Banana Bread for Robby

Small mountains of dorm essentials dot every level of my house and I’m struck by the reality that my daughter will never again come home in quite the same way. All at once, I am sad and joyful.

Don’t get me wrong, I know this isn’t some unique revelation and I’m not going to drivel on and on. (Even though I wish I could because this is my first brush with really missing my kid.)

No, I’m counting my blessings like other parents out there, who would walk through fire to make sure their child flies into a positive future. And I’m thinking of a man I met last fall while writing a story about entrepreneurial fear for Success www.success.com magazine.

Mike Lawrence doesn’t take himself too seriously judging by his job title: Top Banana. When I queried Help A Reporter Out www.haro.com looking for entrepreneurs willing to talk about their fears, Mike’s candor about debt and business expansion during a recession was right on track with my story focus.

But months after meeting my editor’s deadline, I still had Havana Banana Breads www.havanabananabreads.com

Robby Lawrence

on the brain. I hold Mike responsible for that for two reasons: Dark Chocolate Chunk (The yummiest banana bread I’ve EVER eaten!) and Robby.

You see, Mike may have jumped out of airplanes for Uncle Sam during his Army career, but he started baking banana bread for Robby’s sake. Mike was a single dad raising a non-verbal, autistic son, who loved to eat and was fixated by TV cooking shows. Bananas were a favorite, so of course Robby gobbled up Mike’s experimental banana breads.

But it wasn’t until Robby was 11 that banana bread, Robby’s future and Mike’s career truly converged. By that time Mike had remarried, Mary. (a.k.a. Mrs. Banana.) He was pondering his post-Army National Guard career, which was many years down the road, and planning for his son’s future.

Unlike mine, Mike’s role as his child’s caretaker and provider won’t taper off with a move to college. And like so many developmentally disabled children, Robby will forever need him in a way my girls will not need me.

“When you have a child that can’t take care of himself, you have extra grey hair because of that. I think about it every day,” Mike says.

So, it’s for Robby that Mike took 12 years to methodically plan every facet of Havana Banana Breads, dedicating time and resources along the way. After retiring in 2008, Mike went live with a debt-free company that sells a spectacular product. (Who doesn’t like banana bread?) Today, they are expanding with new, large capacity commercial ovens and anticipating business growth.

What would that mean for Robby? “Money doesn’t guarantee good care, but it gives you choices,” Mike says.

Robby turns 25 this month. He lives in a group home near Mike and Mary in suburban Washington, DC. and participates in a day program. Robby is very happy.

And his dad? “As long as Robby’s well taken care of and feeling good, then life is good.”