In late August of ’03 when I left Venice to move to DC for my job, I didn’t know how to leave our home. It was all I had known for eight years, the longest I’d ever lived in one spot, and the most prominent bearing was the Billy factor. I boarded up the back house, leaving it intact with every one of Billy’s fingerprints in place and rented out the front house; first to a thirtysomething couple who systematically destroyed it, then to a friend who helped repair it. There’s nothing left of Billy and I in that house other than its walls, the familiarity of the path from the bedroom to the toilet, and the vintage stove that we bought in ’95 on which I cooked us a thousand meals.
With Bob in the back of my Explorer on his soft blue bed, we drove across the country, sharing an adventure just as Billy and I had in ’94. Bob couldn’t keep the dialogue going like Billy had, but he did his best to look interested while I talked to him, frequently stopping to take walks on the grass patches of desolate gas stations along Route 40. Bob and I settled into our downtown DC apartment; he soon became accustomed to riding in an elevator and even winter temperatures, but I lost Bob one Friday night late last June when I least expected it. I had the ridiculous notion that he would live to be fourteen, and we’d ride back home where he’d once again chase cookies in his backyard, but I guess it was time for him to go see his daddy.
After coming home for a few months to an apartment that was still embedded with Bob’s short black course hair, each night opening the door and wistfully announcing, “I’m home, Beez,” when I knew there’d be no cocked head or excitement for a walk, I moved out of the city closer to my office in Silver Spring, Maryland. There was no Bob hair to pick up and remember, just a mahogany box that held his ashes. It was in this apartment that I brought the law into my life, and I lost my dad.
During the second weekend I moved to DC, the 2003 Labor Day weekend to be precise, I met Joe, and he’s made my displacement fun, complicated, and safe. Joe gave me a foundation, one that I never thought possible again. In a storm of repetitive resistance, he loved me, and I love him back.
After Bob passed away in my arms with a frightened and painful grimace frozen on his face, Joe was there to carry his limp body to the vet emergency room in a futile attempt to revive him. When I called Joe from my dad’s ICU room, he hopped on the next flight to be by my side, rubbing my shoulders as the doctor’s vainly attempted to bring my dad back.
I’m going to hate leaving the on-site support and friends I’ve nurtured over the past two years at work, and even though Gretchen and Jamie and Jim and the hundred others will continue to be central in my job, contact will be relegated to calls, IMs, and emails. I’ll be in a satellite office, not headquarters, and I’ll need to create a presence as key as the one that thrived in Silver Spring while I’m creating a brand new department for the network. It won’t be easy, and the thought of failure brings violent vertigo.
I’m most looking forward to the meditation of the open road, though. Although I won’t have Bob to keep me company, I’ll stop in southern Illinois to see the Ledbetters for a day or two, then it’s down to the desert with the biggest sky in the world overhead and the white lines of the road speeding under my wheels.
Joe and I both fear June 22nd after the movers have packed up all of my things into their truck, and we’ll stand by my Explorer, holding each other, not wanting to let go, but this upcoming moment was built into our relationship from the moment it started. That fact won’t make it any easier. We’ll cry and I will hug him as hard as I can, saying things that attempt to soothe the burn of a goodbye, and I will mean it.