This is long. There isn’t a TLDR because it deserves to be long.
The Robertson is named after my dear friend Bill Robertson. Bill was a very influential man in my life and I can’t imagine this whole journey without him in it.
Let’s go waaay back to the beginning of the story, say about 33 years. I was applying for my first programming job and the first person who interviewed me was Bill Robertson. He administered a programming skills test that I had no problem with, but as a 21 year old kid I was more than slightly intimidated by this very tall and imposing older man. I worried I wouldn’t get the job, and I wasn’t sure I wanted it as Bill struck me as somewhat harsh and overbearing. I had no idea that not only would he hire me but that I would have the honor of calling him my friend for the next 3 decades.
It turns out that he was “In interview mode” and was just being very direct and to the point. He was actually very engaging with an amazing heart and a beautiful soul. And while I moved upwards in that company, Bill moved laterally and over time we were effectively peers in our positions for several years.
During that time BIll mentored me, and opened my eyes to the world. I still remember one discussion in particular in which I was insisting that at the end of the day everything was black and white. I was so sure of myself, so certain that I knew reality, and Bill was the model of patience in just exploring it with me from a different perspective. He was good at that. You could talk with Bill for hours and it felt effortless and worthwhile at the same time.
Eventually our career paths went their separate ways, but Bill and I stayed in touch through that. We would get together for lunch or dinner every once in a while, but as he moved away from Dallas we just ended up on the phone talking periodically. I still don’t recall the first time we told each other we loved each other before hanging up, but when we did it felt as natural as a parting moment between father and son, or between siblings. We both knew it, and we were both happy to say it.
Over the next 20 years we just maintained a loose connection but in the last few years we talked more frequently. I’m sad to say that I went a long stretch without talking with him for a while because my own challenges at the time were hard to discuss and Bill wasn’t someone I would hide out with. If we talked, we talked authentically and openly, and that meant things I wanted to keep buried weren’t going to stay buried.
But we talked several times over the last 6 months and one day Bill asked what I was working on these days. I told him about my attempts at a new slider, how I was having difficulty getting it to a stage I really liked but that I had just discovered a totally different design that I loved. I said offhandedly that I would have to send him one. He laughed and said “I wish my hands could still do that.”
Bill’s health had been in decline for a long while, and his Parkinson-like issues meant he couldn’t play with a fidget toy. I made a note to myself to send him one anyway and we discussed his health further. He talked of being “in hospice now” and I asked what that entailed. I remember him telling me that he wasn’t expected to die any time soon. Hmmm.
Less than a week later I received a call from his daughter, telling me that he was in the last stages of life and that he had told her earlier that he wanted her to call me. She said he was wide awake but probably couldn’t talk so she could put me on speaker phone if I wanted to tell him goodbye.
I told him that he had done a horrible job managing my expectations and that he needed to get a lot better at this if he ever intended to die again. His daughter told me at that point that he was grinning from ear to ear. That was the relationship we usually had. We jumped into the mess, we didn’t shy away from the painful stuff, and we joked with each other about everything. But then I got more serious and thanked him for who he was in my life, for coming alongside me in my journey to becoming a man I’m proud to be, and I thanked him for his friendship. I told him I loved him. And he managed to say he loved me too. Those were the only words he said on that call.
When I showed off what is now called The Robertson to a friend, he asked who I was naming it after. I said I couldn’t think of anyone, and then I remembered Bill Robertson and how I had said I’d send him one. And I thought of how I had just discovered a design I liked and told him about it on our next to last phone call. So I said I did actually have someone I’d name it after, said it would be called The Robertson, and I’d explain it fully later. Then I went to my car and just sat there as the tears welled up.
So, to Bill: You were a great friend, a mentor, a brother, and at times a father figure in all the best ways possible. I’m a better father, husband, and overall person because of you. I didn’t get to send you the slider I was working on, but I’m sure you’ll give me a hard time about it when we see each other again.
Order your own Robertson Brass Magnetic Slider here.