In May I began sending out my resume' and applications to the open high school English positions in the state. One fantasy I held was a job in Hudson that would allow me to remain close to D who was stationed in Eau Claire. The other fantasy was to land a job in the Fox Cities, where D's home office was located--but this fantasy meant he'd have to move along with me.
Nevertheless, I had things to move into storage over the summer months while I figured out where I'd be living during the next school year. I had a room leased at a friend's back in the river town and my old job at the bar lined up. D and I borrowed a truck from one of the three nice teachers at Arcadia and we schlepped most of my stuff into a storage unit D found for me. We arrived back in Eau Claire that Saturday to find a letter from the sheriff's department on his apartment door. No, they had not condemned his place. (Although I still believe Adult Social Services should have intervened a long time ago--D lived in squalor--a filth of his own making. The swanky bachelor pad with the black leather sofa? A HUGE figment of my over-active imagination. D lived between piles of junk mail and old Sports Illustrated magazines, he had a waterbed, for God's sake, and the only art on display was team trophies and baseballs from tournaments past. The gang at Clean Sweep would have shuddered and closed their eyes and moved on to the next gig rather than tackle D's apartment.) When D called the sheriff he learned that his family had been trying to reach him since early morning. His dad had died while sleeping.
I drove D to Iowa, only my second trip there (he'd brought me once that winter, to the delight of everyone who knew him--D referred to women as "skirts" and I was the first "skirt" he'd ever brought back home) and tried to steer clear while his family and a horde of neighbors and friends descended on his Mom's house. D's dad had hypertension and sleep apnea and it was probably the latter that killed him. They planned a funeral for Monday and no way could I stay in Iowa--I was using up my few sick days for interviews and when I did ask, the principal was pretty clear that "funeral leave" did NOT apply to your boyfriend's dad. Knowing what I know now, I should've stayed in Iowa and told the district to f*** themselves, but I was young and new to the game. Instead, I left D with his family and took his car back to Wisconsin--to work and to my barren apartment--and later that week took a half day to return to Iowa to retrieve him. Poor D. His family was really close and this ripped him up.
I regret that I wasn't more supportive. I'd never had a boyfriend whose dad died, heck, I'd never had a boyfriend whose great-aunt's second cousin's cat died. Lacking understanding and etiquette that I now know are appropriate to said situation, I'm amazed that D didn't dump me during this time. Instead, he bid me farewell when the school year ended and I loaded up my Pontiac LeMans with what remained. I was stuffed so tightly into that car that the coffee pot was balanced behind the gear shifter. There was NO room, so I left behind the shreds of my life, including a kitchen table and chairs, in the apartment above "The Flower Pot" and drove east towards familiar territory.
Before this craziness started, probably in April, D and I had planned a vacation together. New Orleans in July. We'd bought plane tickets and reserved a Creole cottage near the French Quarter. Perhaps because of our trip we didn't split. Who knows? D played baseball, softball and golf all summer. I worked 50 hour weeks at the bar 3 1/2 hours away. We saw each other more occasionally than regularly that summer. But we did go to New Orleans and we had a blast traveling together. D's a spontaneous person, he'll try anything and we crammed more fun into five days than either of us thought possible: swamp & bayou tour, aquarium, a trek through the Garden District, a multitude of delicious meals and several toxic cocktails.
Then I got the job in the Fox Cities.
I remember the evening sitting on the dock by the river's edge discussing this with him. For me it was the "do or die" moment of the relationship.
Me: I have to move to the Fox Cities. The rent will be more, but from here it's a 40 minute drive one way. I don't really have much of a choice--my time is more valuable, especially as a first year teacher.
Me: If you moved back across the state, we'd be closer--you'd be closer to your home office, closer to me. I don't see how this is going to work if you stay in Eau Claire. Besides, P (D's business partner) wants you to move over. And if you move here we could live together. Otherwise I'll have to get a roommate because it'll be too expensive. But we can't move in with each other without a ring--I'd need that much of a commitment so I know you're in it for the long haul. (Pushy much?)
D: Uh-huh. (I think 30 years of being a bachelor whizzed through his mind--Pizza Hut delivered for football games and NCAA basketball playoffs spent parked on his couch, hunting trips and softball games where he could stay out as long as he wished, last minute arrangements to sub on tournament teams, having his money and his space all to himself.)
Me: So what do you want to do?
D: (Saying the one thing he knew freaked me out the most) You don't want to have kids. I do. There's a lot we have to come to terms with here.
Me: (Silent because he played the Kid Card--the most powerful card in the deck.)
We parted ways with the big decisions yet unresolved. I started circling apartments in the classifieds, choosing El Cheapo-Rentos that I could afford alone and Two-Bedroom Clean & Carpeted that I could afford with a roommate. Summer was fading fast and in another week I'd have to report for New Teacher Training.