Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Losing a Friend Part I




On this day, forty nine years ago, I joined the United States Army. January 27th, 1960 was also the day my future best friend, Big Bob, was drafted in the Army. We didn’t meet that day. I was on a train from Downingtown, PA to Philadelphia, where I would switch over to a Trailways bus that would deposit me at Ft. Dix, New Jersey to begin basic training. Bob was headed to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina on a troop train for his basic training. We wouldn’t meet until March when we both arrived at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts for Army Security Agency schooling.

I don’t remember the exact moment we met at Ft. Devens, but we became best friends almost immediately. We were both from the same area of Pennsylvania thus sharing weekend rides to our homes in the suburbs of Philadelphia. We probably met the first time on one of those rides.

For the six months that we went to Army Security Agency schooling at Ft. Devens, we spent almost every spare minute together. Ironically, after I left the Army in 1963 I came out about my sexual orientation and discovered that Bob was also gay. He never suspected I was gay nor did I ever give a thought to Bob’s sexual orientation. Our friendship was not based on sexual attraction (contrary to what many straight people think, not all gay men are attracted to all men) but on a commonality of interests and enjoying each other’s company.

After schooling ended Bob and I went out separate ways. I was assigned to Ft. Meade, Maryland and Bob was assigned to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. We kept in touch the next two years by mail.

A few months after I got out of the service in January 1963, I came out to my family and friends. I made the decision that I didn’t want to live my life as a lie (as I did when I was in the Army working at the National Security Agency with a top secret clearance that I could lose at any time if my sexual orientation became known.) To my great surprise, and to Bob’s, we both became aware of each other’s true sexual identity.

From the years since 1963, Bob and I continued our best friend relationship. When I met Bill in July of 1964 (my life partner since then and the one who isn’t speaking to me now), it was Bob who I confided in. Bob met Bill and the three of us have been close friends over the years.

Ironically, Bob is the reason I’m living in Delaware now. Over the years when Bill has had one of his episodes of not speaking to me, I would take off and visit Bob at his home in the woods outside Georgetown, Delaware. Usually, by the time I got home Bill would be over his funk. I came down to this area of Delaware so many times over the years that I came to look upon it as my second home. When taxes forced me out of my home in Pennsylvania, Delaware was at the top of my list for a new home. Thus it was with great joy that I moved to Delaware in the summer of 2006. Little did I know at that time it was the beginning of the loss of my close friendship with Bob.

To be continued.

2 comments:

  1. Ron,

    Don't keep us waiting to long for the other shoe to drop.

    Lar

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's just what I was getting ready to do when I signed on this morning and read your e-mail on this snow and ice day. It is a good day to stay inside and tell this sad story.

    ReplyDelete