I put glue on Bob Thompson’s side of the ping-pong table during our last contest. The ball just stuck there, and I did a victory dance around his living room. It was two weeks before he died of congestive heart failure.
Years earlier, I worked for Bob when he headed a campus at the University of Wisconsin and students broke into his office the night before his 60th birthday and filled it from floor to ceiling with balloons. They loved their dean.
Bob and I used to go to garage sales in Chicago on Saturday mornings to see who could buy the stupidest item for the lowest price. He was a great negotiator.
Bob Thompson recommended me for a position at the university, for which I was vastly underqualified. Magically, I got the job.
I drove 380 miles in a snowstorm to play that last game of ping-pong with my dying friend and mentor. At the end of the contest, we laughed, looked each other in the eyes and hugged for the last time.
It was the best trip I will ever make.
As you age, don’t ever miss saying goodbye to your Bob Thompsons.