When it came to finding a partner, Rob wanted to meet someone outside of that world, who might broaden his perspective. And make him laugh.
Which is why he swiped right on a photo of a woman at the beach, hair blowing in the wind, with a nice smile, whose profile headline described her as "Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but not a squirrel."
Emily was a middle-school librarian, full of all sorts of knowledge. "It was really fun talking to her because she knew a little bit about a lot of stuff," Rob recalled. Emily was an avid reader, with interesting friends, and a curious, spirited approach to life. Rob felt comfortable with her right away.
But more than a year after he and Emily began dating, Rob still wasn't sure he was cut out for parenthood. Not wanting to impede Emily's plans for adoption, he initiated a breakup. "I told her, 'I don't think I want to be a dad,'?" Rob said. "'You deserve someone who is committed to it, who really wants that role.'?"
A month later, in November 2015, Ruby was born. Emily flew to Texas, alone, to get her. After Emily returned to Minnesota with Ruby, she told Rob that she thought he should meet the baby.
The moment Rob cradled Ruby in his arms, something inside him shifted. He felt an instant connection. "I thought, This baby is mine. I'm here in this world to care for Ruby and I'm going to be a part of this kid's life no matter what," Rob recalled. "Right then and there, whatever fears and whatnot that I had were out the window."
A LIFE-CHANGING DIAGNOSIS
Emily and Rob got back together. For nearly two years, they shuttled back and forth between their separate houses, Emily's near Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis and Rob's in St. Paul. Emily served as Ruby's primary caregiver, but Rob yearned to make their life-in-limbo more settled. In October 2017, he proposed. A few months later, Rob moved in with Emily and Ruby.
Shortly after Ruby had come into Rob's life, he'd decided to stop drinking. He had developed a nagging fear that something might happen to Ruby in the middle of the night, and he wanted to be sure he always had his wits about him.
But it was Emily who ended up in the emergency room late one evening in April 2018. She had been feeling fatigued for several months, experiencing migraines and night sweats. She went to the hospital thinking she had appendicitis. Instead, she was diagnosed with a rare, fast-growing neuroendocrine cancer. The doctors suggested she might only live a few years.