I'm Spike Gillespie, writer, teacher, secular officiant. In 2015 through a series of remarkable and rather unbelievable events, I came into possession of a little ranch just east of Austin, the city where I'd lived for 24 years. The ranch was rundown, rumored to have been a meth lab, and featured an informal junkyard. Through incredible support from investors, friends, and strangers, I gutted and remodeled the house and barn and purchased a 250 square-foot tiny chapel. This project, known as the Tiny T Ranch, is now home to weddings, memorial services, gatherings for support groups, workshops, classes, and retreats. It is also Home to Bob.
Bob came on my radar in late 2016. His daughter, Ellen, is a great friend of mine. When her mom/Bob's wife died that summer, Bob-- who'd spent nearly nine decades as a Midwest farmer-- decided it was time for a change. He wanted to winter closer to Ellen in Austin, but he hoped for a rural setting, not being a big fan of cities. When I heard his desire, I invited him to come stay with me. Aside from having my son, this was THE BEST CHOICE I EVER MADE.
It didn't take long for us to realize how much we love each other. One day when I was reminding Bob this was his home, that he wasn't a visitor, he admitted he really would like to live out his days here. And so it came to pass. He flew to Indiana in the spring of 2017 and, with the help of one of his sons, he drove the rest of his stuff down. We are officially in it for life.
It's time for me to tell the story of Bob and our life at the ranch. This is more than a real-life buddy film unfolding on a daily basis. As many of you know from my previous books, I have struggled with PTSD, anxiety, and depression much of my life, ailments that are directly related to having been raised by a mentally ill father. I have dedicated much of my adult life to seeking help to heal from the extensive fallout of this trauma. Meditation, therapy, friends, exercise, writing-- all of this has helped. But nothing has helped more than having Bob around. He is my new father, a gentle man who reassures and loves me daily, who has helped me through heartbreak, lawnmower crises, frozen pipes, and the aggravation of the occasional shitty client. Bob understands the long view and patiently reminds me about impermanence and looking forward instead of back. He is a Living Buddha.
It's also the story of jumping in and making space for radical change. Sometimes Bob and I sit around just laughing about our circumstances. Did I ever think I'd be living with an old farmer from Indiana? Hell No. Did he ever imagine living with a tattooed aging punk rocker who hosts same-sex marriages, Vampire LARP parties, and has a penchant for adopting rescue dogs and horses? Again: Hell No. Other times we talk about the extreme stress both of us were under not long before we met. Each of us spent much of 2016 caring for gravely ill partners and feeling nearly broken in the process. We're helping each other heal from that stress, too, including encouraging each other to eat-- between us we unintentionally lost 75 pounds thanks to our respective ordeals. These days we eat tomato sandwiches the way our horses eat grass.
As with many of my past books, this one will be a hybrid: part memoir and part self-help. I want to share the story of Bob so you can feel the love, too. Hopefully you'll also be inspired if you, too, are struggling with the ongoing challenges of mental illness.