David Robinson (Dave), my older brother.
For most of my life I didn’t know Dave existed. You see, Dave was a war child. My father served in the Canadian Armed Forces during World War II and there he met Dave’s mom early in the war. My dad was underage (much more than they knew), so he had to get permission from his commanding officer to marry Dave’s mom, which was eventually granted. Dave was born after. I didn’t hear about Dave’s mom until after Dad died, but I did remember the story my dad used to tell about being in a field with a friend when the sky turned dark with German bombers flying low over England to hit a aim, so low that he could see the faces of the pilots, and that he was forced to slap the girl when she was terrified and tried to run. I feared for his life. That was Dave’s mom. She and dad survived and the rest is history.
Then in 2004 my sister received a phone call from a British man looking for my mother. It was Dave. After some 59 years, she reached out to connect with the Canadian family she never knew. He was nice on the phone, friendly even, and very concerned about “rocking the boat.” The fact that none of us knew it existed was a shock to everyone, but also a pleasant one.
After talking to Dave, it became clear that after the war, his mother came to Montreal with little Dave in hand to start a new life with my dad. Unfortunately, given my father’s six years of experience on the front lines during the war, he suffered from PTSD and the marriage fell apart. In 1948, Dave and his mother were back in the UK, seemingly lost to us.
In 2007 my wife and I went to see Dave in England for the first time. When I met him, he obsessed me that his eyes were the same as my late dad’s. It took me a while to get over that. He got up from his wheelchair and gave me the biggest bear hug in the world. At 220 pounds then. I wasn’t a shrunken violet, but there was no denying the great strength my brother possessed. At the same time, he openly cried from the joy of meeting his little brother for the first time. Somehow, that he was not aware of to me at the time, those two qualities were my brother’s pillars: strength and sensitivity. The third pillar, as I was to discover, was his sense of humor, which we shared. His wife Carol was also a great support to him (and me) during these early days and those that followed. Unfortunately, Carol passed away a year before Dave, and just when she thought she surely wouldn’t survive, she did. Strength.
During my 18 years with my brother Dave we had many good times, despite his (and mine) chronic military injuries. Dave even managed to travel to Canmore, Alberta for my wedding even though he had to use a power wheelchair to get around. I discovered that he was just as flirtatious as me (maybe more). He was the subtle one and I was the not so subtle one. We share our love for helping others in need: a call to serve. We enjoy the same rock music. Enjoyed reading my blogs here. Although we didn’t always agree with my conclusions, he supported my writing. He talked to me about life’s problems, my dealings with Veterans Affairs about my own injuries, the nightmare that was Newfoundland politics, and even problems with my children. In other words, she was living up to one of his own sayings: “sharing is caring.” I see his traits, which in many ways are genetic traits, in his own children and his grandchildren.
Ian, Dave’s only son, had a career in security/police services, and is now retired and a writer (the writing gene runs in our family). He, too, suffers from health problems that go back to my father’s Newfoundland family roots. However, he also remains strong and determined to meet challenges and overcome them, which he continues to do largely to his credit.
Carolyn, Dave’s only child, has been a caregiver her entire life, personally and professionally. Carolyn and her husband Spence have two wonderful children, and Dave was very proud and loved them both. He appreciated Aiden’s special qualities and the two apparently shared a special sense of humor. Unfortunately, Aiden suffers from a serious physical condition that is also in our Newfoundland family’s gene pool. Dave’s other grandson, Sam, was also very special to him. He is very much like Dave, and that can only be good for him in this life. He also has a gift for writing, and the poem he read at Dave’s funeral was really beautiful.
Despite the tumultuous and sad start to Dave’s life, he was able to persevere as a truly compassionate husband, father, grandfather, uncle and yes brother. You couldn’t keep his spirit down from him. He could not be converted. He gave me the gift of a brother who was everything I wanted to be and therefore aspire to be. Despite being bullied for “not having a father” as a child in the UK school system, he grew up to be a wonderful father. He never got bitter at all. He was my older brother. God bless you.