Thursday, July 15, 2010

George Steinbrenner and Other Fun Encounters

George Steinbrenner's death on Tuesday caused me to stop reflect back on the lively conversation we had many years ago at a retraining session. That in turned caused me to reminisce about other encounters with some well known people I have met over the past 20 plus years. Meeting 'celebrities', talking to them was at time an art form for me. Below are a few of the crazy meetings I have enjoyed in the past

I have always had the gift of gab. The ability to talk to just about anyone on any subject. There are some exceptions but I won't get into those now. It doesn't matter what the occupation, the fame, the sex, the age, I have met and talked to authors, politicians, actors, singers, directors, heads of national law enforcement agencies, sports stars, business owners and tycoons. Some people I met through work, others by chance but the encounters that were the most fun, the ones I met through opportune times combined with crazy planning. My friends have laughed and marveled over some of my encounters, my 'success stories'. Most of my good fortune has come not from the initial meeting but rather being able to carry on a conversation. The trick is being able to draw them into a conversation.

I was once asked what was my secret to meeting people? My answer was simple, know who you are talking to, that and good genes. I am lucky I have been blessed with intelligence and a pretty smile. Another important factor if you wish to have a conversation with a 'celebrity, have the ability to separate the person from the job. Celebrities are simply people who have jobs that make them famous. That doesn't mean they are better or worse than the rest of us. They are the same as you and I. If your goal is to meet someone famous, it is important to remember you will be talking to the person not the occupation. In a way I have always felt sympathy for famous people. When they meet new people, try to make new friends, they have to wonder does this person want to know them, be their friend or do they want to hang out with someone famous. I have always imagined celebrities must live in a constant state of paranoia, wondering if their are being used. Not exactly how I would want to live my life. That aside, what I have found most fascinating about meeting 'famous' people is discovering the person behind the fame, discovering who they really are. Meeting celebrities can be difficult, the path can be filled with obstacles but every obstacle can be overcome. Success is in the approach, it all depends on your first sentence, your initial greeting.

George Steinbrenner
George Steinbrenner was a guest speaker at a law enforcement retraining session. I had gone down to the delegates breakfast room to snag some danishes and coffee for myself. I had been attending the retraining sessions for years with my dad. I knew many of the officers attending, so no one ever said anything when I crashed the delegates room. A smile, good morning, how are you doing is all I needed to get into most rooms. I grew up loving baseball, George Steinbrenner the owner of the Yankees was easily recognizable to me. I saw him standing in the back of the room having coffee surrounded by several men. I walked over to the group. smiled, said hello. Being female has it's privileges. I smiled at Mr. Steinbrenner, told him I have always had one question I wanted to ask him. Curious he said go ahead. I wanted to know how a man from Ohio, where football reigns ended up buying a baseball team? I could tell he was surprised at my question, amused. He motioned me to come closer, I was in essence invited into his inner circle. I told him I read he was from Cleveland, my brother-in-law was from Massillon outside of Cleveland. As I relayed my surprise when I first discovered the collection of records my brother-in-law had of Massillon Tiger football games, who buys records of football games? That was when I discovered how HUGE football was in Ohio. So how did he end up in baseball? I knew we would have a great conversation when I noticed him shaking his head yes and smiling when I mentioned the records. We had 'connected'. We spent the next 30 minutes talking about Ohio, football, baseball, Maryland, and my daughter. At one point in our conversation some kids had snuck into the room, they approached Mr. Steinbrenner to ask for his autograph. I could tell he was a bit uncomfortable with the request. So I interrupted, told the kids Mr. Steinbrenner was tired, how about if I give them my autograph instead. One boy looked at me and asked, who I was. I just smiled, announced with a surprised voice, "Apparently I need a better publicist."
The older girl in the group not wanting to insult me chimed in, "Oh my gosh, that's you. Please can I have your autograph."
I could honestly answer yes, it was me. I watched Mr. Steinbrenner laugh as I autographed their papers, say thank you and leave happy. I looked at him and explained, when you can't give someone something they want, you offer an alternative, hope they will accept and leave happy. He loved my "business" sense. I was good looking, intelligent, witty and could think on my feet, to him I was a deadly combination. I was the woman who could talk anyone into anything if I really wanted. Before he left, he took out his business card, asked for a pen, wrote his assistants phone number on the back, handed me the card, told me if I ever wanted a job in New York, give him a call. He liked me.

Cal Ripken, Jr.
October 1983, the Orioles had just won the World Series.That fall, Peggy was my partner in crime in my sports photography class. We were the only two girls in a class of testosterone. Two tomboys holding our own. The two of us decided to hook class and take photographs of the World Series parade in downtown Baltimore. After the parade I went back developed and printed all my photographs. Two times a week I taught aerobics for Parks and Recreation. That night I took my photographs to share with everyone. As the ladies were looking at my photographs they remarked how many of my photographs were of Cal Ripken Jr. I smiled, responded, single, amazing blue eyes and great short stop who wouldn't take his photograph. One of the women announced she worked with his next door neighbor. Ding, ding, brain began to calculate the possibilities. A week later they announced Cal Ripken, Jr. was awarded MVP of the American league. Before my next aerobics class I made a batch of homemade cookies and bought a bottle of champagne. When I went to class, I asked the woman if she could have her co-worker give Cal the cookies and champagne, tell him congratulations. She made no promises but said she would try. The following Tuesday I thought it was strange when I arrived everyone was sitting down waiting for me. My mat had been pulled out and placed in front of the class, sitting on my mat a brown envelope. I heard a couple people say open it, open it. As I opened the envelope I began to smile when I pulled out an autographed photo of Cal with a message on it.
"Thanks for the Champagne, when can we drink it?"

I was so excited and at the same time I had a huge dilemma, I had a boyfriend. What was a girl to do? I was told Cal knew who I was, he was told I was cute, adorable and had a killer figure. (their words not mine) There was a catch, if I wanted to meet Cal I had to catch him, I had to find him. A challenge had been issued. Since I had a boyfriend, I put Cal's photograph away in my drawer.

I returned from Pensacola in January, newly single. Peggy and I once again had photography class together. She mentioned a good distraction from my heart ache might be to try to find Cal. She said if I didn't want him she would take him. The end of February I read in the Evening Capital, the Oriole's basketball team would be playing teachers at local high school for a fundraiser. Cal was listed as one of the players that would be playing. Peggy, Tony and I drove through freezing rain to attend the game. Cal was not there, he had sprained his ankle. This was another occasion where it paid to be cute...after the game I was able to talk my way into meeting Eddie Murray. It was well known in Baltimore that Cal and Eddie were best friends. As I was talking to Eddie, Rick Dempsey came over. I told them about the champagne, the photo, the challenge. Rick Dempsey asked Eddie, "Why don't any good looking women send me champagne?"
Eddie responded because he was old and married. The two of them told me unfortunately everyone was heading down to spring training. Eddie asked for my phone number he would deliver it. As a back up, they told me to be at the Pep Rally before opening game, they would take care of me there. As the two of them walked away I could hear them say "Damn how does he get so lucky?"

