Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bobby Part 7- The blended haze

Even after all these years, I can’t explain exactly why I felt the way I did after hanging up with Bobby. I was happy, I was calm, I was no longer anxious, worried or confused. I finally understood, accepted, what I had been feeling for the past three years. When I first heard Bobby's voice I was once again covered in goose bumps. I would feel them several times during our conversation. Just as he had done in the past, several times what he said made me lose my breath. I was no longer scared of him hurting me or afraid of the way he made me feel. I was finally ready to embrace the crazy intense array of emotions I felt when I was with him.

I accepted for now, Bobby had his path to take, I had mine. Even on our different paths, after our phone call I knew in my heart eventually we would be together once again. Time would tell if it would be for a week or a lifetime. I was going to relax and trust what I was feeling. After the phone call, every day when I saw his postcard taped to my mirror I smiled. No more questions, pleadings to God. No more wondering where he was, what he was doing or what he was feeling? His phone call let me know there was still hope. He said he wanted to see me again. He thought about me, he called me. Now I had to keep my promise, let him have his fun, relax and follow his lead. When he was ready he would let me know. He would tell me what he wanted from me. Until then, I had work, I had my friends and I had my munchkin. Life was good once again. I was looking forward to our future whatever it would be.

The next day at work, I grabbed my message pad and wrote Bobby called last night, pinned the message to Cheryl’s bulletin board. A few hours later when Cheryl arrived at work, I saw her head into our office/stockroom. I don’t think she even had to time to hang up her coat, before she came running out to find me. She was ecstatic and upset. I should have called her immediately after Bobby called. According to Cheryl this was epic, the phone call was huge. This was great, she announced we had to go card shopping to pick out his next card. I told Cheryl no, we wait, I wait. I could tell she was confused. As I helped Cheryl put her stock out that afternoon I apprised her on our phone call. As I relayed all the details, I was happy. I was smiling non-stop. She questioned very loudly, "What?" when I informed her I told Bobby to go have fun, if he still wanted me I would be here waiting.
"Are you nuts. You don't tell a gorgeous guy to go have fun with other women" She reminded me I told him that once before and I didn't hear from him for months. I tried to explain, it was the only thing that made sense. He was thousands of miles away, I was here. Honestly I hardly knew him. If you added it up all the time we have spent together or talked it would only total two maybe three days! If I asked him to wait for me, he would think I was crazy. I would think I was nuts. For once in my life I was doing the right thing, I wasn’t worried. I went on to explain, I kept thinking about what my Grandpa had told me when I was younger. When he first saw my Grandma he knew she was the one for him. It was love at first sight, his heart told him. It took him awhile to convince Grandma he was the one for her. Grandpa told me sometimes you have to be patient when it comes to love. If it is meant to be, it will eventually be. I was going to patient, I was going to wait for eventually. While I waited I was going to have fun. I was going to grow up, work on my insecurities. I was going to work on becoming a better person, a stronger person.

That afternoon when ever Cheryl had the chance, she nagged me, “Don’t be foolish, write him, send him a photo.” My answer was always the same, “NO, I promised I would follow his lead”. Occasionally I would insert, "He is busy, he made flight commander. He is loving life, flying high, I am waiting. Give it up, PLEASE!"

When I fell asleep that night, I was back in Pensacola. Bobby and I were sitting on the deck, our feet propped up on the railing. We were waiting for the sun light to appear over the gulf. Bobby was telling me about his days playing high school and Navy lacrosse. I could tell how much he loved the game. He was excited to be in flight school yet part of him still missed those days. After he finished one story, I looked over at him, trying to be amusing, I asked him, “So are you one of those larger than life, not many players better than you are guys?” Without hesitation, a devilish grin came over his face as he answered, “You could say that.”
"Oh I could?" I asked very sarcastically.
He looked at me amazed I was questioning him, "Yes definitely"
“So what was your number?”
“Seven, of course it is. That's my lucky number”
He smiled and gave me this amazing look, “Yes, you definitely got lucky tonight”
As he spoke, all I could think was damn he is so freaking handsome. I leaned over smacked him across his arm, I scolded, “Yes I did, and so did you mister!!”

That was part of my attraction to him. Bobby was so self assured, he knew what he wanted and was not afraid to go after it. No was not the end, it was simply an obstacle he had to overcome. He played hard, he played to win. I don’t think anything or anyone intimidated him. He seemed to keep moving forward with no fear. Some people might call him arrogant, I understood he knew who he was, and was not afraid to show it. He loved life and was going to take everything it had to offer, head on with no regrets.

I never understood why Bobby was attracted to me, I was his complete opposite. Yes there was the crazy physical attraction we shared. Deep inside I had a feeling there was more there, another attraction. He knew exactly who he was, what he wanted to do with his life. I was lost. I had no clue which direction to turn, where my life was heading. I was still trying to discover who I was. I was so insecure in my looks, in my personality. I had been in the shadows of so many for so long I was afraid to come out and shine on my own. At times I was definitely afraid to take life head on. I believe Bobby recognized that, he tried to understand my fears. He tried to get me let go of them, to open up and talk about them. That night in Mum's when he lowered his head so his eyes could meet mine, he asked me what I was afraid of? He reassured me everything was going to be fine. I needed to relax and trust him. In his own way, he was trying to get me to see there is nothing to be afraid in life, enjoy what you have, who you are with. At Mum's, I couldn’t let go of my fears, trust what I was feeling. I wasn’t ready to make that leap of faith. Now three years later, I was finally able to “hear” him, I understood. I was ready to relax and stop being afraid of him. I was no longer going to be afraid to feel. I was finally ready for where Bobby might take me.

I didn’t tell Cheryl but a few days later I sent Bobby a birthday card. I kept it short and simple. I wrote "I am sorry I almost forgot your birthday. I promise I will make it up to you later."

I admit when I did not hear from him right away, I started to worry. I debated whether or not I should write. My brother-in-law also graduated from the Naval Academy. I knew from his cruise days, as his sister-in-law I was lucky if I got a letter from him once a month. I was low on his totem pole. I knew with Bobby, there were people higher on the list of letter requirements than I. He was busy, I had to avoid the temptation, I did not want to become the frantic crazy chick in Maryland.

Saturday, March 21st, a bunch of us who had worked closing at Macy’s headed to Ruby Tuesdays to have a drink before heading home. When Roger made a toast to the first day of spring, a group debate started. Was the first day of spring the 20th or the 21st of March? I found myself sitting at the bar, lost in the distance, not sure what I was thinking. I had this strange/bad sensation come over me. I feeling of apprehension, like something bad was looming. Cheryl noticed me staring at nothing and asked what was wrong. I told her I have no clue, I had a bad feeling. She asked me how so, I couldn't explain it. I tried to shake it off and join in on the banter but I couldn't. As I sat there I began to worry something might be wrong with my munchkin. I snuck out of the bar to call home. Mom assured me she was fine, fast asleep, she was heading to bed soon. She told me to have fun she would see me later.

Sunday March 22, one day I will be able to write about Sunday but for now, I am not ready.

Monday March 23, when I returned to work Cheryl asked how I was doing. I told her it was weird I still had that feeling, I couldn't sleep. I woke up crying in the middle of the night and didn't know why. The feeling wouldn't leave me, something was wrong and I didn't know what. I thought I was paranoid. To change the subject, I informed her she would be happy to know when I woke up in the middle of the night and could not fall back asleep I began writing a letter to Bobby. I was going to finish the letter later. She could even help me select the photo I would insert in the letter before mailing it to Bobby. Cheryl was excited, walking out of our office she yelled back at me, "It's about damn time!"

What I am about to write, some parts are vivid like it just happened yesterday, other memories are trapped in a haze. Both blend together creating one very long painful memory.

Wednesday my phone rang it was Cathleen. She asked if there was anyone with me. I told her no, I had taken the Munchkin to the babysitters earlier. Mom was picking her up after work. I was getting ready for work. I could tell by her voice something was wrong. I asked if she was okay? Was Mark (her husband) okay?
Through her tears she said, “Dinker I am so sorry I wanted to tell you before you heard it from someone else or read it in the newspaper. Bobby is dead.”

It took a second for my brain to register what she had just said to me. As the words sunk in, I felt tears begin to roll down my cheeks, something sucked all the air out of me, all the life out of me. I could not breathe. I dropped to the floor, landed sitting Indian style with my back against my bed. My hands began to tremble as I held the phone. I took a deep breath, trying to be calm, I pleaded,
“NO, don’t tell me that. It’s not true. Please no, it can’t be true. Not Bobby.”
“I’m sorry D. Everyone is torn up down here. Mark heard after they told Kevin. Kevin is a mess. I’m so sorry D."
All I could say through my tears, "No not Bobby, please"
Cathleen was crying as well, "Are you going to be okay? Do you need me to come home?”
“I don't know. What happened?”
“I’m not sure, all I know is his helicopter crashed Monday. Everyone on board was killed.”
I couldn’t speak, I didn’t know what to say. my brain was trying to comprehend everything while my heart was trying to reject it all. It couldn't be true. She had to be wrong. Bobby said he would be safe, he would call again, I would see him when he got home from his Det.

For a few minutes no one spoke. Cathleen broke the silence, “Are you going to be okay?”
“I don’t know. I got to go. I just got to go. Call me later, please.” I begged.
“I will. I love you D”

I couldn’t say good bye, answer I love you too. I could not process what I was suppose to say when someone says goodbye. I hung up the phone. I sat there staring at the floor for a few minutes.

I not sure why, I got up starting walking, pacing circles around the house not sure which direction to go, what to do. I looked at the clock calculated what time it was in Guam. I couldn’t call Leigh it was too late. I tried to convince myself Cathleen was wrong, Bobby was just hurt. I whispered to myself over and over, "He's coming home, he promised me." I was the one who broke promises, he never did. He said he would always be there for me.

I sat down for a second on the kitchen floor to catch my breath, wipe the tears from my eyes. I needed to think. I stood up, announced to the empty house, "I got to go to work. I got to work. We have a sale on Saturday. I have to get ready."
Over and over I repeated to myself I had to go to work.

I don’t remember getting dressed, I don’t recall the drive. After standing up in the kitchen, the next thing I remember is entering Macy's through security. As I walked into my department Cheryl looked at me and asked if I was okay. I put my hand up like I had done three years before to Bobby in Pensacola. I didn't answer. I shook my head no then yes and walked back to our office. I sat down for a moment, gathering strength to go on. I noticed the racks of clothing waiting to be put on the floor. Very methodically, mechanically I began to place the new merchandise on the floor. All the managers had received their list of markdowns for the weekend. Everyone was busy shifting their displays and racks preparing for the pre-sale. I stood in my department with my list of mark downs in my hands. I stared at it, my brain was not comprehending the codes, nothing was making sense. Everything seemed to spin in confusion. I stood there staring, concentrating on breathing. It was all I could think about. I just had to breathe that's it.

