always had been, as far as I knew. I was between kindergarten and first grade in school. My family was in Red Bush because my grandmother, Martha Fyffe Kelly (Mammaw) was seriously ill and would soon pass away. Besides the fact that she was in the hospital at nearby Paintsville, nothing seemed any different to me.

My parents had gone off to the hospital to see my grandmother with my Aunt Berenice, mother of the twins and my cousin Steve who was a teenager and a star basketball player, already in high school. They had left all of the younger children at Mammaw’s house together. The oldest kids were Andy and Robby, at about ten. My sister’s Cara and Cathy were around nine and eight years old, respectively. I was six. As odd as it seems to leave children that age alone, I think we were safe from any predators in that part of the Appalachian Mountains, except for maybe wild animals. But we were never really safe from the collective and individual antics of the twins. Our older cousin Steve was just down the road, so if there was any real trouble, he was only a phone call away. I felt safe. Regardless of the facts. When they left us to go visit my grandmother, they also left us with a large frosted chocolate cake to eat. Just what we needed, more sugar.

Andy and Robby were comfortable in nearly every way in that area. Many times we walked up around the mountain roads with them. They would point out the beauty and the dangers. That danger usually came from one of the twins pointing down a road, mentioning a crazy old man that lived in that direction that had a big gun. Then we would take off running in another direction. It’s possible they just did that just to scare me. And it worked.

To that point in my life, all I had known was Springfield, Ohio and the occasional trip to Red Bush and Ashland, Kentucky where my parents families’ lived. My world wasn’t natural in the least. It was full of asphalt and concrete. Alley’s and laundromat’s. When I visited Red Bush especially, I was in another world of things to see and know. Andy and Robby grew up there, so they knew many things about the area they lived in. It was almost like getting a biology lesson every time we visited. It was probably a fun place to grow up, but only having each other to play with usually made the twins a little more ornery than any one I knew. The first hint of it that day was looking up at my grandmother’s porch roof and seeing Robby sitting on it.

Over the next few minutes, we all went up the stairs and were climbing out of the front bedroom window onto the porch roof. I sat on the roof and took in the view. This was not just an ordinary roof. The house was a smaller home. But it was built on the base of a small mountain over looking a small creek. There was a “flatter” area in front of the porch. But if you fell off, it wouldn’t have been just the initial landing that would have hurt. I could just imagine what my mom would have said if she’d seen me on that roof. She’d have “blistered my bottom” as she was so fond of saying.

Sitting on the roof with me. Robby decided to go back into the house, and get a large piece of chocolate cake. He for some reason thought that was the thing to do all of a sudden. He left me there alone sitting on the roof and reappeared moments later with a piece of cake on a paper plate. Feeling very proud of himself at the prospect of eating a piece of cake on his grandmother’s roof, he became rather silly and began losing control of the plate. He attempted to correct his hold on the cake and over-compensated. That caused the cake to launch into the air. I still remember seeing the cake arch into the sky, fall to the ground and roll down the hill just a bit.

First there was silence. Then laughter erupted from all around. Robby had lost his cake. My sister’s and I were unaware that immediately a devious plan was formulating in the minds of the twins. We all walked over to the cake. Surprisingly it was mostly still intact. Andy and Robby started talking about their brother Steve. One said, “Call Steve and tell him we have a piece of cake for him.” I laughed, but they didn’t. At that, the boys ran into the house and called their older brother and explained that they, out of the kindness of their heart, had saved him a piece of cake and he needed to come down right away and eat it.

Steve is really tall. The tallest grandson Martha Kelly had then or now. The distance between my grandmother’s house and my aunt’s home was around half a mile. It was in the line of site from her home. I remember that as soon as he could, Steve began racing down the road to get that piece of cake. I still remember seeing him in full stride nearing the two-thirds point. Both his arms and legs pumping at full throttle. He must have liked cake. He probably burned as many calories running there as he got from eating it.

My mind goes a little blurry about him eating the cake or not. I’m sure he did. I probably blacked out from all the excitement. All I remember was a flash of light, then nothing.

(After reading this story, my sister Cara said, “I remember the cake incident. Steve did start to eat it, but I think we laughed so hard he spit it back out. I think about all the things we did back then. The hours we were gone when we (or mom) didn’t know where we were. We just put our trust in Andy and Robby and we didn’t even get in trouble when we got back to their house. If my children would have done anything like that when they were young, I would have been in a panic”. I do remember that ending of the cake “incident” after she reminded me of it.)

Hopefully Steve knew about that prank before now. If not, sorry. But that memory is but one of the several I have of following Robby around as a child. He was the happy cousin. Always able to cheer me up with his laugh and his joking. Whether it was being on the roof or nearly burning down the barn, my memories of Robby will be with me forever.

Rest in Peace.

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