April's fools day 1984, Tony, Peggy and I drove to the Inner Harbor for the pep rally before the first season opener at Memorial Park. I made my way to the front, standing next to the rope and DJ booth/table. While I was waiting for the bus to arrive with all the players I started a conversation with the DJ, I told him about the cookies, champagne and the challenge issued. I also told him my friends with me didn’t think I would be able to meet Cal that day. I hated losing a bet, could he help me. The dj asked me to write my name and a short note on a piece of paper and he would do his best to give it to Cal. It all depended on if he could get to him on the stage without anyone noticing. I wrote a simple question on the paper, "Do you still have the champagne? Denise"

I watched the bus pull up, all the players unloaded from the bus and walked to the platform. I watched as Cal stood at the back of the stage next to Eddie Murray. I was excited as I saw the DJ walk up to Cal, tap him on the back, talk to him for a few minutes, then had him the paper. Cal read the note, handed it to Eddie and the two began to look around. Eddie Murray saw me, pointed me out to Cal, then pushed him off the stage in my direction. I was pretty surprised when I he started to head toward me, I didn't think Cal would leave the stage while the pep rally was going on. My first thought, I sure hope they don't call him up to the mike while we are talking. Cal walked right up to me, his first words, "I still have the champagne, I have been waiting to meet you.” He then put his hand out to shake mine, told me it was finally nice to meet the woman he had heard so much about.

It was pretty crazy, as Cal and I were talking across the rope people were handing him baseballs, cards, paper, anything and everything to sign. There were so many people coming toward him I was slowly being pushed into the rope. squished. Cal noticed and asked people to please back up give us room. After a short conversation Cal asked for my phone number. Eddie was still holding the piece of paper so Cal had to write my number on his hand. That night Cal called asked if I was attending opening game. I informed him I was a poor broke college student who did not have any tickets. He informed me he could solve that problem easily. He would leave 4 tickets for me at the Will Call box office. After the game come down to the hallway outside the locker room, he would meet me there. That was the beginning of my summer of baseball.

Tom Selleck
Summer of 1988 I was working at Macy’s. There was a new group of OJTs at our store. For some crazy reason our store manager put me in charge of the bunch. All the OJTs were fresh out of college, they were to spend three weeks training with us before being assigned to various Macy stores in the New Jersey Chain. While they were training they were staying at the Tremont Plaza in Baltimore. One day at lunch I learned that none of them had ever experienced Maryland Steamed crabs. I had to rectify the situation. After lunch Cheryl and I went to the our store manager, Bill and asked him if we could have a “meeting” the next night, purchase a few bushels of crabs on the company tab, give the OJTs a Maryland style welcome. To our surprise he said yes. I called the Tremont Plaza, asked if we could use one of their conference rooms for a meeting. At first I was told no, but when I explained to the gentleman we wanted to have a crab feast and he was welcome to attend, we were allowed to ‘unofficially’ use one of their rooms.

The next afternoon I dropped Kathryn off at the sitters, headed to Kaufmann’s picked up 3 bushels of crabs, corn on the cob and headed to Baltimore. I parked the car out front, grabbed one of the luggage carts and loaded the crabs on it.

Everyone in Baltimore was aware that Tom Selleck was in town filming the movie “Her Alibi”. From the OJTs I also knew some of the actors, stage hands etc were staying at the Tremont Plaza. As I loaded my cart on the elevator I heard a voice yell hold the elevator please. I turned around to see a man who looked a lot like Tom Selleck and another gentlemen board the elevator with me.

I hate elevators they are too quiet. You are forced to stand there stare at a door in complete silence while someone is standing next to you, in your ‘personal space’. Always the rule breaker, ignoring the proper etiquette, I talk to people in elevators a lot. As I looked at the man standing next to me I said, “By your looks I am guessing you are Tom Selleck’s double if not you are in the wrong profession.”

He laughed and said, yes he was and introduced himself. John Nordlum. He introduced the man standing next to him, Steve Hunter. He was Tom Selleck’s driver. We talked on the ride up in the elevator. I invited them both to our crab feast. John was heading upstairs to watch the dailies but would try to make it later. I bid them good bye, said I hope to see them later, as I got off on my floor. I dropped the crabs off in the conference room, then headed back downstairs to return the cart and move my car from the front of the hotel.

Returning to the hotel lobby, waiting for the elevator once again I met Whoopi Goldberg. She was dating a cameraman working on the film. She was so funny in the elevator. I can’t repeat what she said when I invited her to join us for crabs, it was a very adult comment, but extremely funny. She surprised me when she accepted the offer and said she would join us in a bit.

A smart person would have warned the Cheryl and the OJTs who all I had invited to the crab feast. Allow them to gather thier wits. I wasn’t really sure if anyone would actually come, besides I wanted to see the reactions on everyone’s face when and if they walked through the door. The first to arrive was Whoopi Goldberg. I still remember as she entered, one of the OJTs jumped up, screamed, “Oh my God it’s Whoopi Goldberg I have to go call my mom”
She ran out the room right by Whoopi. Not missing a beat, as she ran by Whoopi said, “Please tell me she does not work customer service? I don’t think she can handle stress or surprises”

Whoopi stayed for awhile, sat next to me and we had great laughs together. Just as I had seen with my summer of baseball, I once again saw how awkward it can be for someone of fame. As we sat and talked, it was very noticeable that everyone was staring at her, the room was too quiet. After a few crabs she asked if I minded if she pack some crabs up, take them back to her room to share. She gave me hug and thanked me for the invite. I would run into Whoopi numerous times over the next two weeks. At one point she even met my daughter Kathryn. Held her as she tried to teach her to say Whoopi, all Kathryn could manage was “oopi”.

About twenty minutes after Whoopi left there was a knock on the door. Standing there was John Nordlum, Steve Hunter and Tom Lupo. (he was doing stunts or directing stunts I can’t remember) The guys hung out for awhile, then asked if they could pack up some crabs and take them upstairs to the people still watching the dailies. I said of course, take what they would like.