A woman interrupted my blankness, asked if I could put some clothes in the dressing room for her. I said of course. As she handed me her items she asked if everything was okay. I had no color. She had never seen anyone as pale. I gave a fake smile and told her I was simply tired. As I walked to the dressing room, my eyes caught a glimpse of a girl wearing a Naval Academy sweat shirt. All I could do was stare at her, at the sweatshirt. She was smiling, she was happy. Why was she so happy?

Akin to when a damn bursts, the water rushes to the valley below drowning everything in it’s path. The water leaves nothing standing. When I saw the girl in the sweatshirt, suddenly without explanation I couldn’t breathe. I was drowning in loss, drowning in pain, suffocating in emptiness. The damn in my heart that had been trying to hold every feeling of despair, broke and every emotion came rushing out. As I entered the dressing room I handed the woman’s items to one of the women from the dress department. I asked her to please handle this and I ran to the back corner, the back stall of the dressing room. I shut the door and crumpled to the floor. My body was shaking as I pulled my knees to my chest. I put both hands over my mouth so I wouldn’t scream. Tears came flooding down my face as I began to rock back and forth, saying over and over, “No please no. Oh God Bobby no.” I couldn’t breathe, I thought I was going to pass out. I needed, I wanted to breathe. I tried to stop crying but I couldn't. All I could do was rock back and forth, keep saying "no". I couldn’t think, I couldn't control anything. Everything was rushing out of me and I could not stop it.

A few minutes later Cheryl came rushing into the dressing room. The woman from the dress department went searching for her. When she opened the door to the dressing room, I couldn't say anything. I could only look at her, shaking as I rocked back and forth. She immediately sat down, put her arms around me, pulled me in close and asked what was wrong. It took me a few minutes before I could barely utter the words, “Bobby's dead!”
Hearing my own voice say those words, combine the two, Bobby and dead, hurt more than I can describe. It cut me deeply. Cheryl began to cry with me, she repeated several times, she was so sorry. I tried to speak but my thoughts were jumbled, nothing made sense. I didn’t know what to do.

Bobby couldn't be dead, this was not the future I envisioned when I dreamed of him. I dreamed of nights at the beach, watching him play lacrosse, falling asleep looking at his face. I dreamed of waking up next to him one day. This was not right, this was not what I felt. This all had to be wrong.

I began to calm down, through my tears I cried to Cheryl, “ You were right, I should have written him. He didn’t write. Why didn't he write? He was suppose to lead that was the plan. I don’t know what to do now.”

Cheryl tried to console me, she acknowledged that yes maybe he didn’t write but Bobby did call, that had to mean something. I was lucky I got to talk to him one more time. He said he wanted to see me again, I had to always remember that. At least I knew he wanted to see me again.

I am not sure how long we sat back in the dressing room. For the longest time I leaned against the wall not saying a word, with tears streaming down my face. Like a true friend, Cheryl stayed with me the entire time. I finally broke the silence and told Cheryl I had to get up or I would never be able to move again. I had cried so much, for a moment I thought I was going to pass out as I stood up. I was overcome with the realization that once again, I felt lost, I felt empty. This time the hurt was so deep I felt like I was standing in a void.

When I walked out of the dressing room I discovered that Kristen and Roger were flipping my department getting it ready for the pre-sale. I smiled and said thank you. I went back to my office, while Cheryl went to get something for me to eat. I crossed my arms on my desk, laid my head down. With tear stained eyes, I fell asleep. For a while I was back at the condo in Pensacola, I was in the shower kissing Bobby as the water washed over both of us. His smile was so clear as he moved my wet hair away from my face. I could hear us both laughing. His hands were so gentle as he washed my hair. In my dream life was the way it was suppose to be. The way I has always imagined it would be in the future.

I woke up to find a large coke and a slice of cold pizza sitting next to me on my desk. For a minute as I looked at my dinner, I was confused, I was caught in a haze between reality and a dream. Unfortunately reality has a way of ruining the most wonderful of memories, the best dreams. I felt so drained. I reached for the coke, took a sip, then tried to eat the pizza. I was only able to take a few bites before I began to get sick. As I continued to throw up, once again I felt like I was suffocating. The tidal wave of emotions were coming full force again. If I didn't get out of there, I would drown once again. I didn’t know where I wanted to go, I had to leave. I needed fresh air. I needed to move, if I didn’t I thought I would cease to exist. I grabbed my coat, as I was leaving I asked Cheryl if she could cover for me, I was sorry but I had to go. She replied yes then yelled after me if I needed anything to call her anytime.

I sat in my car for several minutes, drying my eyes, trying to clear my brain, so I could drive. It was misty out, for a second I couldn’t remember where my wiper switch was. The last thing I probably should have been doing that night was driving. I didn't understand that, I thought all I needed was to get out. If I kept moving I would not remember, I would not feel. I left the mall parking lot, turned onto route 2. I found myself driving past my exit and heading toward Annapolis. While I was driving, my brain was trying to process everything. As I drove down the hill on route 2 approaching the Old Severn River Bridge I saw the Naval Academy across the water. The lights from Bancroft Hall were shining like at beacon in the darkness calling. I pulled off to the side of the road, staring at the lights, wondering what wing 24th company was in? What halls did Bobby walk over and over while he was at the Academy? I had officers stickers on my car which allowed me to drive through the gate, onto the Academy grounds. I parked my car behind the Ricket's Hall. I sat for a few minutes staring at the field surrounded by the fence. The turf field where Bobby wore his number lucky number seven jersey.

It was misting/drizzling out, when I stepped out of my car. At first I didn't feel it, I didn't notice. I began walking towards downtown. I wanted to go to the last place I had seen Bobby. The last place I felt his heartbeat, felt his arms around me. I crossed over Dock Street, through the parking lot and stood on the docks staring at Mum's. I could hear his voice asking what I was afraid of. I closed my eyes, put my hand over my mouth, with tears streaming down my cheeks once again I tried to remember his eyes looking into mine as spoke to me three years before.

I sat on a bench, began rocking back and forth as I continued to cry. I closed my eyes pleading with God to let me open them and be back in 1984. I pleaded with God to please let me try again. I promised I would do it right. If given a second chance, I would not be afraid. I begged, pleaded, bargained, it didn't matter every time I opened my eyes it was still 1987, Bobby was still dead. I begged God, to let me hold Bobby one more time. All I needed was one more time.

I learned the kindness of strangers that night. As I sat there rocking back and forth with tears streaming down my face an older couple walked by. The gentleman handed me his handkerchief. Trying to comfort me he told me not to worry. I was a pretty girl if he was a smart man he would come back. I only needed to give him time. All men eventually come to their senses. I looked up at him through my tears, in desperation I softly said, “He can’t come back. I wish he could. I really wish he could.”
I heard his wife gasp, "Oh no."
I looked over, his wife began to cry. She recognized my pain. She knew why I was crying, he knew as well. He gently put his hand on my shoulder, told me he was sorry, then they walked away. A few minutes later he was back with a small blanket. He wrapped the blanket around my shoulders. He promised he would say a prayer for me. He asked what his name was? I answered softly, "Bobby Bianchi."
He would say a prayer for Bobby as well. Before he left, he told me to keep the blanket on, it was cold and wet, I didn’t need to get sick. He asked if there was anyone I wanted him to call. I nodded no, then tried to force a smile when I told him thank you.

I sat there for several hours, silently crying, no longer pleading with God. I was now asking Bobby to forgive me. As I slowly rocked back and forth, all I could say over and over, "I am so sorry Bobby. I didn't know. I should have said yes. I didn't know." As I cried I kept wishing I could reverse time, change what happened. I questioned myself, why didn’t I leave with Bobby that night in Annapolis? Why was I so insecure?

After a while, I turned myself sideways, so I could curl my knees to my chest, lean my head against the back and stare at Mum’s. I closed my eyes trying to remember that night. I wanted to remember his touch, his smell, the dance, his kiss. When I had no more tears, no more energy, when I was finally numb, I got up. I am not sure why but I folded the blanket, placed it neatly on the bench. I headed back toward the Academy. As I crossed over dock street I turned around one more time, hoping like that night 3 years ago, I could see Bobby turn around, look back at me. I wiped the last of the tears from my cheeks and headed home.

Everyone was sleeping when I arrived home. I looked at the clock it was a little past three. The last time I had been awake that late was the phone call a few weeks back with Bobby. I went into my Munchkin's room, scooped her up and carried her to my room. I laid her down on the bed next to me. I didn’t want to be alone. I had no energy to change. I pulled off my boots, climbed into bed in the clothes I had worn that day.I drifted off to sleep silently crying, holding my daughter.

Thursdays were my days off at Macy’s. I awoke the next morning with a new emotion, one that would accompany me for a while, sorrow. It was an emptiness I had never felt before. In the past I thought my heart had been broken, after Bobby died I realized how much more a heart could ache. I discovered what pain really was, how it truly felt. I laid in bed staring at the ceiling. I didn’t want to move. I wanted to go back to sleep, dream of happier times. I wasn't sure I could handle another day knowing Bobby was never going to be a part of my future. I would have to live without him. I felt my daughter curled up next to me. I rolled over on my side. I laid there for a few minutes brushing her hair away from her face wishing for a moment she was his, so I could have something of Bobby to hold on to.

Children, they make you go on. No matter how much you hurt, how deep the pain, they depend on you. There is no choice, you keep moving, keep doing. I had to get up. I had to take a shower, I had get my daughter up, dressed and fed. I could neglect me, but not my munchkin. As I headed to the bathroom, I glanced in the mirror, gasped at how awful I looked. At least my looks matched the way I felt. My eyelids were puffy, I had huge dark circles under my eye. I looked like I had been in a fight with Rocky and lost. I turned the water on, undressed and stepped into the shower. As soon as the water hit me, I am not sure what over came me, but I stepped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around me, went into my room, opened the drawer, grabbed the soap on a rope. I popped off the plastic covering, held it for a moment, staring at it. I stepped back into the shower once again felt the warm water rush over me. I closed my eyes as I ran the soap down my arms, around my neck, across my chest. I tried to imagine it was Bobby's hands holding the soap, washing me. More than anything I wanted Bobby with me one more time. I had promised Bobby I was saving the soap on a rope for him. After so many broken promises, I wanted to keep that one silly promise to him. Tears overtook me, I closed my eyes and remembered our shower in Pensacola.
I sat on the floor of the tub crying. I looked up so the water would hit my face, wash away my tears. For a moment I thought I felt his hands once again wipe away my tears. When the water turned cold, I gathered what little strength I had to stand. I wiped my eyes, wrapped myself in a towel and headed to my room.

When I returned, I was amazed my Munchkin was still sleeping. After I dressed, I woke her up, changed her diaper, made her breakfast then dressed her. I put her favorite movie, 101 Dalmatians on the VCR in my room. She sat on my bed watching the movie as I searched for Leigh’s phone number. I found her number tucked away in my night stand. I took a deep breath then made my first phone call to Guam. Before that day, I was convinced the first time I would be calling overseas, would be to talk to Bobby. I wiped the tears from my eyes as the phone began to ring, Leigh answered. I tried my best to control my tears as I explained Cathleen had called me, I heard about Bobby. I needed to know what happened. “Oh D, I’m so sorry! Are you sure?”

