This is a very personal story. How one person changed entirely, the person I would become. Several people have impacted my life. This is but one of them.
(Kenny Grobe at the Monument on Soda Dry Lake)
Few people come along, that change the elements of the person you will become. But one person I knew did just that.
Born on March 16, 1960 into an impoverished home, he become one of the greatest friends in this life, I would ever have.
Growing up in Los Angeles County, he would look for ways to escape. Not through reading or writing. But other things. An interest in things of a mechanical nature. Motorcycles, and off-roading. He was working to become: A Real-Estate Appraiser.
We first met at an off-road event near Borrego Springs, California. We both had the same 4WD truck, 1/2 a year apart! And we both had the same problems. Ah misery really does love company. For me, this was my first time ever four wheeling, and he would serve as a guide into this venturesome world of the unknown.
We would go on to do several trips along the beloved Mojave Road. Times spent chewing the fat, watching the scenery, or hearing him guide a tour on his CB Radio. We always signed in at the Mailbox. Camping, being outdoors, and being free, were the essence of his character. He taught me how to do many things I thought I could never do on my own. How to pack wheel bearings, how to change brake pads, how to do a top end job on a 2 stroke motorcycle, and on and on. He invested time, in ME! He believed in ME, even though I often doubted.
His love for off-roading would eventually lead us to Motorcycles. Dirt Bikes of course. And some of his friends. Crazy Dave. Hot Dicky. Too Tall Bob. I didn’t know a Motorcycle from a bicycle. But he patiently taught me. I’d drive up from San Diego, we’d meet, and go dirt-biking. Mostly off to the dry lake bed around Victorville, California, or to
His love for the outdoors, turned into making videos. Three all told. Crudely edited on 2 VCR’s, but set to music that matched the action. The tapes unfortunately lost through the perils of times and several moves. But the memories are well preserved in my mind.
One day he found a lump on his neck. He called me and said, “I don’t know any doctor’s here in LA who can diagnose this do you?” Indeed I did. So he came down to San Diego, and my doctor examined him. A few days later, the doctor called. It wasn’t good news. He had cancer of the lymph nodes. The doctor said, “Do you want me to call him?” I said, “No, that’s something a friend should do.”
And so with much reserve, I made the trip up to LA to see my friend. Of all the things I’ve done in life, telling a friend he has cancer, has been the toughest. He took the news calmly, and then he decided, “I can beat this!” So he underwent radiation treatment. I had never seen him look so green in my life.
I saw on the outside, the shell of the man I knew. But inside, nothing had changed. After one of his treatments, I came up to see him. He loaded his dirt bike onto his truck. I thought to myself, “Have you lost your mind?” He wanted to go to Ascot in Gardena, California to go Motocross racing. “Surely you are out of your mind!” “I am not out of my mind, and quit calling me Shirley!” And so we went. He didn’t do very well, but he did finish. Later I asked him, “Tell me why you decided to go racing tonight, even though you’re as sick as a dog.” He said, “Yes, but for a few moments I was able to forget how sick I am.” I hadn’t thought of that.
We talked for some time. I said to him: “Never be ashamed of where you came from. You had no control over that. But you do have control over where you are going.” I was able to lead him to Christ.
He fell in love with Oregon and a woman, and moved there. He made his 3rd and last video on the beauty to be found there. Truly a labour of love. He played in the church band, at the First Baptist Church of Beaverton, Oregon.
Later, he had a re-occurrence of the cancer. I knew he was a fighter, and he fought hard. I spoke to him just a few days before Christmas in 1995. He was on the last rounds of Chemo-therapy.
But, he didn’t make it. He died on Monday, January 8, 1996. On Thursday of that week, all his friends gathered in that church to pay respect to a person that united us. He was the glue that kept us all together. Now his life cut short at 35. Yet he did more in those 35 years, then most people do in 3 lifetimes.
I went to Oregon, to pay homage to one of the greatest persons I would ever know. I had one last task: to do his funeral service. He lay in a closed casket, dressed in what was appropriate. Motocross gear: Helmet, Jersey, Leathers, Boots.
After that, we all scattered to the 4 corners never to come together again. The glue had let go.
Kenneth Stanley Grobe will not be remembered for the things he did, rather for what he gave. His friendship. His patience. His sense of humour. And for me, the greatest gifts he gave were his acceptance and the courage to believe in ones self.
Rest in Peace, Old Friend!
July 27, 2010