After everyone had their fill of Maryland crabs, we cleaned up the conference room and I headed back home. As the elevator door opened on my floor I smiled when I saw Paulina Porizkova, Rick Ocasek and Tom Selleck. That night I realized how much I love elevators. They can at times be better, more fun than the prize doors on the ‘"Price is Right." As I entered the elevator I smiled, apologized for not being able to properly introduce myself but I had been shelling Maryland Crabs for the past several hours. As soon as I said Maryland crabs, they all smiled, said thank you, I must have been the one who sent the crabs upstairs. The conversation began from there!! Paulina Porizkova, is wow gorgeous and even more importantly, so extremely gracious and sweet. Rick, he was just as nice. Tom Selleck, could not have been kinder. As I talked to him the voice in my brain was screaming, “Tom Selleck, Magnum PI…so freaking cool!!” Later I would meet Tom’s wife, she was pregnant with their first child. She was just as sweet as everyone else I met that summer.

A few days later I would meet, William Daniels. He was the complete opposite of all the characters he has played. He was extremely witty, very sweet. He gave me a hard time for bringing crabs on a night he was not around. If I wanted to continue to be in his favor he better be included next time. Later he laughed when he found out my favorite role of his, John Adams in “1776”

My favorite memory of Tom Lupo, a week or two later, I brought more crabs to the hotel, this time for the guys working behind the scenes in the movie. Tom and Steve were taking some of the steamed crabs, propelling them by various means out the window trying to predict their distance and route of projection. So wrong yet at the same time it was actually pretty funny. As they were doing this Tom was telling me some of his crazy stuntman stories!

Over the next couple of weeks whenever I ran into any of my 'elevator acquaintances, they always stopped, talked, hung out for a few minutes. John Nordlum, Steve Hunter, Tom Lupo and I would hang out quite a bit. I even took John and Steve on sight seeing tour of Washington DC. I laughed as we posed John next to the cardboard stand up of Tom Selleck. Traffic slowed as people looked, debated whether that was Tom Selleck or not.

Funniest Tom Selleck memory, while they were filming “Her Alibi” the local radio stations were having Tom Selleck sighting call ins. I heard one morning driving to work they were going to have a Tom Selleck look alike contest at a local bar. I tried to convince him that he needed to enter the contest. It would be great no one would actually think it was him, the perfect hiding place, in plain sight. I laughed when he asked, “What if I lose?”
My answer, “Then you really don’t have to worry about people bothering you.”

The most amazing part of the summer, July 11, 1988, Tom Selleck, John, Steve and Tom bought me a drink for my twenty fifth birthday at the bar in the Tremont plaza.

John Cusack
One of the nicest and at the same times strangest person I have met is John Cusack. 1990 I was the assistant manager at the Lowe’s Annapolis hotel in charge of guest services and VIP guests. They were filming “True Colors” in Richmond but needed to film a few scenes in Annapolis. Some of the actors and crew were staying at our hotel.

One of my jobs was to great VIP guests as they checked in, find out if they needed any special accommodations etc and make what ever they needed happen. All of the actors (Mandy Patinkin, William Daniels, Imogene Stubbs), director (Herbert something) had checked in to the hotel. At 11:00 p.m. I was still waiting for John Cusack to arrive. A little before midnight our automatic doors open and in walks John Cusack with his girlfriend. She had a dog collar around her neck and he was holding the leash. I later learned she was one of Prince’s back up singers. He looked just like the character out of “Say Anything”. As soon as he realized I had been awaiting his arrival he apologized profusely. Then asked if the bar was still open, I said of course. He invited me to come have a drink with him, his way of apologizing. I told him I would be happy to join him for a drink, it would be my treat, one of the perks at working at the hotel. I was surprised when 15 minutes later he arrived at the bar without his girlfriend. John Cusack is by far the one of the easiest persons to talk to. He is so genuine and real. He asked so many questions, immediately I realized he wanted to know the person he was talking to. He was interested in me, not just small talk. It was very flattering.

Over the course of the next few days while they were filming whenever I saw him, John would give me a huge hug and apologize for having to run, not being able to talk. He would catch me later at the bar. His nightly ritual after filming was to have a nightcap before heading to bed. He was a true gentleman. One night when I was working late, the temperature had dropped quiet a bit and I was cold. He saw my goose bumps in the bar and took his sweater off, handed it to me, told me to put it on to stay warm. There was no way I was saying no to that offer!! When I was heading out the door, I went to give him back his sweater, he said keep it, I looked good in it. Now I know since I was the assistant manager I should have given the sweater back, that would have been proper, but it was John Cusack…so that baby went home with me. To those of you still wondering, the answer would be yes, that green/gray sweater is still hanging in the closet at my parent's house.

That was an extremely hectic but fun week for me. I stayed late to make sure everything was fine with John and arise early to make sure things were going perfectly for Mandy Patinkin and Imogene Stubbs.

What I remember most about Mandy Patinkin, he has the most beautiful singing voice. I made sure the concierge lounge was set up earlier than normal so the people working on the film could grab a quick breakfast before heading out to film. Every morning Mandy would walk into the lounge singing vocal exercises. One morning he actually serenaded me, he said beautiful women deserve to hear a beautiful song every morning. I melted.

Imogene Stubbs, loved her English accent. To me it was somewhat amusing that she had a coach to help her with her American accent. She was extremely beautiful, very talkative so we got along great.

What I remember most about the filming of “True Colors”, the afternoon after check out. All the stars, cast had left. My pager went off right I as I was getting ready to head home. It was housekeeping they needed me to come to John Cusack's suite. The days while John was filming he had requested no maid service. When I walked into the room I understood why. John Cusack is the nicest guy, but his room habits have a lot to be desired. On the floor were bottle caps from the drinks he opened while in the room. Fruit peelings everywhere, it was as if he ate and where ever trash fell, it fell. Apparently he and his girlfriend played hangman every night, on our sheets. I will admit I was a little disappointed in their word selection, not very difficult choices. On the walls they played tic tac toe. X won more games than O. He left his script in the bathroom next to the toilet. Next to the script, a banana peel. All of his belongings were still scattered across the room along with about 15 boxes of Godiva Chocolates. That is when I discovered apparently everyone and their brother at the hotel had been sending him chocolates, all with my card attached so they wouldn’t have to pay for it. On the back of each card, various hotel employee names and short notes. I collected all the cards so I could deal with them later.

I called the Richmond filming office asked them what they wanted us to do with all of John's belongings. The woman was pretty upset, she apologized, she had told John he would have to pack his own luggage. He apparently didn’t listen. She asked if someone at the hotel would pack up his belongings, she would send a driver from Richmond to get them. I told her not a problem I would take care of it and wait for the driver. I also informed her we were going to have to damage out a lot of items in the room, the wall paper might need to be replaced. It wasn’t a problem, she was use to it.

