A Remembrance of Bob Randall
By Alice O’Leary

(continued from page 1)


I first met Robert at Manatee Junior College in Bradenton, FL in 1965. He was a curious fellow, a Blues Brother before the Blues Brothers existed. He was dressed (almost always) in a dark blue suit, with a tie. It was the mid-60s, folks, and this was not unusual attire for a college student. In fact, it was the expected attire. But Robert gave the outfit his own twist – he wore sandals.


Blues Brother Bob

Bob Randall, 1967

We both went on to the University of South Florida to finish our college studies and begin our life’s education. It was 1968 and the times were a’ changing and so was fashion. For Robert the dark blue suits gave way to paisley shirts and bell-bottom pants. And, of course, there was hair . . . lots of hair. . And there was pot which Bob first smoked in 1968.


Bob Randall in New England, 1972

Bob Randall on the porch, circa 1969

It was at USF that we became good friends. As he would later write, we “associated rather than dated.” Our courtship was long, sometimes rocky but always we were friends. We separated after college but remained in touch – letters, phone calls, traveling to different parts of the country to meet.

“Rounding the age of 25, we found the hormonal surges of youth were giving way to fuller emotions. We had played through an elaborate dance and finally mated but did not wed (that would come later). We had long been friends and settled slowly into lovers. The arrangement work well.”

Marijuana Rx, page 12

But to make a long story short: In February 1974 we moved into a large apartment on Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. and would spend the next 27 years together.


Bob Randall and Alice O'Leary

Robert was diagnosed with glaucoma in 1972, shortly after he arrived in Washington. He was 24 and had suffered from “eyestrain” for years. Far too young to have glaucoma, his condition was easily dismissed throughout his adolescent years as the by-product of a bookish young man but the Washington ophthalmologist was definite. He laid a hand on Robert’s shoulder and admonished the young man to seek disability assistance from the state and perhaps learn Braille. “You’ll be blind in five years,” he said.

Bob Randall and Alice O'Leary in the leaves

Bob followed the first bit of advice but never the latter. At the time of his diagnosis Bob was driving a Red Top cab in D.C. but the eye drops prescribed to treat the glaucoma rendered him almost as blind as the promised outcome of the disease.


Bob Randall, Truck Driver

For a year he received state disability payments. During this time his ophthalmologist tried every available medication to control Bob’s eye pressures but they remained stubbornly elevated and damage to the field of vision continued. It was a discouraging and frightening period for Bob. He began to think that the diagnosis was right – he would be blind before he reached 30.

He noticed, quite by accident, that marijuana helped his eyes. One night he looked out his apt window at the streetlights and saw a telltale sign of the elevated eye pressures associated with glaucoma – haloes around the lights. Turning away he decided to forget his troubles and get stoned. Some time later, happily stoned, listening to music, he looked out his window again and immediately realized that the haloes were gone.

“It was a singular moment. I immediately drew the connection between the use of marijuana and the now absent haloes. Indeed, parts of my brain absorbed the connection so quickly and so assuredly that I was certain I must be stoned, which of course I was. I tried to follow the exploding synaptic spasm but was quickly left behind. …Marijuana beneficial? A delicious thought perhaps, but nothing to hang your sight on.”

Marijuana Rx, page 10

He told me in a phone call. Oddly I can remember the event but not my reaction to it. For a time I was skeptical. After we began living together in early ’74 I began to see, first hand, the problems he would have visually when marijuana wasn’t available. The passage of time – with its ebb and floe of illicit marijuana supplies – quickly proved to me his medical need for the drug. We did all that we could to assure a supply of marijuana and, for the most part, succeeded.

As our first anniversary rolled around in February 1975 things were pretty good. We were both employed. Bob had gotten a job teaching speech at a junior college in the D.C. suburbs. He was also writing theater reviews for a suburban weekly. The dark days of disability and food stamps were in the past. We were talking about buying some property to renovate and enjoying all that Washington, D.C. and the nearby environs had to offer.


January, 1975 in the life of Bob Randall

Continued on Page 3

 
 


Robert C. Randall
1948-2001

 


Bob Randall and Joan Baez, 1972


Bob Randall with his mother Thelma at his College Graduation


Bob Randall in 1970


Bob Randall
in New England, 1972


Alice O'Leary at age 24


Bob Randall at age24 in Colorado


On the Road


Bob Randall, circa 1975


Alice O'Leary at the
Jefferson Memorial


Bob with Thelma and
Alice at the White House


Bob Randall w/Aardvark,1975

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