I told Leigh I needed to know. I could tell she was upset, but she explained Bobby was flying a training mission in the Philippines. She heard he was flying too low, too fast. His helicopter hit a wire and crashed. Everyone at the base was upset. Her husband who played lacrosse with Bobby was extremely upset. Bobby was such a great guy, it was such a waste. I can't recall the rest of the conversation. I was no longer listening. My brain kept hearing the words over and over, Bobby flew too low, too fast, he hit a wire, then crashed. Those words would twist in my brain, churning for long while before they would become a cyclone of anger and grief. Eventually exploding into a fit of rage almost a year later.

I hung up the phone, sat down on my bed with my back against the headboard, pulled my daughter on my lap and tried to watch the rest of the movie with her without shedding tears. At one point, my duaghter noticed I was crying, tried to comfort me. “No Mommy not sad. Puppies fine!”
Her voice was so sweet, her statement so innocent. I wiped my tears, smiled, “Yes darling, the puppies will be fine”.

The shower and night time were my best friends, they were my mourning buddies. The two places where I could openly cry without any questions or interruptions. They were places I could be alone with my grief, alone with my pain. Where tears would never be questioned because they were never seen. They were my best friends, sleep was my devoted friend. In my dreams, Bobby was with me, life was perfect. I hated mornings. When I awoke, I was lost and alone once again. I began to question everything, what I felt, what I believed, my faith. My instincts had lied to me. They told me to relax, Bobby and I had time. I did not understand why I would feel so much for one person only to have him leave me, die. I didn't understand why God would hurt me this way. If God didn't want me to be with Bobby why did he have him call me? Why was I so drawn to Bobby? Every night when I said my prayers, I asked God to protect Bobby, to always be with him. Did God not hear my prayers? If God was with Bobby, how did he allow him to crash? I was wrong to question God, yet I had to, he was the only one who had all the answers.

I was grateful I wore contacts. Whenever my eyes would begin to tear, I would start to cry at work or where ever I might be. If questioned, I simply responded, “I am fine. I have something in my contacts." The answer seemed to suffice the curious. I was rarely hungry. When I did eat, nothing tasted right, everything made me nauseous. In a week I had lost ten pounds. Cathleen called over the weekend to check on me, make sure I was holding up okay. She informed me Bobby’s funeral was Thursday April second. Monday I called AAA to get a trip track and maps of the area. I knew how to get to Maplewood. I had seen the sign many times on my trips through New Jersey but I did not know how to get to the church. How to find the cemetery.

As the day of Bobby’s funeral approached I began to feel as if I was coming apart. I had never met his parents, I knew his brother Kevin, met his older brother once but never met his youngest. What would I say if his parents asked how I knew Bobby? The truth was insane. What would I say, “Hello, I am the girl who the first two times I met your son I was naked in a robe. By the way, from the moment I first saw him, I fell instantly head over heels in love with Bobby. I slept with your son over spring break. It was the most amazing night of my life I have ever had. Bobby was wonderful, he was sweet to me, he was the nicest guy. He even sent me flowers on my birthday. Yet because of my insecurities, my immaturity, despite what I felt, I sent him away like a lunatic. I kept telling your perfect son no. It's very nice to meet you!” I could see myself being escorted away to the nearest asylum with that insane answer.

Once again I doubted myself. I didn't believe I was strong enough to go to his funeral alone. I told myself I could not drive three and a half hours up there and back. I would be fine driving to Maplewood but coming home after his funeral, I would be a mess. I would cause an accident. I convinced myself I was not attending Bobby's funeral because I would be alone during the drive. I knew the real reason, my true fear. The thought of seeing Bobby's casket, knowing he was in there, was more than I thought I could endure. I wanted to remember Bobby's amazing eyes, his smile. He was so full of life. I was afraid after his funeral when I closed my eyes all I would see was his flag drapped casket. He was too alive in my memory. I loved his eyes when he looked into mine. I loved the way he held me when we danced, when we kissed. I never wanted to lose that memory. I never wanted to lose him. I was avoiding saying good bye. My heart was not ready to let go of Bobby.

The morning of the second arrived, it was overcast and drizzling. As I rose out of bed I looked out my window and thought, a perfect sad day, even the angels are crying. I dressed my daughter, took her to the sitters, drove home and crawled back into bed. I laid there staring at the clock watching the time slip slowly by. 10:00 a.m. his funeral was beginning. I began to cry uncontrollably asking God how was this fair? Why did I hurt so bad? I was tired of pain. I cried for awhile longer. I was regretting not going, not saying good bye. I owed him that much. I got changed and did something I had not done since college. I went outside and ran. I didn’t know why, I needed to forget, needed to clear my brain. When we ran laps as conditioning for gymnastics I loved when my brain hit the zone, I felt nothing. I needed to hit the zone. I could not lay there watching the clock wondering when he was being laid to rest. When he was going to be covered with dirt. I needed to stop feeling so much pain, so much guilt.

As I headed out the door I looked at the clock, noon. I wondered if his body was at the cemetery. I wiped the tears from my eyes and headed out the door. I ran to my old high school, when I got there I sat on the curb next to the baseball field between the parked cars. I could see the kids inside. Life was still normal for them. I longed for normal. Instead of heading home when I passed the middle school, I turned left and headed toward Chapelgate. I paused at the top of the big hill debating whether I should run down it. Halfway down the hill I tripped on the uneven surface of the grass and fell face first. I pounded the ground once with both my fists, I screamed as loud as I could, "Damn it!" I rolled over, brushed the dirt and grass off me, sat up and stared down the hill. I had no more energy. I did not feel like moving. I wanted to sit there and be numb. I preferred numb, it was better than a constant ache. It was better than feeling I was being swallowed by sorrow. After a few minutes I forced myself to get up, I had to pick up my daughter. I walked down the hill, cut through the woods to take the short cut home.

That night at dinner, my dad asked if everything was alright. I was spending a lot of time alone. My parents work, they come home, watch television then sleep. I love my parents, I know they love me. They have always given my sister and I everything we have ever needed. Growing up they never asked about boys, how I felt. They never asked that much about my friends. They set a curfew, I had rules to follow. To them that was what a parent did. If asked today, my parents would probably not be able to name two of my boyfriends. We never spoke of things like that. When my heart was broken I turned to my friends. Over dinner when asked, I told my Dad a good friend of mine died, he was buried today. He asked what had happened, I told him a helicopter crash. He said that was too bad, he was sorry. He would say a prayer for his family. That was the only conversation I ever had with my parents about Bobby.

It was impossible to sleep that night, I was regretting not attending Bobby's funeral. I should have paid my respects to his parents, his brothers. I laid awake in bed staring at the ceiling repeating, "I am so sorry Bobby. I let you down again." I rolled over looked at the clock. Triple ones. I stared at the clock willing the phone to ring one more time. 1:12 a.m. once again my wishful thinking could not turn back the hands of time. I turned on my light, opened my drawer and grabbed my pad of paper. When I opened the pad I stared at the letter I had written to Bobby. My eyes began to flood with tears. I knew then what I did not know Sunday night, early Monday morning. When I awoke anxious, sweaty and scared, filled with uneasy emotions and felt the need to write Bobby. Telling him how I felt, how I missed him. He was flying his final mission down the Bucao River. I was writing Bobby when his helicopter crashed, when he died. My brain did not know anything was wrong, but my soul felt it that night as I wrote him. Reflecting back I am convinced I felt my heart tear in half when he died. I grabbed the pad, wiped the tears from my eyes, then I tore Bobby's letter off and neatly stuffed it in my drawer next to his Christmas card. I took the pen from my nightstand. I opened my closet, pushed my clothes to the side. Like I had done when I was younger, when I was afraid or wanted to be alone I headed to the sanctity of my closet.

I pushed my shoes aside, sat with my back to the corner of my closet. I began to write a letter to Bobby's mom. I cried as I wrote how I was feeling, how wonderful her son was. How much I missed Bobby. I can't remember everything I wrote I was crying too hard. I simply filled the pages with my emotions. I tried my best to keep my handwriting legible. When I was done I had several pages. I did not proof read the letter. I was afraid if I did I would never mail it. I was amazed I remembered his address from a conversation in Pensacola. I placed the letter inside the envelope sealed it, placed a stamp on it. Placed it on my nightstand leaning against my telephone. As I turned off my light I looked at the clock. triple threes.

A short time later I received a card and letter from Bobby's mom. As I read her words, I understood where Bobby got his gentle side, his compassion. She had taught him to wipe away my tears, my pain. She had lost her son, yet she was consoling me. She was telling me to have faith, trust in God. She had been blessed, he was a wonderful son. She could tell from my words I loved her son. She was happy Bobby had someone who cared and loved him. Through my tears I read her letter several times before placing it in my on top of Bobby's postcards and letter I had written him.

My daughter would be the force that would keep me going. She would be my life line. The only reason I had the strength to get out of bed some days was the love I had for her. As the days passed, waking up and moving became a little easier. Some days I would find my eyes tearing up for no reason. Other days it would be a song that would cause me to cry. I never knew when I would feel the pain. Good days were when I could make it with out feeling the dull ache, the constand sorrow and emptiness. When as mean as it sounds, I was not reminded of Bobby.

At my parents' house, books, papers and mail end up stacked on top of each other. Clutter would collect quickly. When I lived there I did my best to keep it organized. After Bobby died I didn't have the extra energy to clean after my parents. I was tired from working , taking care of my munchkin and tired from grieving. Even when I had the energy to clean I understood, Dad’s end table next to his chair, was a no intrusion zone. It was stacked with his books, his mail.

It was the end of May. I had developed an unstable truce with my feelings. I was doing my best to come to terms with Bobby's death. It was my day off. My daughter and I were playing “I am going to get you” as I tried to catch her, wrangle her to her bedroom to get her dressed. She loved running around Grandpa’s chair. She would grab the afghan hanging off the back causing the chair to circle with her. It always made her giggle. As she ran around the chair holding the afghan the chair hit Grandpa’s end table knocking all his books and mail to the floor. We both stopped, laughed and exclaimed, “Uh Oh!”
I grabbed her, scurried her to her room, then dressed her so we could head to the playground.

Before heading out, I began to pick up the books and mail, stack them back on Dad’s table. I gathered the mail that had been knocked on the floor, my heart stopped. I recognized the handwriting on one of the envelopes that was addressed to me. There laying on the floor, in the middle of the scattered mail was a letter from Bobby. I grabbed it, then searched through the rest of the mail hoping to find another. There were no others. I stared at the letter for a moment. I called my neighbor and asked if my daughter could come play with her's for awhile. She said of course. I carried my daughter across the street, as I left her I promised to take her to the playground after lunch. Mommy had to do something very important, alone.