As I packed his belongings I couldn’t resist, he was a really nice guy. I stuck a short note on top of his suitcase. I wrote him it was a pleasure meeting him, thanks again for the sweater. He was really too sweet. Have fun in Richmond. A few days later I received a fax from the filming office in Richmond, a note from John. It was his pleasure, he hoped to get back to Annapolis one day to film again, it is a wonderful town. Please if I was ever in Chicago look him up. On the bottom was a phone number, I assumed it was his managers.

If only I had never seen John's room I might have taken him up on his Chicago offer.

There are so many other people I have met over the years, President George H.W. Bush, Ross Perot, Ted Kennedy, John D Rockefeller IV (Jay), Jim Palmer, William Hurt. The most amazing men I have ever met, Dick Stratton, Jim Stockdale, John McCain etc. All POWs from the infamous Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam. I sat in awe, listened as they all sat around the dining room table and talked. I will save those stories for a later post.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bobby Part 8- Epilogue: Cycle of Pain, Tears, Anger, Regrets and Bobby.

After Bobby died, for a long while, I shut up and shut down, trying to move from one day to the next. I no longer shared what I was feeling, how much I missed Bobby. If I didn't understand why I hurt so badly, how would anyone else?

Every hope, every dream I had held on to for the past three years ended when Bobby died. I felt lost, like I had no direction. Common sense told me no one would understand the sense of loss I felt. I knew if you added all the time Bobby and I shared, the crazy chance encounters, spring break, the times we talked, Mum's, it would total no more than a few days. The equivalent of a wonderful weekend spread out over the course of 3 years. How was it possible for such a short amount of time to have such a huge impact on someone’s life, my life? How could a normal person comprehend what I was feeling when what I was feeling was not normal? I learned to play the game of life is fine, when really it wasn't. Good and bad, I kept every thing inside. I may not have talked about Bobby but he was very much with me every day.

For several months Bobby's letter was my nightly ritual. After saying my prayers, before turning off my light, I would read his letter, gently lay it on the bed next to me. I would fall asleep with my hand resting on it. His p.s. meant the most. I would run my finger over it time and time again. That one sentence was the most wonderful gift he gave me. From the moment I had made the decision to have and keep my daughter I worried that I had ruined any and all chances I might have with him one day. In that wonderful short sentence, Bobby let me know it was okay, I made the right choice. He did not care who the father was, only me. Like his brother Kevin, he could look past my mistakes. Every night when I read his letter, as tears streamed down my cheeks, I was aware I was in essence torturing myself, yet I could not stop. As long as I read his letter, as long as it laid next to me every night, he was still present in my life. I was not ready to let him go, live with out him. I needed a small part of him, even if it was only a letter.

When Bobby died, for months I was so angry with God. I had asked God to always be with Bobby, watch over him. I was convinced God had not heard my prayers. I believed he took Bobby from me. I blamed God for his death. It would take months for me to let go of my anger, listen to God, forgive myself for doubting him, my faith.

One August morning while I was pushing my daughter on a swing, I heard the familiar sounds of approaching army helicopters. During the summer it was common place to see the helicopters fly overhead on their training missions to and from Fort Meade. The sight and sounds of the helicopters brought tears to my eyes. They were a constant reminder of Bobby’s crash, his death. That morning I watched them as they headed back toward Fort Meade, tears once again began to fill my eyes. It was a typical August day, hazy, hot and humid. Stifling heat, nothing was moving, not the air, not the birds, everything was stagnant. As I watched the sun reflect off the helicopter rotors, a random summer breeze blew threw my hair out of no where. The breeze felt the same as it did that night in Pensacola. I closed my eyes to enjoy it’s coolness, as I did I saw Bobby, saw his smile. I could feel him in that breeze. For that one moment I was in heaven, I was with him. I did not want to open my eyes, let him go. For months I convinced myself if God had been with Bobby he would have never crashed, he would still be alive. As I closed my eyes, stood still, felt him, saw his face, his eyes, I understood. I heard God. When Bobby crashed, that was when he needed God to be with him the most. God didn't cause Bobby to crash, he held him when he died. God did answer my prayers, it was not the way I envisioned they would be answered. As the helicopters began to fade away in the distance I asked God to forgive me, to please be with Bobby's family, give them the strength I never had. After that day whenever the helicopters flew overhead, my eyes still had tears in them, but they were accompanied by a smile. I finally realized instead of being angry with God, I needed to thank him. Bobby was able to do what few other men could, he got to fly. If only for a short while, Bobby lived his dream. He earned his wings of gold. Bobby was a naval aviator. He was happy. For that I thanked God.

After Bobby's death, I concluded maybe some people aren't meant to be happy, they aren't meant to be in relationships, they are meant to live alone. Maybe I was that person. I convinced myself I needed to be happy with what I had, not want more. Wanting only lead to hurt, pain. The men I cared for, the men I loved, did two things, they hurt me (Martin) and they left me (Bobby). Two years later when my daughter's father called, announcing he was getting married but he had a "slight" problem. His future wife gave him an ultimatum, if he wanted to marry her, he had to abandon, have nothing to do with our child, his child. That afternoon, over the phone, he walked away from his daughter, his blood. I tried to convince him if he left it would be a mistake he would regret. He had already made up his mind. A bond that is suppose to be stronger than any, that of a parent to a child, he had no trouble breaking. The father of my child walked out of her life. His actions would “seal the deal” with my relationship/trust with men for many years. The third strike was added to the previous two, men cheat/lie, they leave me (die) and that afternoon I learned they abandon their children. Men caused nothing but pain in my life. I had been lost and tired for too long. Men to me were an affliction I did not have the strength to deal with. I decided it was better to go it alone, forget about men, I did not need them.

I had long since surrendered to my constant loneliness when a few years into my hiatus from men an old friend, a high school crush came to visit. It felt good to be in some one's arms I could trust. We had known each other since I was fourteen. I needed to be held, to be wanted. I needed to trust someone I felt safe with. We began to kiss, to undress each other. Then before anything could happen, as suddenly as he started, he stopped. He left me confused and hurt. After years of being alone, the first man I trusted, stopped, he sent me away. When I asked him why he stopped, why he was sending me home? What he said and what I heard were completely opposite. What he said, something felt wrong. What I heard, something was wrong with me. Now I realize he was right, something was wrong. I was using him trying to fill my void of loneliness. I hoped being with him would help me forget the past, if only for a little while. He understood, what I could not comprehend, if we had gone any further we would have lost the wonderful friendship we had developed through the years. A close friendship we still share to this day. I drove home in tears, I was convinced more than ever, men were only meant to hurt me. They were never going to make me happy. The fourth and final nail was now in my coffin of relationships with men.

