Traveling Dog Lady: an anniversary, of sorts

Thursday, February 8, 2007

an anniversary, of sorts

This day marks 19 years that I've been clean and sober. February 8, 1988 is my A.A. "birthday" or "anniversary."

It's very strange mentioning this, since it seems like another lifetime and a different person who went through all that. The idea of having a drink, getting drunk, taking drugs, is just completely foreign to me now. I even stay away from prescription and over-the-counter medication as much as possible. An extra cup of coffee can ruin my day! Booze? I wouldn't even consider drinking today.

I have most certainly moved on. I haven't attended an AA meeting in about 6 years. The last time I went to one was around my anniversary when Hobie was just over a year old. I had been having a really hard time at work, and decided I needed something. So, on a Sunday morning, I went to the open meeting at the big Mass. Electric building out on Route 9. It's a wonderful meeting -- they always have free Dunkin' Donuts donuts and coffee.

But this date of February 8th is a bittersweet one.

On my very first AA anniversary, February 8, 1989, my dear friend Bob died, apparently due to the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol. The circumstances of his death are not clear, but everyone in our circle of friends believed it was suicide. My ex-husband shared an apartment with Bob at the time, and found Bob dead in his bedroom that morning -- the morning of my first AA anniversary. Being newly clean and sober, his death devastated me. Why had I been given a second chance? Why me? Why had Bob died? Why him?

Here's Bob, on the left (he's the guy who looks like Steve Perry, the lead-singer of Journey). I'm the bride. Ex-husband is the guy w/the glasses.

Whenever we'd tell Bob that he looked like Steve Perry, he'd always reply, "I don't look like that f***in' guy!!" lol. I still think of Bob today whenever I hear a song by Journey or AC/DC. He loved music, and so did I. We had such great times together, playing records (yes, vinyl record albums) late into the night.

One of my most vivid memories of Bob is the time I had taken a vacation day from work. I was not married to the guy with the glasses yet. In fact, I was living across the hall from him and Bob, with my boyfriend at the time. Halfway through the day, I heard music coming from their apartment, and I realized Bob was home, too. I called him and he said he had taken a day off, too, and was trying to figure out the lyrics to a song on the brand-new Fleetwood Mac album "Tusk". The song was "Sara". He asked me to come over and help him figure it out. We played that song 1,000 times that day, with pen and paper, figuring out each word that Stevie Nicks baaaaah-ed in her barnyard-animal-noises way.

Sara, you're the poet in my heart,

Never change,

Never stop,

And now it's gone,

It doesn't matter what for,

But when you build your house,

Then call me. Home.

To this day, whenever I hear that song, I know that Bob is sending me a special hello from wherever he is. And yes, I sing along, and smile, and know every single word.

In the movie, "It's A Wonderful Life", Clarence the Angel says something about each person touching our lives in so many ways. Bob breezed in and out of my life quickly. He was there in 1979, and he was gone in 1989. Ten very brief years of friendship. We were like a family, me, Bob and my then-husband. Bob lived with us on-and-off for most of our brief marriage. He was like a teenage son to us, and was always a troubled soul. He would come to our doorstep in the middle of the night, having tried to live on his own and failed... and we would always take him in. Months later, some kind of fight or argument would occur (just like a family), and away he'd go. Only to return a few months after that.

In 1983, Bob returned to our house and brought with him a little friend. A black Labrador Retriever puppy whom he had named "Timba." Bob had brought the little pup out into the woods for a walk, and was trying to think of a name for her. He looked up at the trees, thought of trees falling and someone saying "timberrrrrr!!" and came up with the name Timba (with an "a" on the end, not with a New England accent!).

Husband-at-the-time wouldn't let the dog in the house. He had been brought up in a "dogs live outside" family. I loved that dog, and would sneak her in the house when husb wasn't home. I would take Timba for long, long walks every morning. All of the neighborhood dogs would follow us. We'd walk all the way from our house in Princeton to the Holden town line and back again. I looked like the Pied Piper with all those dogs! We'd drop them off at their homes on the return walk. We lived way out in the woods, and leash laws were a concept of the future in 1983 in central Mass.

By the time that particular chapter ended, Bob owed me a lot of money in back rent and household expenses. I was the breadwinner of the household, putting spouse through college and working full-time and going to school myself. I made a deal with Bob. Give Timba to me, and you won't owe me a cent. He accepted the deal. I divorced the other guy and got "custody" of Timba. Bob and my ex got an apartment together. Everything had come full-circle. When I met the duo, they were sharing an apartment, and after 10 years of "Three's Company", there they were, bachelor roommies again. It would be in that apartment that my ex would find Bob, dead in his bed, having taken too many sleeping pills. The ex would live in that apartment for several more years, with Bob's cat (ex hated cats!), until he married again and moved away. Every so often, I or someone else in our circle of friends bumps into my ex. The last time I saw him was in a grocery store parking lot, literally two weeks after Timba died. How odd. There are no coincidences.

One of the best things that ever happened to me, was due to this person, Bob, being in my life for ten years. Timba became my best and most loyal friend. At her death in 2001, I had known her longer than most of the humans in my life. Timba was the inspiration for my avocation as an writer and author -- the stories I've written about her are the basis of the creation of my web site Here's Timba, in 1983, in the kitchen of my house in Princeton.

Bob, I will always be grateful to you for bringing Timba into my life. I know that the two of you are together right now, walking in the woods together, singing songs from the 80s, and remembering me.

I downloaded several different versions of "Sara" onto my iPod. I'll play them today, along with some AC/DC, Journey and REO Speedwagon. And I'll think of Bob, and smile and cry at the same time. Here's a picture of Bob and me, in 1982, in that other lifetime.

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