My friend Dave Roberson died the other morning. He was 42, he wasn’t married, didn’t have any children, and lived with his mother in the house he grew up in on Hassake Road in Old Greenwich. He worked part time at Greenwich Library doing something in one of those crevasses where cell phones can’t penetrate, and spent a lot of time working for Democratic causes and served as the Chairman of the Greenwich Democratic Party. He graduated from MIT and was really a rocket scientist. He was a very complex guy.
Dave was defined by the fact that he believed the belief of an eternal optimist, something profound to the cranky cynic in me. He loved Democratic politics, not because he had ambition to be powerful, not because he liked the “game”, but because he absolutely believed that the reason you became a Democrat was to help people. In February 2008, we signed up – or more accurately, he dragooned me - to go to New Haven to knock on doors for Barack Obama before the Connecticut primary. The organizers sent us to a rough neighborhood, full of condemned houses, crack vials on the ground, a place where hope and change hadn’t actually found its foothold yet. When we got out of the car, he bounded right to the front door of some run-down two family, sheaf of Obama literature in his hand, banging away furiously.
I suggested, perhaps, he might want to be a little more judicious about the doors he wanted to knock on, and he looked at me with a quizzical and slightly sad fashion. Barack Obama is going to make such a difference in these people’s lives, he said, that why wouldn’t they be happy to talk to me. Sure enough, between his cold-call passion and his easy smile, all the people we met on Fenwick Street believed as well. This small victory was followed up by a big meal, a sophisticated analysis of just exactly how everything was going to be better in America, and how we were all just going to get along for real in 2009. The cynic or Republican partisan among us would read this and maybe think “how did that work out for you”. Dave’s response would have always been to work harder, and believe harder, no matter how small the task or duty.
Dave was also a profound man of God. Me and church have never been running buddies, but Dave somehow made his commitment to Christ and First Presbyterian seem to make a remarkable amount of sense. The warmest part about it was that he could quote Scripture in a kind of context that resonated, but never overwhelmed. Belief in Christ didn’t just please him, or make him happy, or elevated him, it merely was him, and when he wore it, it worked. I’m too much of a grump to have that kind of faith, and I’m afraid that if I did have that kind of conviction, I’d be absolutely insufferable. Dave was the polar opposite. Without it he would have been insufferable, not that it was even remotely possible.
Because of , or in spite of, all that, our friendship worked. Dave had the profoundly difficult job of managing two political campaigns of mine in the last few years. In the first campaign, I would say something I regretted, and it takes a real friend like him to quite gently tell you you are being an ass, then gamely do what it takes to bring you back again into the fight. We spent days, week, months together politicking from Byram to New Canaan, absorbing the enormity of it all. We were speaking for hours at a time, and he survived. Then, one year later, he signed up to do it again. When he became Chairman of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee, I was just happy to have his back and help where I could.
I’ll never forget when we were sitting in the campaign headquarters after the 2006 election. Our hopes were so high not just for me, but for Diane Farrell, Ned Lamont, Ed Krumeich, the whole ticket. When the results had finally come in and we all lost, I looked over at him in the corner and he had the most profound look of sadness on his face. You know, like I said, Dave was a believer, and I was pretty sure he might have been taking the loss of so many races very hard. All those good works, positive ideals, chance for real change, I was pretty sure he was sad for the loss of such an opportunity.
But that wasn’t it. He was just sad for me. He believed in me too.
I’ll miss him very much.