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)