Over the next eleven and a half years I would be; Mom, daughter, aunt, friend, retail manager, assistant hotel manager, decorative painter, girl scout leader, cheerleading coach, gymnastics instructor. I would wear many titles except date, girlfriend, lover. I devoted my life to my daughter, my family, my work. I took care of everyone except myself. I had numerous male friends, they were all safe. They were either married or lived far away. There was no chance of temptation, no chance of getting close, no chance of added torment, no chance of tears or heart ache. After a while I no longer realized what I was doing, it was normal to be only mom. While other women my age would go out and have fun, I stayed home, watched television. I had dismissed from my memory what it was like to have fun, to be with a man, to be wanted. I shut that part of myself off.

It would be Martin who would wake me up, bring me back to reality. Help me see what I was missing. August 1998 after 13 years Martin called. He was going to be in the area on business, asked if I would like to meet him for drinks to catch up. I was surprised by his phone call, I was even more surprised when I said yes. I searched my closet in vain to find an outfit suitable to meet him again after so many years. My closet was filled with drab, boring, don’t look at me mommy outfits. Luckily I was able to borrow an outfit from a friend. I had not been alone with a man in eleven years. Martin and I at one time were great friends, but that still did not combat the anxiety I felt. I had not spoken to him in over 13 years, what would I say? What did he want? I was terrified to meet him alone. I was afraid what I might feel, afraid I would say or do something stupid. I bribed my neighbor to accompany me on my date with Martin. I made her promise not to leave my side. Luckily she agreed.

Martin was as handsome as I remembered, even more so. Age had done him well, he looked better in his 30s then he ever did in his 20s. As I looked at him I became very aware how much I had neglected myself. I went from being a very beautiful young girl to a middle aged, overweight not so attractive woman. Martin was very open, he talked about his son, his divorce, his job. He asked me if I had ever married. I answered no. I could tell by his face he was surprised. I explained I never met the right man. I went on to explain I actually meet no men. I had not been on a date in years. Puzzled Martin asked the obvious question, why not? Why wasn't I meeting men? What was stopping me? When I answered, “I was busy being a mom”. Martin stated very matter of fact, that was an excuse not an answer. You can be a mom and date. Martin was correct, I had to accept it. For years I had been making excuses, trying to rationalize why I didn't need men. As Martin and I continued our conversation, I learned he was going to be back in October for the USNA Class of 1983 fifteen year reunion. When I heard he was coming back, in my mind, I made a pledge to be a different person by October. A better person, the old me.

Martin’s visit changed me. Seeing him made me realize I wanted my former self back. The witty, fun, good looking, flirtatious me. I began to take care of myself. Every morning after sending my daughter off to school I would run laps around the neighborhood, at first I only ran a mile, eventually I worked up to four miles a day. At night after coaching cheerleading, I would walk two miles. When I went shopping instead of buying boring cover all of me mom clothes I bought trendy more current styles. Instead of hiding my body, I found clothes that flattered my figure. By October, when the reunion rolled around, I had lost 25 pounds. Unlike the time in August, I had no trouble finding a great outfit, my closet had plenty to chose from. After the Navy football game, when I saw Martin, met his new fiancĂ©, I didn't care. Martin woke me up, he made me realize I was hiding from the old me, the real me. For the first time in eleven years I flirted with men and they flirted back, it felt great! It would be several months before I would go out on a date and even longer until I trusted my heart to someone. But that August night in 1998, Martin saved my life without ever realizing it.

I use to believe the saying, time has a way of healing all wounds. I now know that statement to be untrue. The wounds never heal, the pain, the loss never leaves completely. For a lack of a better way to describe it, over time the 'wounds' develop scabs. For a time the scab holds, life goes on, seemingly normal. Then without reason, something rips the scab open, once again exposing the wound. Sometimes the wound exposes pain, other times anger. The common thread, the underlying root of the pain or anger, missing someone you love dearly. When you lose someone you love, there is no cure, there is no healing, there is only surviving, doing your best to move forward.

For me, when the 'wound' opened back up, on a good bad day, my eyes would only begin to tear. I would thank God I was able to quickly control my emotions, hold everything in. I was able to thwart a crying meltdown. On truly bad days, there was no stopping the tears, the pain. Nothing I could do would stop the tears from gushing down my cheeks. No matter how much I tried, the feeling of loss was too overwhelming. There was no controlling the emptiness I suddenly felt. When that happened I would retreat to somewhere private where no one could see my tears, witness my pain.

There were other times when for some unknown reason I felt anger. Unexplained rage would come rushing out of me. The anger was a fury that had been growing inside of me, a hurricane of emotions that has been building strength slowly over the warm waters of the ocean inside me. I had no clue why I was angry, I just was. I was angry at Bobby for dying. I was furious at myself for still missing him. I was angry at life for leaving me alone. I was angry I had no answers for the many questions that filled my head. Dreams never realized left me pained. I learned quickly anger was always followed by tears. The anger only masked the pain that was still left in my heart. Anger was simply another symptom of sorrow.

My hope, my only salvation, was learning how to recognize and deal with the cycle of pain, recovery, healing then normal life. Learning, understanding the cycle was all part of life. My constant prayer after every meltdown, that normal life would return and stay longer. I prayed for a so called remission from the cycle I found myself trapped in. I would pray the duration between meltdowns, would last longer. I eventually learned, the more time passes, the longer remission lasts. The longer life seems to return to normal. Over time my tears were eventually replaced by smiles of remembrance. In time I no longer cried over losing Bobby. I thanked God for what little time I had with him. Now I smile and laugh when I remember Bobby.

Sometimes I knew what would cause my pain, my tears. It maybe hard to understand but there were days when I needed to cry. I needed to release all my emotions. I needed for a time to become numb in order to feel normal again. July 11, 1987, my twenty fourth birthday, I sent flowers to Bobby, Gerber daisies. The same flowers he had sent me for my twenty first birthday, I sent to his grave. I tried to celebrate my birthday, I was unsuccessful. I missed him too much. Losing Bobby was still too fresh. I cried myself to sleep reading the card he had sent me three years before. I spent the night wishing I was twenty one again, wishing I had one more chance to fix all my mistakes. Wishing, hoping, begging, praying to see Bobby one more time, tell him I was sorry, I missed him.

A few years after Bobby died, I was driving when I first heard the Garth Brooks song, "The Dance". As the music flowed through my speakers, the lyrics said everything I had been feeling, "I would have loved to miss the pain, but I'd of had to miss the dance." As I heard those words I began to cry. I could see, feel our "dance" in Pensacola. I needed to hear the song again. On the way home, I took a detour to the store, bought the album. That night and many nights through out the years I would listen to "The Dance" over and over until I could no longer cry. Drifting off to sleep dreaming of our “dance”. Even after 23 years I never know how I will react when I hear "The Dance". There are times without explanation , without reason, the song brings tears to my eyes. Other times as I listen to the familiar lyrics I smile remembering what a wonderful ‘dance’ Bobby and I shared.

