dontravis.com blog post #335
There were a lot page views and some comments on last week’s “Wally and Me” posting. Some people liked it while others felt it was a downer. Me? I just thought it was life.
This week, I ask your leave to say goodbye to treasured real life friend. Without further ado, I’ll let the post speak for me.
I met Bobbi ten years ago in a writing class at the Bear Canyon Center, the very class that I now co-host at the North Domingo Multigenerational Center. I walked into the classroom—open to anyone then as now—and took a vacant seat beside a tall blonde. She was busy talking to someone but soon introduced herself as Bobbi. What an inauspicious beginning to such a firm and lasting friendship. She didn’t know it at the time, but I had recently lost my wife after a four-month battle with pneumonia. She must have sensed something, because she latched onto the emotionally depleted stranger and never let go… until Easter Sunday of this year. But that comes later.
Bobbi originally hailed from Gallup, New Mexico where she was a rebellious member of a prominent family. She left home at her earliest opportunity and became a United Airlines stewardess—I guess they’re called “hostesses” these days. She retired from United and for a time piloted (yes, she was also a pilot) transport aircraft into hostile areas as a contract carrier for the US Defense Department. So by the time I met her, she had virtually been all over the world.
When I talked of my trips to Hong Kong, she topped them with much more adventurous stories of the colony. When I told her about Macau, she’d been there and won more money than I had lost at the gaming tables. When I told about my years in the army in what was then West Germany, she’d been to every place I had visited and all over the rest of Europe, as well. She was brimming with great stories based on her travels, hence her participation in the writing class.
She did publish a few of the stories, but soon became swept up in other activities like the Albuquerque Police Department’s and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Citizen’s Academies, and for good measure, the FBI’s equivalent course. She reveled in the firing range sessions and the ride-along nights. Her politics tended to waver now and then, but never her support for law enforcement. She volunteered every Thursday at APD’s crime lab on North Second Street.
And then there was the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Early October was taken up by volunteer work for the fiesta. She acted as a guide for puzzled tourists, ferried police and fiesta officials around the huge park, and even worked with Homeland Security to guard against bombers and other terrorists. I believe this was truly where her heart lay.
In the meantime, she took care of her family. Although she was married and divorced two times, she had no children. No human children, that is. But she did have a family of six dogs and three birds. The cockatoo squawked a lot, one canary sang at the drop of a hat, and the other took lots of baths. At one time, she also had a pet turtle that came to her when called. That one, I never met.
But her real children were the dogs, all of them rescue animals. Even though I became great friends with each one, I couldn’t begin to tell you what kind of dogs they were, except for describing them as small, happy, and yappy when someone showed up at the front door.
But they were not the only vagabonds she took in. A few years back, when I fell and injured my back, she saw me through the resulting operation and then took me into her home for close onto three months while I recovered.
Bobbi’s life had been plagued by health problems as well as adventures. Years before I met her, she had breast cancer, resulting in mastectomies. She had other infirmities as well but refused to allow them to get in the way of living. Not even when she was diagnosed with bone cancer a year and a half ago, something called JAX and MLS (if memory serves). She took the chemo and kept to her schedule, even when she was not feeling all that well. As the disease wore down her immune system, she was advised to avoid crowds. Although she took precautions, she continued to live her life as usual, including six days of volunteer work at last October’s Balloon Fiesta and her weekly volunteer day at the crime lab.
I went with Bobbi to most of her oncology visits and was there when they increased her chemo after her weekly blood tests began to escalate. I was with her last March when the doctor reviewed her latest blood chemistry and declared it as unsatisfactory but not alarming.
I generally phoned Bobbi after the 10:00 p.m. news and did so on Saturday the 20th. I started off by asking what kind of day she had. She might have put up a front with others, but she was usually frank with me. She told me she had a good day. No headache (she was subject to ferocious ones at times). She had worked in the yard and probably overdid it. Tired, but otherwise okay.
Easter Sunday, I decided not to call her because of the good report the previous evening. Around 11:15 that night, Rhonda, another close friend of Bobbi’s, called and asked if I had talked to Bobbi that day. She was worried because she hadn’t been able to reach Bobbi. After talking it over, Rhonda decided to call the county sheriff’s office and request a wellness visit. I told her to tell the dispatcher I would meet the deputies at the house to let them in with my key.
When I arrived, the house was dark, which was alarming. Her home has both a doorbell and a voice call button. I always used the call button. No response, except from the dogs, which were still in the living area, not back in the bedroom where they normally slept. I knew something was wrong, but I waited for the deputies before entering the house.
I did my best to keep the dogs in the living area while the deputies searched the house. They found Bobbi dead in a bathroom just off the kitchen area. I called Rhonda who said she was on her way from her home in Los Lunas, south of Albuquerque. OMI (Office of the Medical Inspector) arrived and asked us questions about her health and her doctors. Then the woman told us Bobby had been gone for at least twelve hours, but in her opinion, death had been quick.
Rhonda stayed to care for the dogs, but I remained only until OMI took her from the house. Then I left and said goodbye to a wonderful woman and fantastic friend as I wept while driving home. I arrived around 2:00 a.m. to spend a sleepless night thinking about life without Bobbi…poverty-stricken by her absence, yet rich with memories of her.
Sort of strange that I made Bobby the narrator of the “Wally and Me” posts, and now I am saying goodbye to a flesh and blood Bobbi. Thank you for letting me express my feelings for this extraordinary woman who enriched my life.
Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!
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See you next week.
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