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  • Writer's pictureLaura McBride

Rob, RIP

This is not what I meant to write today. I meant to natter on about one or more of the ridiculous juggernauts of today's corporate nipple-sucking politicians in the US and the UK, or possibly welfare/benefits slackers in either place, or the disappearance of sentence diagramming in US schools.

But I am going to write, instead, about the loss of a good friend. Robert Alan Appelbaum, DDS, has been my dentist for 17 years. Granted, I hadn't seen him in the five-years-plus that we've lived in the UK; we had to acquire a dentist here, and he's very good.

But he isn't Rob. I found Rob through the simple expedient of teaching his wife and daughter to ride horses. As a freelance writer, I often supplemented my income by teaching, sometimes Lit. and Comp. at a local college, sometimes riding at a local riding academy. When I moved to Maryland, I chose the latter. During my first month, the owner asked me to teach a mother/daughter pair of beginner riders. And so it went.

Before long, Yvonne (the mother) and I were scheduling lessons so we could go off for lunch afterwards. When I switched barns, we simply switched how and when we met. Then we ended up at the same barn again a few years later. In short, it was a good and vibrant friendship the entire time I lived in Maryland.

Early on, when I needed a dentist, I naturally went to see her husband.

Rob had actually become a friend before he became my dentist of record and choice. He knew that Yvonne and I were close, and he knew I was a sometimes-impoverished writer. He did sweet and wonderful things such as having Yvonne invite me as their guest when he took his family out to The Harriman House, an excellent restaurant in suburban Baltimore that I could usually ill afford. When I saw him professionally, knowing I did not have dental insurance as most of his patients did, he would do the work and then slip me a piece of paper the receptionist didn't see (at least not right then) with a dollar amount on it and ask me if that was OK. It always was; he cut me a fair old discount and I was happy—and able—to write the check.

I was in the Appelbaum house a lot, one way and another. Either after a jaunt with Yvonne or being invited to dinner. After I married Simon, we were both there for dinner, or they were at our house, frequently. Rob became Simon's dentist, and also saw Simon's daughter Julia until she left home. Simon didn't have dental insurance either on his employer-paid health plan, but he also had a much larger income than mine, so at last Rob got paid full stroke for exceptional care. Rob had bailed out at least one freelancer friend of mine, too, over the years. it's a cliche, but the man was a saint.

And funny. Wild sense of humour. He tinkered with cars and motorcycles, odd for a highly educated man such as a dentist. He loved dirt bikes. He loved his family. As far as I could tell, he loved his life, always had. On his office wall, he had a framed drawing he made when he was about eight years old with the caption, written in the hand of an eight-year-old, “I want to be a doctor.”

And so he was. But he was so very much more. I found out about his death, at only age 60, just a couple of hours ago. I can't believe it. I really can't. Rob was such a vibrant, bigger-than-life person. Such a HUMAN. Such a fine, intelligent, humor-filled, life-loving human. Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear. The tears are falling again.

RIP, dear Rob.

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