Life would be easy if I could predict when reminders, the triggers of tears would happen. If life is only one thing, it is unpredictable. Random times, arbitrary places, unforeseen reminders all with the same common denominator, Bobby, would reduce me to tears. There was never a definition to explain why, it just was.

Fall of 1987, after much begging and pleading by my friends, I ventured out to a local dance club, Margarita Maggie's. True to form, I spent most of the night sitting at the bar drinking ginger ale. Last call was announced, I was waiting for my friends to finish dancing so I could say good night and head home. The DJ announced he was slowing the music down for the final two songs, the guy sitting next to me asked me to dance. I had turned him down several times previously. He said to me, "If I did not dance with him, it would bruise his already fragile ego."
Feeling guilty I agreed to dance with him. As the first slow song played I learned he was from Pennsylvania, had graduated from the Naval Academy in May. He was working temporary duty at the Naval Academy waiting for his slot in Pensacola. As he told me his life story, I could hear Bobby's voice saying, “Don't be falling for any of those Navy guys still hanging around Annapolis.”
The final chords of the first song ended, my heart stopped when I heard the familiar chords of the next song begin, "Waiting for a Girl Like You". I closed my eyes trying to compose myself, take a deep breath. When I closed my eyes, I saw Bobby's hand as he put it out for me take when he asked me to dance for the first time in Pensacola. For a moment I felt extremely lost. I became very aware tears were streaming down my cheeks. I apologized to the guy, I explained I could not dance with anyone to that song. I left one very confused Ensign on the dance floor. I grabbed my purse, without saying good bye I ran to my car. I cried as I fell asleep later. Even now, when I hear, “Waiting for a Girl Like You” if I close my eyes I can still see Bobby as we dance. Some days tears will flow from my eyes as I hear the song. Other days I smile remembering our first dance. Mostly I close my eyes so I can see him once again, remember his eyes as they looked into mine before our first kiss. I know I will never be able to dance with anyone to that song. To me, "Waiting for a Girl Like You" is our song.

A year later it would be a newscast that would cause me to fall to the floor in a wave of emotion, a flood of tears. I treasured the photograph Bobby gave me. I placed it in a beautiful burnt silver frame next to my bed on my nightstand. I was sitting in bed, watching the Sunday night late local news. During the extended sports section, they began to show footage from the Army-Navy lacrosse game. Navy had come from behind to win. As I watched the highlights of the game, a rage, anger overcame me. Without explanation, I picked up Bobby’s photo, hurled it across the room screaming, "Damn you Bobby, you were suppose to come home. Why the hell did you fly so low? Damn you!" I heard the glass break as it hit the wall next to my closet. I pulled my knees to my chest and began pounding my bed with my fists on each side of my body next to my feet. With every blow to the mattress I yelled, “Damn you! Damn you! Damn You!”
With every pounding, with every damn you, all the anger towards Bobby I had built up over the year came exploding out. I was furious with him for flying low, for crashing. I was even angrier at myself for caring so deeply, missing him too much. After several minutes of yelling and pounding, I took a deep breath, calmed myself down. I grabbed my trash can and headed over to pick up the broken pieces of the frame. The sight of Bobby, his photo, laying amidst the broken glass dropped me to my knees in grief. I began to cry as I picked up the broken pieces of glass. With each piece of glass I asked Bobby why? All I wanted to know was why? Why did he die? Why was he flying so low? Why did he take a different path back to the base? All I have ever wanted to know is why?

It is amazing how even after years of peace, an extended 'remission', Bobby will surface and once again without explanation I will cry. Sometimes I cry for only a few seconds, other times much longer.

I was driving home one night when I heard an old Bruce Springsteen song play on the radio,"Cover Me". As I listened to the song I smiled thinking of Bobby. It was hard for me to believe Bobby had been gone over 10 years. While waiting at a red light I closed my eyes to ‘see’ Bobby, as I listened to 'The Boss', but he wasn't there. I lost him, I felt him, but my mind forgot what he looked like. I panicked, I had promised Bobby I would never forget him, yet at that stop light I couldn't remember his face, I couldn’t see him at all. I felt like I had betrayed him. My eyes began to water. I had to pull over to the side of the road to compose myself.

After dinner, I went to my room, closed the door, grabbed my Foreigner cd. I turned off the lights, pushed play, then laid in bed. As the familiar cords began to play of ‘our song’, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes. At first I could only see his hand as he placed it out for me to take. Then as the chorus began to echo in my room, I could feel him, then slowly I saw his smile, I saw his eyes, I saw his face. I cried tears of joy and thanked God for letting me see Bobby once again. I thanked him for helping me keep my promise to Bobby to always remember him.

September 11th, I was watching live when the second plane hit the tower. I witnessed as the towers collaspe to the ground. Like everyone else in America, around the world, I watched the coverage non-stop. That night and randomly for the next several weeks following the attack, I began having nightmares. Nightmares I had never had before. As I slept I would see Bobby's helicopter crash. I would be standing on the bank of the Bucao River and see the wire. I would try to tell Bobby to stop, pull up. Over and over I would yell at him to stop, he never hears me. I watch in horror as his helicopter hits the wire, he crashes into the river bank. I would wake up sweating, my heart pounding, out of breath and in tears. The panic I felt was real, it left me paralyzed with fear. I would stay awake the rest of the night, afraid the nightmare would return if I fell back to sleep. As soon as the nightmares began they ended.

A month ago a friend recommended the movie, "Taking Chance". I thought it would be the perfect movie to watch on Memorial day. I was not ready for how the movie would make me feel. I cried as I watched the scenes where they depicted Chance being prepared to fly home from Iraq. They showed how the vacuum sucks the air out of the body bag. You see them place his body bag in a metal coffin, then pack it with ice, surrounding his body. You watch as the coffin is sealed, then draped in an American Flag. As they portrayed his casket being loaded on the plane I had to turn the movie off, I couldn’t watch anymore. It was too real.

