“The Paperback Edition”

I was entering my junior year of high school and I had started to think ahead to college.  There were meetings with counselors and applications and forms to fill out.

I had always dreamed of becoming an elementary school teacher.

Bobby, who was actually very smart, was causing his teachers a lot of worry.  They knew there was a good chance he would not graduate unless he buckled down and hit some good grades this…his senior year.

He was well liked by his teachers and they were all too willing to bend the rules a little for him.   It wouldn’t have been the first time.

“Bobby, you have such potential, you shouldn’t waste it,” they would tell him.  They had even talked to me…knowing and understanding the strong bond we shared.

But Bobby hated the word ‘potential’.  He had heard it too often from his father who had wanted him to start working in the family hardware store immediately after graduation from high school.

For most young boys at that time, that would have been an easy, golden career path…but not for Bobby.

Bobby wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after high school.

“I just want a choice, Sammy.” he had told me so many times.  “I just need a little time to think and decide what I want to do  with my life.”

But…Bobby needed to graduate from high school…to not do so would reflect badly on the Flanagan name.  And his proud father, Jack, was having none of that.

Jack’s plan for Bobby’s future had been decided years ago…his charming son was not going to change it.

And yet… Bobby did just that.

 

“The Paperback Edition”

Without warning…on a beautiful sunny October day, with Fall shadows still a few weeks away, Bobby shook the ground I stood on.

Without telling me what he was going to do…Bobby Flanagan walked away from me…walked away from us.

He signed up for a six-year enlistment in the U.S. Navy, two days after he had turned seventeen.

He was certain that the Navy would offer him so many more opportunities than the life his father his planned for him.

After days and nights filled with my tears that wouldn’t stop, Bobby’s words were of little comfort.

“It’ll be okay,” he said after wiping my tears away.   “We can do this, Sammy.  You know we can.”

And yet he had never asked me…before enlisting… what I thought about his decision…or how I felt.

In my heart and in my head, I knew how much this meant to him.  I knew how important this was for him.

I only wished that I also knew that I was just as important to him…that he loved me as much as he loved his new, shiny-bright future.

What Samantha didn’t know…what would have changed everything…was how many tears Bobby had cried when the reality of his quick decision, the reality of his leaving her set in…even though he was sure it was the best solution for their future together.  But…he never told her.

What Samantha didn’t know…was that leaving her was the hardest thing Bobby had ever had to do…and it was breaking his heart.  But…he chose not to tell her.

He was barely seventeen and she was yet to turn sixteen…

 

The Paperback Edition…

It all happened so fast.  Two weeks later Bobby was gone…gone from my life…seemingly forever…because that’s how you feel when you’re fifteen.

That lost, lonely feeling was back, causing more hurt than before.

I didn’t have Bobby there to know without me saying…why I had dark shadows under my eyes.

It’s hard to sleep when angry shouts and the sounds of broken glass are cutting through your dreams.

I had no Bobby to gently take my hand and softly give it a squeeze…silently telling me that he understood…and how much he cared…while the morning chatter of sleepy students was echoing around us in the halls.

There was no Bobby to sling a comforting arm of support around my shoulders…making me feel I could get through this.  No Bobby to tell me…we would get through this…together.

Together was gone.

The Paperback Edition

Letter writing was hard for Bobby those first weeks.  Boot camp was tough, I knew that.

I wrote to him every day…sometimes twice…each time telling him how much I missed him and loved him and sharing everything that was happening to me.

Bobby’s few letters were filled with his new adventure.  “Everything’s great!” he said.

“I love you Sammy…I miss you so much!”

It wasn’t a good time for me.  Mel had met the love of her life, Stuart Archer and spent every moment with him…just as I had done with Bobby.  I understood.  But…

I was beyond lonely.

Then one night, three days before Christmas Eve, the front door bell rang.  There on our front step stood Bobby in his full Navy-Blue uniform…looking so very handsome.

“Hey Sammy…Merry  Christmas!”

His heart-melting Irish grin was plastered from ear to ear and his arms were opened wide.

I was in those arms before he could say one more word.  His signature cologne, Old Spice, smelled like heaven.

Even though only a few weeks had passed, Bobby seemed more mature and definitely more confident about his life…and he was so happy.

He talked a lot about his future…his future…he kept saying “his” future.  I know, I know…he meant “our” future.

I was sure that Bobby’s feelings toward me and toward us had not changed.

I had just turned sixteen.

The two weeks flew by like two days…we spent every minute together.  One night he took me shopping and he bought ‘his girl’ a black dress and a pink necklace to wear on their last night together before he had to leave…and he said, “I love you Sammy”  And then…

And then…as quickly as he had appeared…he was gone.  I was even more lonely than before.

Bobby’s letters became shorter and shorter and there were fewer of them.

He said he loved me and missed me.  I knew that he did…but sometimes it seemed like an afterthought.

His life had changed so much and he was different.  Mine had not.  I was not.

I wanted to understand.  But every time I read another short letter…filled with all his new experiences…I felt forgotten and unimportant…replaced by the excitement of Bobby’s new life in the Navy.

Six months ago, I was Bobby’s life.

Dear, sweet Mel tried to make me feel better.

“He’s busy, Sam.  He’s got a lot of new stuff going on…Bobby adores you.  You know that.”

Every night I went to sleep…wearing an Old Spice scented,  blue plaid shirt that Bobby had given me…tears trying to escape my eyes.