I rushed back home. I picked up my letter and headed back to my room. I laid it on my bed, ran my fingers across it as I stared at my name, my address in his handwriting. I wanted to open the letter but at the same time I was afraid. Like a well loved novel, for the next several months I would read Bobby's letter each night before falling to sleep.

I opened the letter, I discovered tucked inside the folded page was a photo of Bobby in his flight suit standing by the front of his helicopter. Staring at his image, I began to cry. Even his photograph took my breath away. Bobby was so gorgeous, extremely handsome. I smiled at his grin, the one I remembered so well. The smile that melted my heart time and time again.

I took a deep breath and began to read,

It was wonderful talking to you. I missed you. I only wish I could have seen you. (all of you) The next month will be pretty hectic. I wanted to send you a photograph of me so when the Navy boys start knocking on your door you have a photo to remind you I am a much better catch!
Looking forward to sharing the soap on a rope one day.
PS It doesn’t matter who the father is, only the mother.

He promised he would write, true to his word, he kept his promise. I laughed and I cried when I read his letter. He was such a smart ass. He was so confident. Yes, he was the best catch. If only I could have caught him, if only I had another chance to try.

(Use the links to the left to continue on to part 8)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bobby Part 6- Holding out hope

Like a little kid before their birthday I found myself rushing home every day to check the mail hoping to find a card, a letter, anything from Bobby. In my brain I had calculated how long it should take to hear from Bobby, five days for the letter to arrive, three days for him to answer, five days for his response to be delivered, a total of thirteen days. Looking back I am not exactly sure how or why I decided it would take three days for Bobby to respond. Maybe it was because his birthday was on the 13th? Sometimes there is no explaining how my brain reasons.

Two weeks passed, still no response. I was silly enough back then to believe in signs. The guy in the navy lacrosse t-shirt had to be a sign, he knew Bobby, he was able to get me his address. Wasn’t that a sign? I was not gong to lose faith, the card had to work. It was going to work, I knew it. I felt it.

A month passed with no answer. If the address was incorrect, the card would have been returned by now. In my mind I had selected the perfect card. I was confused. Why didn't it work? I was losing faith. I kept wondering maybe there are no signs. Was I crazy, obsessed? Did I need to forget, move on?

As a single mom my life consisted of two things, work and taking care of my munchkin. Life was busy, life was good but it was also incomplete. I am not sure why I carried such strong feelings for Bobby. I am not even sure I can describe what was going on inside of me. I felt like there was a constant pull on my heart when I thought of him. A feeling I was not where I was suppose to be. I felt like I had made a major mistake that left me lost, alone and there was no correcting it.

I loved watching my little girl grow. Every day there was something new she would discover. She was always smiling, always giggling. She made me happy yet every once in a while no matter how much I loved her, I would feel empty. There is the happiness a child gives you and there is the happiness that another person gives you. The two fill your heart. My heart was half full, it was missing the other half. I was longing for someone I could not reach, could not find. My heart longed for the impossible.

I began to question myself the way I had questioned Bobby so long ago. Did I truly want Bobby? Was I missing him so much because he had not answered my card? He was in essence saying no to me? Was I upset I was now losing the 'game'? Or was I missing him because I still wanted to be with him? Since I had first met Bobby, there was something in me that was uncontrollably attracted to him. I did not understand it, but I felt it. Was this the reason? Was I not letting go because he was no longer interested? Two years earlier, Bobby was not able to answer those questions. Now I was having the same problem. Once I discovered the answers. I would understand the crazy attraction, I would know what to do.

A few weeks later, I had dressed my little girl, carried her into my room so I could finish getting ready for church. Always the active child, she kept running around and climbing on my bed making it impossible for me to concentrate, get ready on time. To avoid the inevitable crash, the five minute meltdown that would follow, I picked her up and sat her on my dresser. To occupy her as I finished applying my make-up I handed her a bracelet from my jewelry box.

My little one, she loved jewelry more than anything, especially mommy's “sparkly” jewelry. When she was little, I loved watching her play, holding up each piece of jewelry to the light as if she was determining it’s value. That morning instead of amusing herself, she threw my bracelet on the floor. As I scolded her, she stood up on my dresser, began staring at herself in the mirror. I laughed, I watched her pat her hands on her own reflection. She began to talk to herself, smiling into the mirror when Bobby’s postcard from Pensacola caught her attention. She began to chant "Momma, Momma, Momma" then she reached over to try to grab the postcard off the mirror. I quickly scooped her up, whisked her off my dresser, away from the postcard. Determined not to give up, she stood on the floor pointing at the postcard, then began opening and closing her hand, her universal sign for give me that please. After a few minutes of grunting and pointing she finally asked in her sweet innocent voice, “Please?”
I laughed at her persistence then told her, “Sorry darling, you want the postcard, I want him. Neither one of us are going to get what we want. Looks like we are both out of luck. You need to give up.”

As I said those words, "You need to give it up", I thought to myself, maybe I need too as well. I scooped her up, put her coat on, before leaving the room to head out to church, I reached up and touched the postcard as I had done many times before in the past. Only this time I said, "I just don't know anymore."

After this long, when Bobby had not answered my card, there was no other explanation, I failed. I missed my opportunity. I had done my best the past few weeks to place Bobby in the back of my brain, remove him from my thoughts, forget him. When the words “I want him” came rolling off my tongue with no effort, no thought, I knew driving to church he was still very much present in my life. Sunday morning was another example of the numerous times without reason or explanation Bobby would invade my thoughts. When I first met Bobby what I felt for him scared me. Now the hold he had on me terrified me even more. I was confused. I was angry at myself for allowing what I felt for him to have so much control over me.

I sat in church waiting for the service to start. I wondered if now was the time to really let him go. Start to move on, not totally forget Bobby, but try not to remember, want him as much. I questioned, was it time to take down the postcard, the subtle daily reminder of Bobby from my mirror. Pack up his soap on a rope, his postcards, the napkin and his Christmas card, place them out of sight? Pack them away from the temptation to hold and read them?

When the organ started, when the service began I prayed to God to let me find peace. Help me learn what was going on in this crazy heart of mine, guide me to what was best for myself and my child. To please help me see what I needed to do. When I finished my prayer, I said a prayer for Bobby. I asked God where ever Bobby was, whenever he flew, please watch over him, always be with him. I told God if he only could answer one prayer of mine that day, please always be with Bobby. That would be enough. I walked out of the service that morning, I felt the sunlight hit my face, a calm came over me and I realized I knew. I had always known what I was feeling. I had always known what I should do.

After spending the night with Bobby in Pensacola, I was scared, terrified of what I was feeling. How strong those feelings were. I used Martin as an excuse to send Bobby away. Suddenly I realized, I sent him away because I was afraid of the hurt that would come if he left me like every man had done before. I was so afraid of the relationship ending, I didn't allow for the possibility we might have worked. By sending me flowers, silly gifts, postcards and cards, Bobby was saying, relax and see what happens. He wanted me to trust what I was feeling, not run away. He simply wanted me to give him a chance. I finally understood his persistence. We had one amazing night together. We both wanted more, he sensed it, yet I said no, I ran. Who walks away after an incredible night like that? Who does not want to see where it might lead? He scared me and I made no sense to him. Yet for a time, he did not give up on me.

I finally understood why he could not answer the questions I had posed to him that night in Annapolis. I at last comprehended how stupid those questions must have seemed. I no longer needed to be the girl he wanted to be with. I accepted, I was yes to both questions. Yes, he didn’t like losing, chasing me was a game. Bobby definitely did not like no for an answer, so he persevered trying to win. He wanted to change no to yes. I was the prize for winning the game. Once I understood the game, there was no denying the other reason he kept coming back. Why he kept trying for as long as he did. Part of him wanted to be with me again. For Bobby, at that time, the two questions were hand in hand, there was no separating them. He understood something I did not, only time would tell him which I would become, the game or the girlfriend. He was, I believe, willing to find out. I wanted to jump immediately to girlfriend not understanding, no matter what you feel, how much you are attracted to someone, you have to play the game first. I understood why he might not be willing to write back. If he wrote back, he had to wondered if I would assume it meant something more than what it was to him? With that awareness, I realized I wouldn’t respond to a flirtatious card like that, so why did I expect Bobby would? Instead of flirting, being funny I needed to apologize, write a normal letter. Allow him to get to know the real me.

I learned from Bobby if you want something bad enough, you have to play the game. It was now my turn to play the game. I accepted what I had felt for Bobby. I was still afraid but I was no longer going to run away from what I was feeling. I was ready to take the risk, good ending or bad. I needed to relax, have patience, have faith in myself, in Bobby and play out the game.

Bobby tried over and over to get me to give him a chance, get me to respond to him, acknowledge him. He wanted one more night to see if that would lead to another. If it did, great. If not at least we tried. He waited a long time before finally giving up on me. I owed him the same. I understood there was a very good chance after this long, he had found someone else. Bobby at times was intense, he loved life, lived hard and fast. If there was not a special someone, he was definitely dancing in the local bars, drinking at the officer's club, meeting women and having fun. All that did not matter. I knew what I felt made anything possible. The only obstacle I was afraid of, the only one that I might not be able to overcome he no longer wanted to see me. I dreaded the game we played before left him tired of me. He felt I was too insecure, too confusing, too exhausting. I feared Bobby had determined in his mind I was only going to be the fling from his past nothing more.

Bobby was in Guam. Instead of being afraid of the distance between us, I embraced it. I realized it was the perfect opportunity to do what I should have done long ago. If I was lucky, if Bobby allowed me, I was going to get to know him. I was going to be his friend. No longer afraid of what I was feeling, I was going to trust my instincts. Trust where I believed the friendship would lead us. I knew he needed to live, needed to have fun, before anything could happen between us. I needed to mature, learn to believe in myself. I had no doubt all we needed was time before we would both be ready for each other.

After tucking my daughter into bed, after saying our prayers, I headed back to my room, grabbed a pad of paper from my drawer. I smiled when I saw the soap on a rope and the post card from Whiting Field neatly stacked next to it. I repeated to myself what Sister Mary Rose had told me, "Have faith. I can make this work." I must have torn up a dozen pieces of paper that night trying to write the perfect opening. After two hours, I finally finished my letter to Bobby. I did not write much, yet I said everything that needed to be said. I told him about my job at Macy's. I joked around that I was learning his home state of New Jersey traveling to training sessions and meetings at the various Macy's. I told him, if you give me a Macy’s, I could tell him what exit number it was on the turnpike. I finally understood why in Pensacola he spoke with such passion about growing up in New Jersey. From everything I saw, the people I met, it was a great place to live. Although someone definitely had to explain Newark to me. I could not find anything positive about Newark. I wrote him about my daughter, her crazy stubborn personality she obviously got from her mom. I loved how each day she seemed to change. I apologized for being stupid after Pensacola. I thanked him for the flowers, for the postcards etc. For now I wanted to see if we could be friends, see where that might lead. I closed the letter, repeating what he had said to me many times in the past, “When you are ready I will be here, Denise”

Monday morning on my way to work, I placed the letter in the mail. Unlike in the past, after mailing the letter I did not rush home to check my mailbox everyday. I did not set any silly time lines on when I should receive a response. I was for the most part patient. From time to time, I would still look at his postcard on my mirror and wonder what he was doing. Bobby was flying, at least I knew he was happy.