Before watching the opening scenes of "Taking Chance", I never thought about how Bobby came home. Until then, Bobby died, he came home, there was a funeral. I never thought about what happened to him from the time he was killed, until 10 days later when he was buried. "Taking Chance" was a stark reality of what happened to Bobby. As I watched the movie my brain began to comprehend that was how Bobby was brought home. It was no longer Chance in the movie, it was Bobby. The realization that Bobby didn't fly home first class, no one was there to give him a hug, say welcome home. Bobby came home, zipped in a body bag surrounded by ice. He was placed in the back of a plane with an American flag draped over his coffin. He flew a long lonely flight home. He was flown into Dover Air Force Base. The last time Bobby would wear his uniform, it would not be his hands buttoning his jacket, putting on his socks, tying his shoes. A complete stranger dressed him. A stranger placed his hands across his chest. A chest that no longer had a heartbeat. A heartbeat I missed and long to feel one more time. When I turned the movie off, I went outside, sat down, looked up at the stars. Through my tears I told Bobby I was so sorry. I told him I still missed him. I was outside talking to Bobby for awhile before the tears stopped and I could come back inside, resume watching the movie.

Long ago I made a promise to myself, no more tears when I remembered Bobby, only smiles, only laughter. I could spend my life crying over what might have been or spend my life smiling, laughing over what had been. Watching, “Taking Chance” when I was reduced to tears, I was angry at myself for breaking my own promise. After scolding myself for several minutes, I reminded myself I was fortunate, I was blessed, for a short amount of time I knew Bobby. He could have picked any girl he wanted that night at the club, he chose me. Our two bodies came together for one amazing night over spring break. I was lucky enough to feel his touch, to know his kiss, have him hold me in his arms. That incredible night I discovered every inch of him as he uncovered ever inch of me. He taught me to let go, to trust again. I was able to hold his hand as the sunlight appeared over the gulf. I found a man who left me speechless, gave me goose bumps and took my breath away time and time again. For a brief moment in time, life was perfect. I discovered a side of Bobby very few people saw, knew. I did not know the son, the brother, the midshipmen, the lacrosse player, or the pilot. I knew the compassionate Bobby. The man with the gentle touch, the sweetest kiss. The man who wiped away my tears. The man who tried to let me know there was nothing to be afraid of. The man who kept his promises. I knew the man who wrapped his arms and legs around me trying to comfort me when I was hurting. He cared when I cried, tried to ease my pain. He could have walked away at any time, many men would have, yet he stayed, making sure I was okay. He had a kind huge heart. Those memories, those blessings deserve only smiles, no tears.

Promise or not, I admit I have cried quite a number of tears writing this blog. As much as I tried, it was impossible to hold back the tide of emotions as I remembered our time together. Writing about the day I learned Bobby died was the hardest. I discovered the pain is as fresh, powerful today as it was twenty three years ago. I was reminded once again how strong my feelings were for Bobby. How lost I felt when he died. I realized how much even today I still miss Bobby. I was reminded how much his family and friends have lost. When I feared I was going to be lost in tears, I tried to remind myself how lucky I was to know him. Sometimes that sentiment was enough to stop the tears, others times it was never enough to fill the void. I would have to walk away from my computer, let the tears run their course, then resume writing.

Regrets are exhausting, they can torture a soul. They can drive a sane person crazy searching for the what ifs to all the unanswered questions. Regrets or not, nothing will ever be able to answer the possibility of what might have been. After reading our story most people would assume I am filled with regrets. How does one wish to change the past with the knowledge if any one aspect was changed you would not be where you are today? There is not a moment or a day that passes when I do not wish Bobby was still here. There are things I wish I could change and others I would not.

March 25, 1987, when I sat on the dock in Annapolis crying over losing Bobby, praying for a miracle, asking God to turn back time so I could open my eyes, be back in 1984. Redo the night at Mum's. I pleaded, I begged, tried to bargain so I could spend one more night with Bobby. In my grief I would have done anything to be given the chance to correct my mistake. Tell my fears, my insecurities, my friends, tell all of them to go away, let me be with Bobby. Trust him, let go, spend the night with him, discover where “it” might have lead. Now I understand if anything had been different, if I had left with Bobby that night I would have never had my daughter. She is the greatest gift I have been given. She is the one thing I have done right. She is my pride, my joy, the love of my life. I would not change her, change anything that put me on the road to having her. I never regret having her, keeping her. There are other things I wish I could change, regrets I do have.

I regret I didn't pay more attention at the Navy Maryland lacrosse game in 1983. I wish I had watched Bobby play instead of socializing with friends. Bobby loved lacrosse, loved his teammates. From what I have learned from everyone who knew him, who played with him, he was an amazing player. I never had the chance to really enjoy watching him play. There have been times I have found myself searching You Tube hoping someone uploaded some old Navy lacrosse footage. Praying I could see him play. Watch him play in the game he loved, even if it is only for a few minutes. In Pensacola as we sat on the deck talking, I could see the pride in his eyes as he told me about his senior year in high school he set some kind of scoring record in New Jersey. I often wonder if his record still stands. Bobby loved playing lacrosse with his brothers. Knowing how happy he was to have the ball passed to him from his brother, heaven would be to see him play with them. Passing the ball between the Bianchis. Lacrosse was such a huge part of him, I would give anything to see Bobby play the game he loved so much.

The fall of 1985 when I found myself at Kevin’s party instead of avoiding Kevin out of fear of what he must have thought of me, I wish I had the strength to walk up to Kevin and ask him about Bobby. When Kevin said he was going to tell Bobby I still looked hot, I regret not asking him to tell Bobby I was sorry for being stupid, to please have him call me. I ran into Kevin several times that fall, each time he greeted me with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. He was always so sweet, yet I was never strong enough to admit to Kevin how much I really missed his brother, how much I often thought of Bobby. I kept everything inside, afraid to share. Fearful Kevin would think I was crazy for still being so hung up on his brother. To the outside world, to Kevin, I looked as if I was getting on with my life, moving forward. When I was still very much head over heels crazy in love with the man whose mere presence drove me crazy. His brother Bobby.

After throwing Bobby’s photo, smashing it against the wall I hate myself for not replacing the glass. I picked up the broken pieces, placed his photo back on my nightstand where it had been. Several years later when my munchkin and her friends were having a Friday night slumber party in my room, his photo was ruined. In the course of the girls fun, jumping on my bed, they spilled their sodas sitting on my nightstand. Knocking over Bobby's photo over in the process. Not wanting to get in trouble for being overly goofy, afraid of being sent home, they attempted to clean up the spill. They stood his photo back up, still drenched in orange and grape soda hoping it would dry overnight. The next afternoon when I discovered what had happened it was too late, Bobby’s photo was ruined. The only remaining image I have left of Bobby is in my head. I fear with age one day that too will be lost.