It took me a while but I understood what Sister Mary Rose tried to explain to me after my daughter’s birth. I had to have faith in what I felt, and I had to have faith in Bobby. Not in what Bobby did or did not feel but faith enough to trust him that he would always do what was best for me. He had always looked out for me in the past, he was a good man. I finally knew I could trust him with my heart He would be true to his word, he would not hurt me. I was no longer rushed for instant answers, I believed I had time. I was learning to let go of the fear and trust in faith.

Weeks passed, still no card, no letter from Bobby. I didn't panic, I didn't lose hope. On occasion I would find myself dreaming of the morning we first met or of our night in Pensacola. The longing was still there, it never left me. I tried to ignore the feelings, put them on the back burner, concentrate on work, on being a mom. After I mailed the first letter, I decided I did not want to appear to be desperate. I would wait for a response from Bobby before I would write another. Christmas was almost here, his birthday was in March. If I did not hear from him before then, I would send him a card for each. After all it is no big deal with a friend sends a simple card.

The Macy's where I worked was the newest store in the chain. My department carried all the high end designer clothes. An order for my department to survive in our area I was in charge of developing and keeping a client base. I worked hand in hand with the personal shoppers at our store. To help reach my sales goals, at least once a month I was sent to an older more established store so I could see how they displayed the clothing, arranged their department. Learn how they established/built their client base. Take what I learned and translate it to success in my department. With the passage of time, I learned to change my longing for Bobby, turn all my misplaced energy into drive. I worked hard and did my best to excel at our store, in the company. Every month, my department sales rose. At night if I felt the urge, the need to write Bobby, I would pull out my weekly reports, work on projections. Look at sales from around our division, see what store I could trade merchandise with. Rid my department of what wasn’t selling and bring more merchandise in that was. Several times a year all managers from the various stores were sent to Newark or New York to meet with the buyers. Get a sneak peak at the clothing lines being delivered for the upcoming season. The first 3 months I worked at Macy's I traveled to Monmouth, Paramus, Cherry Hill and Newark. Every time I entered New Jersey I was reminded of Bobby. I was reminded of the longing that never left me no matter how hard I tried ignore what I was feeling.

A week before Thanksgiving Cheryl and I spent our lunch hour in the hallmark store picking out various Christmas cards to send to our friends and family. The insanity of holiday shopping was fast approaching. In retail, once black Friday arrives, an hour long lunch would be impossible. Twelve hour days, short lunches and short dinners would be normal. I sifted through the cards, after a few minutes I found the perfect Christmas card for Bobby. On the outside of the card a radio announcer speaking with his “eyewitness news helicopter" asking about his eye in the sky reporter about Santa On the inside was a drawing of a helicopter with Santa spinning in it's blades above. It was stupid funny, it was very much a me card. Worried I would be too exhausted in the coming weeks to write a coherent sentence. Later that night I wrote a quick note on the inside of Bobby's card, signed it then placed it in my drawer. I did the same with all the cards I had purchased. I determined I would mail my cards on the way to work Black Friday. My cards would get to their destinations on time but not too early. I of course placed Bobby's card on top of the soap on a rope. It seemed like the perfect place to store it.

Right before Thanksgiving Leigh and Cathleen's roommate from college came to visit the munchkin and I. We use to joke around that Janice was going to be the only one of us to marry a Naval Academy grad.  She loved midshipmen and dated quite a few of them but never of them ever held her interest or heart long enough. Janice had stopped by to tell me, she was in love and was pretty sure he was going to ask her to marry him. She was hoping for Christmas he would give her a ring.

I was happy for her and amazed at the same time. As we sat in the living room, Janice told me all about the man she was convinced was going to marry her. I was surprised to learn he was not a Naval Academy graduate. At one point as we talked, the munchkin came running by and that oh so familiar odor came wafting after her. It was time for a diaper change. I told Janice if she was brave enough, she could follow me into my room, we could continue to talk as I changed my child’s diaper. As we continued our conversation, Janice noticed the postcard on my mirror, the large lettering White Sands of Pensacola caught her eye. She asked who it was from? I responded Bobby Bianchi. Once again one of my friends unknowingly reinforced my insecurities about Bobby. Janice smiled in amazement, then said, "Damn he's hot. I can't believe he sent you a postcard. Nothing personal but he is so out of your league." Then she added, “I tried to pick him up once, he blew me off. So damn how did you do it? How did you get him?”
I had the option to laugh or cry at her statement. I chose to laugh, responded, "I have no clue."
Then almost as a second thought Janice added, "I heard he was in love, getting married or something" Trying to stay calm, I asked who told her? Was she sure it was Bobby? She answered she was pretty sure. She heard it from on of the guys she knew at a bar. If I wanted to be sure, I should call Leigh. The irony, the one person I believed I could not ask about Bobby was Leigh or her husband. Maybe that explained why he never answered my card, my letter, he was in love with someone else and did not want to hurt me, lead me on.

I should be apologetic, ashamed, I had sworn months earlier, I would never let myself drown in self pity again. Yet there I was having a pity party before going to bed. In my prayers I asked God, what was so wrong with me? Leigh was married and living in Guam. Cathleen was married and living in Pensacola. Janice was happy and in love. I learned Bobby was in love. I wasn’t perfect but honestly Janice finding love before me? I reasoned with God, I pleaded my case, I tried to be good, so why didn't I deserve to find someone who loved me? Why did God allow me to have these crazy longings, feelings for Bobby, when he was in love with someone else? How was that fair? That night I fell asleep with questions saturating my brain and tears filling my eyes.

The next morning I awoke with a new attitude, not a good one but a new one. Hell with love, hell with men, I didn’t need either. I had my job, I had a beautiful daughter that was enough. The morning after Thanksgiving on my way in to work as I had planned, I mailed all my Christmas cards, all except for Bobby’s. I debated sending the card for a moment before I threw it back in my drawer next to the soap on rope. I had lost faith in myself, what I felt, what I knew to be true in my heart.

In retail, every season the managers are sent to the buyers office. In the heat of the summer, managers preview the upcoming winter fashions. When the leaves are falling, the cruise and spring lines are highlighted. It was freezing, it was cold, meant only one thing, time to preview the upcoming summer lines. February 1987 Cheryl, Kristen and I loaded up in Cheryl’s car and headed to Newark to meet with our department buyers, get a first look at the summer lines. We left Marley Station earlier than normal, we were stopping in Short Hills to pick up Lisa. She was the Attitudes manager in Paramus. Lisa and her husband lived in Short Hills. We had decided when planning our trip, after our buyer's meetings we were going to have dinner at a local restaurant Lisa loved.

The beauty of my department, it was not carried in every store, so my buyer’s meetings were always short, on time. Not as many managers equals not as many questions, in and out quickly. Lisa and I sat in the employees lounge drinking coffee, waiting for Cheryl and Kristen to finish. Soon Kristen joined us, an hour plus later Cheryl joined us. Lisa and Cheryl wanted to check out the Newark store, see what clothing they had that our stores did not carry before we left. Four women talking and shopping, the afternoon floated by without anyone really noticing. It was a little after six when we finally started back to Short Hills. Lisa took shotgun so she could direct Cheryl where to go, how to avoid traffic on the way back. Sitting in the backseat I felt my heart drop when I saw the sign for Maplewood, Bobby’s hometown. As we drove by, I wondered how far were we from the house Bobby grew up in? I looked in the distance, wondered where Columbia High School was? Where was the field he played lacrosse on? I looked out the window, wanting to see him, wanting to hold him, if only for one more time.

We were all exhausted when we arrived in the parking lot where we had met Lisa that morning. We decided we were all too tired for dinner. As I got out of the car to move to the front seat I remembered I had Lisa’s papers and notebook in my briefcase. I had placed them in there when we were shopping. I asked Kristen to hand me my bag. Lisa and I stood under the lights with my briefcase resting on the hood of the car. As we talked and I searched for her papers, they had some how intermixed with mine. While I was standing there a weird sensation came over me. I felt as if someone was staring at me. I am not sure if I was too tired or too scared to look, either way I ignored my gut, the feeling and kept talking to Lisa. Cheryl got out of the car to stretch her legs, say goodbye. We talked for a minute longer. I hugged Lisa goodbye, threw my briefcase in the back, then hopped in the front seat of the car.

I buckled my seatbelt, then Kristen announced, “Wow Denise there was a really hot guy staring at you for awhile. I kept trying to get your attention so you would look. I even banged on the window, but you ignored me.”
I asked her where was the guy. She pointed to the right of us. As Cheryl pulled out of the parking space, I rolled down my window to try to see this "really hot" man. As I looked, all I could see was the back of his head, as he turned around heading to join a small group in front of him. As Cheryl pulled out of the parking lot I found myself questioning out loud, “Bobby?”
With that one word, saying his name outloud, Cheryl slammed on her brakes. The sudden stop startled me, I told Cheryl no, it was just my wishful thinking. Bobby was in Guam. I looked back again. one more time trying to see if I could get one last glance, see who it was. As we drove off Kristen stated, “Bobby or not, he was gorgeous and he was taking you all in. We should go back and have dinner. Maybe he will come over to our table, we can find out who he is. Find you a man!”
I answered annoyed, “Just what I need another guy from Jersey breaking my heart. Let's please go home!"

When I arrived home, my munchkin was sound asleep. I brushed her hair away from her face, dropped the side of her crib, lifted her sleeping body out, sat down with her in the rocker. As I began to rock, she awoke for a second, put her arms around my neck, then nuzzled against me and fell quickly back to sleep. I sang to her as I rocked back and forth. After a few minutes, I closed my eyes, when I did, I was back in Pensacola, sitting on the deck, seeing Bobby's smile once again. I surprised myself, I didn’t cry, there were no tears. I continued to sing to my daughter, and enjoyed the memory of that night in Pensacola.

A few nights later, my phone rang. As I rolled over to answer it, I looked at the time 1:11 a.m. Triple ones. Expecting it to be Cheryl or another one of my friends who couldn’t wait to tell me about their hot date, I answered the phone, “This better be good”
I heard, “What if I told you I saw a girl that reminded me of you?”
“Oh my God, Bobby?”
“You know one day you might try saying hello when I call”
“So does this mean there is a possibility you might call me again?”
Bobby paused for a moment, then answered very matter of fact, “Yes, it's possible.”

At that moment, when I heard his answer, when it registered in my brain, my heart exploded, I was happy. I did not want to blow this. I knew I had to control myself from saying something stupid, ruining this second or third chance I had been given.