February 1987, Short Hills, New Jersey, when I had the feeling someone was staring at me, I regret not turning around to see who it was. I was so close to Maplewood, Bobby’s hometown. I have often wondered if it might have been him. My brain realizes Bobby was thousands of miles away in Guam, but my heart wishes I would have turned around to find him standing there, smiling at me. I would have run up to Bobby, given him a huge hug. I would have told him I missed him. I lost track of the number of times I have longed for one more hug. To have his arms around me one more time, to feel his heartbeat next to mine if only for a minute, I can’t describe how happy that would have made me. I have often wondered if one more hug would have made a difference? If it would have been enough. Would one more hug made it easier to lose him? Bobby gave great hugs. When he held me near, when his arms were wrapped around me, everything around me was lost. All I felt and heard was Bobby. The world was still, quiet.

My biggest regret was telling Bobby I had to go when he called. If I had known it was going to be the last time I would talk to him, the last time I would hear his voice I would have never hung up. I would have talked till dawn. Experience the sunrise with him one more time. I never really got to know Bobby. I would have asked him a million silly questions, the answers that one learns about another over time. What was his favorite color? Did he have pets growing up? I would have asked what the stupidest thing he ever did? How did he get the nickname B-foul? I knew he hurt his knee in football, but what game, how? I would have given him more grief quoting Bruce Springsteen to a Maryland girl! I would have asked what his parents were like? How did his mom handle four boys? Was it strange having his youngest brother going to Rutgers (I believe) and not the Academy? He said he played football, I would have asked what position? What was he like in high school? What was his shoe size? Who broke his heart the first time? Did he always wear the number 7 jersey when he played lacrosse? If I had known it was the last time we were going to talk I would have told him thank you for the best night of my life. I would have let him know, till the day I die I will never forget or regret our night together. Bobby knew he gave me goose bumps. In Pensacola as we made love he noticed I was covered in goose bumps and asked if I was cold. I told him no, he gave them to me all the time. I remember how he paused, looked in my eyes trying to read if what I had said was true. After a few moments, he kissed me passionately, then whispered in my ear, “me too”. I wish as I was talking to him on the phone I had the courage to tell him how I felt. If given the chance all over, I would have told Bobby, call me crazy but I think from the first time I saw you I fell in love with you. It may have caused him to run in fear but at least he would have known. I regret not telling Bobby how amazing he was.

A regret I have for Bobby. I wish he had children. I am so sad there are no little Bobby Bianchis running around. No trace of him is left. His blood, his genes ended when he died. He would have been a great dad. He was so laid back, had such a huge heart, nothing would have frustrated him. He would be the Dad surrounded by all the kids wanting to play. He would have had the perfect balance of discipline and freedom. He would be the Dad instead of saying talk to you mother, he would wipe the tears from his daughter's eyes when a guy broke her heart. He would have told her it would be okay. She would know it was true because her Dad told her. He would never let his kids down. He would teach them the value of keeping a promise. He would have been a great coach to his kids. When I walk around Annapolis, see the midshipmen wearing name tags that read class of 2012 etc. I find myself thinking if Bobby had a child, they would be here by now. There would be another Bianchi playing Academy lacrosse.

I suspect Bobby meant more to me, than I did to him but I am not sure. I never had the courage to ask him how he felt. Not many girls, if any, said no to Bobby, I did. That made me a novelty. From the start Bobby made it clear he wanted to know where "we" would end up. He wanted another night, another chance to be with me. Another opportunity to see if it was our chemistry or the magic of spring break. I know in my heart he was interested in me, why else would he write, call? When he looked in my eyes I could tell he liked me, I could feel it. When I talked to him the last time, I also felt he was conflicted. I am not sure why. Was he worried what the guys would think? Was he worried he would hurt me? Was he worried what his family would think? After all I had a child. I will never have the answers. I only wish when I sensed something was troubling him, I would have asked what was wrong. Maybe I would have been able to help him find the answers.

From the first time I saw Bobby, my heart told me there was something there that was unexplainable. A feeling that made me frantic, happy, anxious, and scared. The times we were together in person or on the phone, when I relaxed, when it was only the two of us, I felt complete. He had a reputation as a ladies man, a charmer, a womanizer. Bobby may have been, but with me he was not. He had so many opportunities to walk away, forget me, yet he didn't. When I was hurt, when I cried, he stayed, he wiped away my tears, held me until the tears stopped. He wanted to make sure I was okay. Bobby was an amazing, genuine, sweet man. He was talented, athletic and extremely handsome. He was the perfect catch or as he wrote, the much better catch than any other man out there. Some people may laugh, doubt me, think I am crazy, but I understand now, in Coronado when I first met Bobby, for me, it was love at first sight. Extremely scary when you are supposedly in love and dating another man. Bobby turned my world upside down and at the time I did not understand it. I believe Bobby knew and understood why I was scared, why I was confused. Time and time again he would ask what I was afraid of, tell me to relax. He tried to assure me I would be fine, we would be fine. He understood, time held all the answers. I needed to trust him, trust what I was feeling instead of being afraid. Now I understand what I was feeling, how he was trying to help. He said on more than one occasion, "he knew". Now I understand what he knew, what I felt.

Bobby is still with me, he always will be. He is not as constant as he once was when he first died. Bobby sleeps silently in my heart, laying dormant for a while. At times he will come back to life, stay with me for a while. There are days and nights when I swear I can sense him. I can still feel him pull on my heart. I feel Bobby most when I am at the beach. At night when I am alone, when everyone is fast asleep, I sit on the deck gazing at the stars, the moon. I sit waiting for the sunlight to slowly appear over the ocean. I prop my feet up on the railing, close my eyes, feel the ocean breeze wrap around me. In the still of the night I swear I can feel him sitting next to me, smiling at me with his crazy grin and gorgeous eyes. At times it feels like Bobby is still here, like he has never left. I know he is not really with me, it is wishful thinking. There is no explaining what I feel, how strong it can be at times. Delusion or not, when it feels like Bobby is with me, I am happy. Whatever it is, always makes me smile.

My biggest fear since Bobby had no children in time he will be forgotten. He will become a name only, no longer real. No longer the amazing man he was. People will lose sight of the wonderful person he was. I hope by writing this blog, everyone will come to know Bobby, to see him as I did.

Bobby, Robert T. Bianchi, was a wonderful, good man with a gentile caring soul. He may have passed on but his character, his essence will live on as long as people remember him. He gave so much to me, I hope this blog in some small way is a gift to him. That others who knew him, are inspired to write, tell their/his story.

Maybe these blogs will become a kind of legacy where Bobby will always be remembered and loved.

Laughter, smile, tears, pain, heart ache, I would do it all over again, in a heartbeat, without a second thought. Bobby was worth every tear, every heart ache.

Lt. Robert Thomas Bianchi...Bobby, you are larger than life, you are the perfect catch. You are one hell of a man. I am the luckiest woman on earth having known you.

I miss you dearly!!