I asked him if he received the card and the letter I mailed. Without hesitation, very matter of fact, he replied yes he had. Maybe it was nerves, I am not sure why but I began to chuckle. He asked what was so funny. I questioned, “You didn’t answer me because you threw my letters away? Did you at least read them first? It’s okay, I don’t blame you. I get it, I would have done the same thing.”
Before I let him answer, I asked one more question, something more important to me, “If you didn’t answer my letters, why are you calling me now? I am just curious.”

He was honest, I can't fault him, he always had been in the past. He admitted he thought after everything, he didn't want to see me. Then when he saw someone that reminded him of me, he realized he was wrong. For some unexplainable reason he wanted to see me, at least talk to me. Then he paid me one of the nicest compliments a man has ever given me,
“I tried hard to forget you. But you are one impossible woman to forget." Then he added, "I have a feeling you might ruin my reputation one day”
I smiled, then I admitted, I was having the same problem. I didn’t understand it, but I couldn’t forget him either. I joked around it must be that damn shower we took! Which started us both laughing. I knew he was smiling when he said, “Yeah we definitely need to do that again.”
I couldn't believe how easily, “Yes we do!" came out of my mouth in response.

I apologized for my stupidity in the past, I would do my best not to let that happen again. Bobby surprised me when he asked about my daughter, her father. I was honest, maybe not totally honest. I told him about the pros and cons list, how that night I realized I did not want her father. I could not see myself marrying him. I did not tell Bobby it was him I realized I wanted that night. I asked Bobby a question, a question I was afraid to hear his answer. I asked if it mattered that I had a child? Did it matter who her father was? He was painfully honest, he answered he didn’t know, he didn't think about her father, only me. Time would teach us both how to handle the situation.

He then asked about the letter I sent. He was confused about what I wanted, what did I mean by let's try to be friends? To him, that statement is what you say when you don’t want to see someone, you are simply trying to be nice.

I explained to him before I gave birth to my daughter I had screwed up everything in my life, especially relationships. I confessed I was immature, I had a lot of growing up still left to do. Once I became a mom, screwing up was no longer an option. I had to do things right, my daughter depended on me. Sometimes doing the right thing means taking two steps backward before moving forward. I hoped I was right, but it seemed now was the perfect time to get to know each other. Then if he wanted we could move forward from there. I told him I knew he had a lot more “womanizing” to do. He had a lot of fun to discover before he was going to be ready for me. Ready for anything more than friendship. He needed to get it all out. I needed to grow up. If what I was feeling was right, I would be here waiting for him. He asked me why now, what changed? How was I so sure? I replied to him, “Army Navy you said and I quote, ‘you think, I know” Well now it is my turn to say, you think I know."
“You know?”
“Yep I do. I definitely know."
"Should I ask what you know?"

He changed the subject and asked me, “I am positive I know the answer but thought I would ask anyway. Hear the answer from you. Do you still want me? Do you ever think about just doing it again? What it would be like now?”
I took a deep breath, gathered my courage and answered, “Yes, always have. And more nights than I would like to admit”
Then I added, “Why else would I keep your soap on a rope?”
I heard him laughing. He couldn’t believe I kept the “cheap” soap. I exclaimed. “Cheap I know. You left the price tag on it. Nice to know I am only worth four dollars!”
He interrupted, “Plus postage.”
I continued, “oh, yeah, sorry six dollars. By the way, the paper towel wrapping, smooth, very smooth.”
I added it was a good thing he was gorgeous, it was the only reason I let the paper towel wrapping slide. Normally that would have been the end. He would have been crossed off the list!!

He told me he instantly thought of me when he saw it hanging in the drug store. He couldn't resist, he had to buy it. He added, he was only trying to be helpful. After all I kept dropping the soap in the shower. That is when I interrupted, pointed out he did not seem to mind I kept dropping it. He kind of enjoyed it, I enjoyed it. I reminded him he even asked me to drop the soap one more time. He interrupted, pointed out I did not grant his request, I did not follow instructions very well. I wasn’t going to win this dispute. How do you argue with someone when you are blushing from head to toe, remembering the best night of your life? It is impossible to win an argument with someone who leaves you speechless. I cried Uncle.

As Bobby spoke I soaked in the sound of his voice. I wanted to hold on to him as long as possible before he had to hang up. I wanted to be able to remember everything about the conversation. His tone changed when he asked how work was going, what was my schedule like that week. I told him crazy, there was a cycle to the madness of retail management. We prepare for sales, have a sale. Never fails after the one day sales, we have to stay late to prepare for a store visit from some big wig or another. When we are not doing all of the above, we prepare for buyers meetings. Projections, sell through, weeks supply all part of my new vocabulary. I liked my job, who I worked with, but this was not going to be my career. I went on to tell Bobby I had to work the next 9 days straight. The majority of days irons, twelve hour shifts. The bonus, at least I was earning comp time, by the end of August I would have a week of vacation, as of now fourteen plus days of comp time to go with it. I would have a year to use it all. I could use the comp time and vacation separately or I could combine them and use them all at once.

I joked around, yet at the same time I was serious. In August, if he still wanted to see me, my vacation time was all his. I would beg my parents to babysit. I would pack the soap on a rope, name the time, the place, I would be there. He was quiet for a moment. I could tell he was debating what to say, then I heard him say, “ That might work. We'll see. Promise?”

Then he made a joke, asked me a question that haunts me to this day. “While you are handing out promises. Promise me you are not going to let me die an old man not knowing what it’s like to be with you again?”
I was grinning ear to ear when I answered, “I promise, scouts honor”
“Are you sure?"
“Yes Mr. Bianchi, I am sure. Very sure.”
“Just checking, we do have a past history to worry about. Promising then walking away”
Then I asked him how long I was going to be given grief about my prior stupidity. His answer was forthright, direct, and very funny, “Until I decide to stop.”
Honest once again.

Then I heard Bobby take a strange pause, like he was taking a deep breath, debating what was going on in the conversation, if he and I were both saying too much. I asked him what was wrong. He explained, he knew when this got out, he was going to be given shit for years. I tried to lighten the moment by joking, "I think I am worth it. At least I hope I am." Then added, “ If it helps I think your brother might like me”
“Kevin, yes he does. He has reminded me on several occasions you are gorgeous.”
“Seriously? Gorgeous?”
“Yes, gorgeous" Almost annoyed he questioned, "You really have no clue how desirable you are?”
“No, all I have been told over and over, by everyone who knows both of us, you are out of my league. Way out of my league”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t sleep with ugly women.”
I couldn't help it, I jokingly asked, “Even when you’re drunk?" I paused, then adding, "Just kidding. Thank you I get the compliment, understood.”

I rolled over in bed, looked at the clock, it was a little past 3 in the morning. I told Bobby we needed to hang up, the phone bill was going to kill his paycheck. He laughed, said, no it wouldn’t he was using his brother Kevin’s calling card. I wasn't sure if he was serious or joking. Either way I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud. I asked exactly how was he going to explain the bill to his brother. He wasn’t, he hoped Kevin wouldn't notice or blame Jimmy, it would better that way. He explained, if Kevin knew, he would try to get even with Bobby. He could see his brother picking me and the munchkin up on his way home to Jersey from Pensacola. It would be show and tell time at the Bianchi household. Kevin would proudly announce, “Hey Mom look what I found” By the time he was done the entire neighborhood would be over at the house, wine would be flowing, photos would be all over the local paper. I had to admit, it was funny. I could definitely see his brother doing something crazy. I told Bobby don’t worry his secret was safe with me, I knew nothing. If anyone asked we never talked.

I sighed as I explained to Bobby the last thing I wanted to do was hang up, but I needed to get some sleep. My natural alarm clock was going to be waking up in a few hours, plus I imagined he had happy hour and wild women waiting for him. At the time it never registered with me when he said it was a little too early for happy hour.

Before I hung up I told Bobby go have fun, be wild, in time, if he still wanted to 'take a shower' with me, I would be here. I added for once, I would relax, wait to follow his lead.
He made a joke, an off handed comment, asking me to try not to fall for any of the Navy guys still hanging around in Annapolis. I assured him from past experiences he had nothing to worry about. He asked what I meant. I explained, I tended to fall in love with you Navy boys, you all never fall in love with me. I can still hear his voice when he responded, “I wouldn't be so sure.”

I hated to end the phone call but I knew if I didn’t we would talk until daybreak. I apologized to him, I really needed to sleep. Then I asked a favor of him I made him promise me he would be safe. I told him to have fun, but be sure to bring his gorgeous ass back home. I was looking forward to one day using the soap on a rope with him. He promised me he would. He was also looking forward to putting the soap to good use. He added try to behave while he was gone.
I responded, “Not a problem remember I am a boring mom now”
“There is nothing boring about you” was his reply.
“Thanks for calling. Night Bobby, be safe”
“Night Denise, I will”

I was happy, I was tired, I was excited. I opened my dresser drawer, picked up the soap on a rope, held it for a few minutes before putting it back, closing the drawer and falling fast asleep.

(Use the links on the left to continue on to part 7)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bobby Part 5- Holding on to the dream

I was convinced once I decided to have my baby the chance that Bobby would ever be interested in me again, want me was questionable. My child’s father was a fellow Academy graduate, it made the plausibility even more doubtful, less likely. That fact alone made a remote chance become nil to none. Even with that knowledge, I knew in my heart what was right. What was best for everyone. I had decided I would raise my child on my own.

Over the years, I have been asked many times why didn’t I try to make it work with my daughter's father? Why didn’t I at least give it a try? In my heart I knew it was better to live alone then try to live with a man I didn’t love. It would have been unfair to marry a man when I was longing for someone else. At the time, I knew I could never love her father the way he deserved to be loved. If two people don't love each other, if they enter a marriage with good intentions but for all the wrong reasons, how long would the marriage last? Would it have been fair to either one of them, my Marine or my daughter? I truly believed one day we would each find someone to love us unconditionally. I prayed Bobby would be that someone for me.

I have always believed, when you want someone, if you can't be their lover and their friend, then take the next best thing, be their friend. Something was better than nothing. I would find myself at random times asking God to help me find Bobby again, if only to be his friend. I didn't want to lose him. On several occasions I would ask for a small miracle, to one day be more than friends with Bobby. I was willing to take whatever God would give me. As I would pray, I knew I had to stop dreaming and deal with reality. Dreams hurt. For now I had a plan, I needed to stick with it, not get sidetracked by wishful thinking. My two main priorities; finishing my degree and having a healthy baby. The rest, the wishful thinking, the dreams, Bobby, needed to be placed on the back burner, out of my thoughts. If I kept looking back it would be impossible to move forward. I needed to worry about surviving the next several months.

I had made a decision it would be better for me to go it alone. For some reason I convinced myself I needed to have my child on my own. It's amazing how easy it is to drop off the face of the earth. I soon discovered, if I did not call my friends, they did not call me. I was not angry, I understood, we were all seniors in college. We were all extremely busy. Besides college Leigh had a wedding to plan and Cathleen had her crushes. It may seem weird but at times I was content to be alone. When you are alone, you have no reminders of your mistakes. There are no reminders of what you don't have, what is missing in your life! My friends, their lives were going as planned, my life was screwed up. It was no one’s fault but my own. I had put myself on this path. I hoped the time alone would allow me to put myself back together before I gave birth. Help me become a stronger person. It wasn’t only me anymore, soon there would be another person I would be responsible for.

November I registered for my final semester at college. Luckily all the classes I needed to graduate were available at night. With evening classes I didn't have to worry about running into anyone. I was so scared like everything else in my life I was going to screw up my child as well. I kept reassuring myself, I had made the right decision. I tried to convince myself, no friends, no distractions should equal good grades. At least I should be able to bring my gpa up. Who knows if I was lucky graduate with honors.

A few weeks before Christmas I received a Christmas card from Martin. He didn't say much, he wrote he hoped I was doing well and to have a great Christmas. As I placed the card on my dresser I thought how much my life had changed in only a year. I smiled as I ran my hand over his signature, Love Martin. Part of me wished it was true, he did love me, I still loved him. It wasn't crazy love, it was solid built over time love. At that moment I missed him so much. I missed the way he could make me laugh when I was at my lowest. He had a way of making me realize things weren’t as bad as I thought. He always found a bright side to every situation. No matter how much I missed Martin, no matter how close we had been at one time. I was afraid to call him. Afraid of what he would say. What he would think of me.

A few days later I came home from class to find a big thick brown envelope in the mail. There was no return address, the postmark was smeared. Looking at it I assumed it was from a relative. I threw it on my bed then headed to the bathroom to get ready for work. After I showered I put on my robe, combed my hair, then headed to my room to get dressed. As I stood at my closet choosing what I would wear to work, I saw the large thick envelope laying on the bed. My interest was peaked. I picked it up, shook it, no noise, no movement, what was it? I sat down on my bed and began to open the envelope. When I looked inside I was puzzled, whatever was hidden inside was wrapped in paper towels. I pulled the clump out, began to undo the layers of paper towels. Nestled inside, soap on a rope and a Christmas card. I sat there, dumbfounded. It had to be from Bobby. I found myself saying, "Oh my God" out loud. As the words rolled out of my mouth I started to laugh. Who else but Bobby could get me to say those words, while in a robe no less! My laughter turned to tears as I opened the card and read, "Guess what I want for Christmas?"
My heart wanted that as well. I often longed to go back to Pensacola, our shower but I knew it was never going to happen, at least not this Christmas. I laid down on my side, buried my head in my pillow and began to cry. After a few minutes of self pity, I rolled over on my back, put my hand on my abdomen and said, "I am so sorry I screwed up. It's you and me kid. Please love me no matter what." I dried my eyes, placed Bobby's card next to Martin's. As I did, I asked out loud, “Have I screwed up so bad, that I deserved to be tortured? Why do you keep reminding me what I can't have?”
As I asked the question, I wasn't sure if my questions were directed at Martin, Bobby and/or God. I placed the soap on the rope next to the postcard, touched it one last time before I closed my dresser drawer. Later that night when I couldn't sleep, I found myself chuckling every time I thought of the soap on a rope. I had to admit, it was pretty damn funny! Part of me wanted to call Bobby, give him grief, tell him, seriously soap on a rope wrapped in paper towels. Ask him why I didn't even rate tissue paper? Let him know he left the price tag on. Reality would prevent me from making that phone call. What would I say? Hey Bobby loved the soap on a rope. I have often thought of our “shower”, I think about you often and oh yeah I am pregnant with another man's child. I was not envisioning that phone call going well or Bobby ever wanting to talk to me again.

Christmas 1984, to hear Bobby's voice again, to see him would have been the best present. My mistakes would prevent that from happening. I consoled myself with the knowledge, I got a card, soap on a rope, at least I knew he was still thinking about me. That night as I stared at both cards I was lost in emotion. I wasn't as strong as I thought, I could no longer do it on my own, I needed help. I got out of bed, knelt and begged God to please give me strength. I asked him to help me make it through my pregnancy. I asked for forgiveness, I was sorry I had let everyone down. I asked him to keep Martin and Bobby safe. Help them earn their wings.

As my belly began to grow, my friends lives went on without me. To distract myself from my loneliness I became the perfect student. I studied hard, never missed a class and aced almost every exam. My GPA soared my last semester to 3.8. To earn extra money, to fill the emptiness in my life, to avoid being alone, I worked extra hours teaching beginning gymnastics. My students and their parents were so excited over my ever expanding belly. It became their lucky Budha. Whenever one of my kids would try a new skill on their own, they would rub my belly.

Time seemed to slowly pass, winter finally turned to spring. Every morning and each night I was greeted by the postcard taped to my mirror. Occasionally I would reach up, touch it, wonder where Bobby was, wishing I could go back to Pensacola and start over. I wanted one more night with Bobby. I convinced myself that was all I needed to figure out what was going on with my heart. One more night would help me determine what this was, what I was feeling. Was what I was feeling real or a silly girl dreaming? Even though I longed for one more night with Bobby, a chance to redo my mistakes, I didn't want to change being pregnant. I felt my child growing inside me. I felt her move, we had bonded. I sang to her each night before bed. She was my child. More than anything I wanted to be a mom. I knew no matter how many mistakes I might make, she would love me unconditionally. She was part of me and I was part of her. I was terrified of all the responsibility ahead, I didn't care. I was more excited to meet her. Hold her, love her, be mom.

March turned to April, April to May. May, graduation, I had made it. Soon commissioning week happenings began to fill the airways on the local news. As I watched the festivities each night before bed, I wondered if Bobby was in Annapolis for his brother Kevin's graduation. I confess I was terrified that week to leave my house, afraid of who I might run into. It was an unusually hot spring, my body was having trouble dealing with the humidity. From the heat, from my stress, I was beginning to develop toxemia. To protect me, protect my child, my body sent me into labor 3 weeks early.

The last day I taught gymnastics was Thursday, May 30. I was admitted to St. Agnes Hospital the following day, Friday May 31, 1985. I was wheeled to my room by a very sweet nun, Sister Mary Rose. When she discovered I was alone, I had no one to keep me company during my labor she called out the troops. For the next 22 hours as I progressed through labor I had a tag team of nuns keeping me company. They never left my side. As my daughter went into stress, as her heart rate dropped, I was rushed into the delivery room for an emergency c-section. I was not worried, I was not scared. I had a team of nuns praying for us. I believe, I may have the only Methodist child who has been blessed by a handful of nuns and three priests within the first forty eight hours of her birth.

Monday, Sister Mary Rose came to my room with the form I needed to fill out for my daughter’s birth certificate. I recited all the information needed to fill in each box on the form, mother’s name, father’s name etc. She smiled contently until she asked for my daughter’s full name. By the look on her face I knew she was upset when I gave my daughter my last name, not her father’s. As she stood to leave, she asked if I was sure about her last name. I shook my head yes.

Later that night Sister Mary Rose came back to visit, she sensed that I needed to talk. I was amazed, as I held my daughter in my arms, I told her everything. She did not seem shocked. She did not get upset with my foolish ways. She gave me tissues for my tears. She held my hand, rubbed my arm as I confessed to her about the crazy path that lead me to my daughter. Her eyes showed only compassion and understanding. When I finished, when I had nothing left to say, she squeezed my hand, with the sweetest voice she explained to me, God brings people into our life for a reason. We need to accept them, not let our fears and insecurities send them away. She continued by saying, people are more understanding and forgiving then I believed. When I was ready, when I sensed the time was right, I needed to call my young man (Bobby) I was in love with. From everything I had told her he sounded like a very caring, understanding young man. Then added she had faith he would surprise me. She stood up, kissed my forehead. "Have faith in God. Have faith in yourself,” was the last thing she said to me before she left the room. For the next several days every time she would visit Sister Mary Rose would always rub my arm, smile and say, “Have faith and you will be fine.”

It took me awhile to get use to being mom. I was happy but I was still very lonely. Two weeks after returning home from the hospital Leigh drove over to my house unannounced to see what happened to me. She was quite surprised when I introduced her to my daughter. We sat in the living room, talked the afternoon away catching up. The first time Leigh held my daughter she exclaimed, “She is such a beautiful little munchkin”. The nick name stuck, from then on, for most of her childhood I called my daughter Munchkin. As the afternoon wore on, neither one of us mentioned Martin, my marine or Bobby. Before Leigh left she asked if I would be in her wedding that fall, I happily accepted. After hanging out all afternoon, I felt a huge wave of relief wash over me. I knew my life would never be the same but just maybe, if I was lucky, it might get be pretty close to where it had been.

Over the next few days, Leigh and Cathleen worked their magic. They started calling people, broke the news about me becoming a mom. Later I would learn, when they informed people, they were also given rules, what could and could not be asked. They wanted to make life as stress free as possible for me. Soon my phone began ringing from long lost friends wanting to catch up, excited to see the “Munchkin”.

I was most surprised by a phone call I received from an old football buddy, Steve. He had graduated from the Academy that spring. Steve was working at the Academy during the fall waiting for his slot at Quantico. The year before, during football season, Steve and I would hang out at parties and bars, cracking each other up with our commentary on the 'fashionably dressed' people of Annapolis. We were so caddy, yet it wasn’t mean, it was fun. No one heard our comments, no one knew, no one was hurt. They were wonderful evenings full of inside jokes and laughter. He was my bar buddy. I have many fond memories of all of us driving around in his big brown conversion van. It was such a classic ride! Steve called when he had heard I had a baby. He wanted to know if there was anything I needed? Anything he could do for us? In the span of our fifteen minute phone call I rediscovered what I already knew but had forgotten. The men and woman who graduate from the Academy have character, loyalty, compassion and they do not judge. I was invited to come hang out with the guys once again. I was surprised, to them nothing had changed, I was still Dinker. The only difference I had added a new member to our group. After the invitation to hang out, I apologized, I explained the thought of hanging out was wonderful but I would need a sitter. Sitters cost money, funds I did not have. About twenty minutes after I had hung up with Steve, my phone rang again. He had a solution to the funds 'problem', bring the Munchkin along. Everyone would hang out at his apartment, we didn’t need to go to the bars to have fun. A few hours later, Cathleen, the Munchkin and I headed over to Steve’s apartment in Annapolis. I wish I had taken a camera. That night three extremely large former USNA football players sat on the floor with their backs leaning up against the couch passing the Munchkin back and forth keeping her calm. It made me laugh as I watched them hand her off like a football. It touched my heart when she fell asleep nestled in Steve’s legs. As I watched her sleep I began to wonder if they had no problem with my daughter, was it possible Bobby might feel the same? Was there still hope for the two of us?

September 7, 1985, I was ready to leave the safety of my close circle of friends, attend a party with Cathleen. I found a sitter and headed out for the night. It was probably better I did not know who was hosting the party that night, if I did I would have stayed home. When we arrived, the party was packed. Once we entered the house Cathleen went in search of the keg while I looked around to see if I knew anyone. As I turned to walk down the hall, I saw him, Kevin, Bobby’s younger brother. He saw me as well. Kevin smiled and welcomed me to his party. Kevin pointed me in the direction of the drinks, bathroom and more party goers. As he turned to greet new arrivals, he suddenly stopped, turned back toward me and questioned, “I know you from somewhere?”
I smiled and shrugged. A little while later someone spilled a beer on me. Beer and white shorts don't mix, Kevin being a gentleman gave me his roommates BDUs to put on while my shorts dried. I had put the BDUs on, was walking out of the room, when Kevin got a huge grin on his face, “Bobby’s girl spring break 1984. I knew I met you!”
I leaned my head down, covered my eyes with my hand in embarrassment, then looked back up, shook my head yes. Kevin laughed for a minute, then his tone got serious, “What the hell happened with you two when he came up here?”
“I was stupid" was my simple reply. From that point on every time Kevin saw me at the party, he would smile, shake his head, mutter, “Bobby” under his breath as he walked by. The party was still going strong when I looked at the clock realized I needed to head home. I asked Kevin where my shorts were, I needed to leave. They were still wet, Kevin insisted I wear the BDUs home. He told me to bring them back later, or give them to Cathleen she would get them to him. He asked why I was leaving early I confessed to him I had a daughter. He immediately asked, “How old?”
I smiled, told him no she was not Bobby’s. He laughed, put his hand on my shoulder, said he was only teasing me. Then revealed he knew exactly who I was when I walked into the party. He had been 'messing' with me all night. As he walked me to my car, Kevin confided he knew I had a baby girl. He admired me, I made a mistake and took responsibility for it. That took a lot of character in his book. He knew girls who took the easy way out. Kevin opened my car door, kissed me on the check, promised Cathleen would get home safely, then said good night. As he shut my door, he added, “I will tell Bobby you still look hot.”
The same as his brother had done many times before, when I blushed from his statement, he smiled and winked. I pulled away and looked in my rear view mirror, I saw Kevin standing there waving bye. As I drove home I didn’t know what to think. I reviewed everything in my head. Kevin knew I had a baby so therefore Bobby had to know. Kevin didn’t care, he admired me, so how did Bobby feel? I had so many questions that would not be answered for quite a while. I smiled to myself as I replayed Kevin’s last words to me, “I will tell Bobby you still look hot.” That means good or bad, Bobby would be talking about me.

September 1985 Leigh and her handsome lacrosse player were married in the Chapel at the United States Naval Academy. One of the groomsmen that day was Martin. I had not seen him since the infamous spring break party. He was as handsome, as witty as ever. During the wedding I found myself daydreaming, wondering if I would ever get married. After the ceremony as the crowd gathered outside on the steps of the chapel waiting for the Leigh and her new husband, I found myself watching Martin and the other groomsmen prepare for the happy couple to exit. As the best man announced the newly married couple, the groomsmen raised their swords creating an arch for them to walk under. As Leigh passed under the last sword, the groomsman brought his sword down, smacked her on the butt with the flat part of the blade, welcoming her to the Navy. I stared at Martin in his dress uniform, I confirmed to myself yes he was a handsome navy pilot. Yes, he was every girl's dream. Suddenly I felt a rush of relief. Staring at him I realized Martin no longer had a hold on me. I was cognizant that I felt no pull on my heart, no longing, no guilt. I was over Martin. That night at the after party, it was such a relief to be able to talk to Martin with out any feelings of guilt, without any confusion clouding my brain. I was free of him.

Leigh and her new husband headed to Pensacola. I wondered if Bobby was still there, or had he moved to his next assignment. The fall of 1985 I found a job at a well known photography studio in Annapolis. I would spend my Saturday afternoons photographing weddings. During the week I worked at a gym in Laurel. Every Thursday I would load the Munchkin in the car and we would head to Quantico to visit her father. During my free time I would hang out with my friends once again. As winter approached, Steve and his buddies would head out to start to their military careers. My circle of friends, my safety net was getting smaller. I was beginning to feel very alone.

My munchkin’s father soon graduated from Quantico, headed to flight school in Pensacola. Winter passed, spring was in full bloom when I packed my car and headed to Pensacola to visit. The munchkin and I would stay with Leigh and her husband. One afternoon when my munchkin was with her Dad, Leigh and I went to the beach at Pensacola. I laid in the sun, closed my eyes, felt the gulf breeze on my skin. My mind wondered back to spring break two years earlier, the time I spent with Bobby. I knew Leigh’s husband played lacrosse with Bobby at the Naval Academy. I knew they were friends. I asked Leigh if Bobby ever said anything about me having a child. Her answer was short, “Not much.” I looked at her face trying to determine if Bobby really didn’t say much or if she didn't want to hurt me by telling me what he had said? Was she trying to protect me like she had always done in the past? My insecurities kicked in, I did not push the subject, I let it go. For the rest of the week, no matter how much I longed to find out any information on Bobby, I kept my questions to myself.

From 1984 until the summer of 1986 I lost track of the number of times I had visited the emergency room. Each time I was sick, I felt like I was having a heart attack. The pain would last for an hour or more. I would throw up, then the pain would subside. The diagnosis was always the same, I was too emotional, it was simply stress from being a single mom.
I knew something was wrong with me, yet I did not question the doctors. After several months of symptoms with no relief from the prescribed medicine I began to doubt myself. Maybe they were correct, it was all stress, after all I had been on an emotional roller coaster for two years. I began to believe the doctors and no longer sought medical treatment when I became ill. I concluded maybe I was an emotional basket case.

June, Friday the 13th my father was in a car accident and was rushed to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He would remain there for 6 weeks. While I was visiting him I had another one of my attacks. The doctor seeing me in distress, the pained look on my face gave me a quick exam. He asked if any tests had ever been run on my gall bladder, I said no. He called Kimbrough and ordered tests immediately. A few days later the tests were run, on July 2nd I was admitted to Kimbrough Army hospital for surgery. July 3rd I had my gall bladder removed. I was in the hospital for five days. Upon my release I was told not to work for the next 3 weeks. Since I was not allowed to work I lost my job. A week later disobeying doctors orders I attended my five year high school reunion. After our reunion Cathleen ran off to Pensacola with her pilot. Later they would marry. All my college friends were gone, I was now all alone.

A few days after our reunion I received a card in the mail with no return address. I instantly recognized the writing, it was from Bobby. I frantically opened the envelope, inside was a get well card. His message was simple and straight forward. “I hope you feel better soon. I only want the best for you. Bob P.S. Happy Birthday” I wondered, how did he know I was sick? I smiled for a brief moment, he still remembered my birthday. Then I read the message again, I only want the best for you. Was he saying good bye? Why did I have that feeling? He sent a card, he had to care a little. I knew by now he had earned his wings, he was no longer in Pensacola. There was no return address on the envelope, was it on purpose or did he simply forget. Did he not want me to write? Where was he? Then I saw the post mark, San Diego. I continued to wonder why there was no return address. I was convinced this was his way of saying good bye.

My heart sank. I spent the night running to the bathroom throwing up. My mom wanted to take me to the emergency room. She believed I was sick from doing too much after the surgery. I assured her I would be fine, it was probably something I ate. I knew the truth. This time I was sick from stress, I felt Bobby was saying good bye. Every hope I had secretly held on to vanished when I read the card. My new reality; I had no job, I had a child, Bobby said goodbye, I lost all my dreams. In my eyes I had nothing; I felt so very alone.

With the start of another day came the realization I had a daughter, no matter how I felt I had to keep moving, keep doing. She relied on me. I could not let her down. I had to keep going. I had to keep a positive attitude. I spent the first part of August looking for a job that would offer me a good salary. A job that came with benefits for both of us. I finally found a job at Macy’s Marley Station. I would work a few weeks training in the dress department before I would officially become the manager of the Attitudes department. I became fast friends with Cheryl, she was the manager of the adjacent department. We shared an office, aka a stockroom. Each morning as we checked in our new merchandise, we would talk about our lack of finding a good man. Over time we would share the stories of our heartbreaks and regrets.

Fall was fast approaching and football was in the air. The white uniforms were once again filling the streets of Annapolis and surrounding areas. It was hard not to notice the midshipmen in their uniforms as they walked through the mall. To me they were constant reminders of Bobby. I searched my soul trying to determine why I could not forget him? Why I could not move on? Searching for an answer as to why my heart refused to let him go. I had no clue, no explanation, I had no answers. I only knew from the moment I first looked into his eyes, my heart was never the same.

One day while folding sweaters, I heard a voice say, "Excuse me Miss." The first thing I saw when I looked up was the wording Navy lacrosse written across a t-shirt. For a second my heart jumped, I had to catch my breath. He was a very handsome man. He must have been puzzled when my eyes met his and my smile left my face. For that one instance when I saw Navy Lacrosse I was hoping I would look up and see Bobby. I quickly regained my composure, asked him what he needed. I helped him find a present for his mom. I mentioned to him I used to know a Navy lacrosse player but I lost track of him after he left Pensacola. I had often wondered where he was. Very politely he asked who the lacrosse player was. I answered Bobby Bianchi. He laughed, said he should have guessed, Bob always had the good looking women. I surprised myself when I very bluntly asked him if he knew where Bobby was? He informed me he believed getting ready to deploy as part of HC-5. I pushed my luck even further and asked if he knew how to get in touch with Bobby. He smiled, said for a good looking woman he could get me his address. He asked if he could use the phone. I handed him a pen and part of the register tape to write on. He hung up the phone, handed me Bobby’s military address. I put his mother's gift in his bag and thanked him for his help. Before he left he said, "Tell Bob I said he is one very lucky man!"

As soon he left my department, I ran back to my office and pinned Bobby's address on my bulletin board above my desk. I did not want to risk losing it. I begged Cheryl to cover for me I needed to run to the card store before I lost my nerve. I explained to her I could not believe my luck but I had Bobby’s address. She knew Bobby was my only regret, my biggest heartache. I believe at that moment Cheryl was more excited than I was. She was definitely impatient, I was taking to long gathering my purse, she yelled, “Go already. Get to Hallmark damn it!"

It took me a lot longer than I imagined to find the perfect card. I wanted Bobby to laugh when he read the card. More importantly the card, what I wrote, had to make him want to respond. I cannot remember what the card had imprinted on the inside, but I vividly recall there was a photograph of a bowl of rice krispies on the front. I thought it was perfect. I had “handed” Bobby a bowl of cereal when I first met him in Coronado. I wanted him to remember our first encounter. I remembered as we laid in bed in Pensacola, Bobby told me when he first saw me standing there in the robe, it drove him crazy. He wanted me. To further remind him of our meeting, I wrote on the inside something to the effect:

Got a job at Macy’s. Having a sale on robes next week, any suggestions on style or color? Still dreaming, Denise. P.S. I am ready.

On the way home I mailed the card. As I closed the mailbox lid I said a quick prayer. All I could do now was wait, see if he would answer. Everything was in Bobby's hands.

(Use the links to the left to continue on to part 6)