I’m just stunned typing those words. I’ll ask you to bare with me as I’m simply musing right now, and my fingers happen to be over a keyboard.
I’m weird. There’s no arguing that point. I think the thing that made me feel most odd was that I’ve always known what I want to be. I remember talking with Collin Fogel, the cover artist for Bob, about the stories we would tell. We were in junior high. I remember role playing with my friends Sean and Ben, who later became my best friend and then my brother-in-law (though we’ve considered each other brothers before I even gave my sister away at the wedding).
All my life I felt weird because everyone talked about how they didn’t know what they wanted to do. I was always like, “Dude, I’ve wanted to do this since I was 8.”
I’ve told you all how my journey began and how I was first encouraged to write.
I’ve spoken about how and why I decided to publish The Journals of Bob Drifter.
I’ve talked about how to fight fear.
On the second anniversary of this wonderful occasion, I want to talk about Bob (the book). Bob started out as a short story that no one wanted to publish. I’d put it aside to write something new because that’s sort of how I work. One day, me and Ben were talking (I never shut up around him). I mentioned off hand that I always thought it would be cool if the “every day normal” version of a grim reaper had to fight the “big and scary ‘IT’S YOUR TIME'” version of death. I think I said, “I always saw them eventually fighting.”
Ben, in his infinite wisdom said, “Dude, you have to write that book.”
So what inspired the original short story?
The first (of two) reason was in fact, Drew. In the book or in real life, Drew was pretty much a center piece of the family. He was getting on in years. Some days I’d go upstairs and sleep next to him just to keep him company (he was usually just waiting for my dad). Drew was a member of the family. Now, I’ll never argue whose dog he was. That dog loved my dad, and my dad loved him. But the credit for picking that dog goes to yours truly. (While I’m being arrogant, I’d like to point out I have this odd habit of paring things that belong together. Trust me on this, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming.)
My sister and I finally got permission to buy a dog, and we went to the local pound. I will never forget that day as long as I live. We were roaming the cages looking at these dogs. In one cage, was this knee-high dog who seemed to want to kill us. We passed a cage and saw another dog who took one look at us and immediately wet the floor. I took a step back and saw this little, brown cocker spaniel. I am not lying. He looked to his left, looked to his right, then looked right at me as if to say, “You’re seriously thinking about one of these two?”
We picked him, named him, and took him in the car. (Yes…he pooped in my car, but I got over it. He was actually a very loyal traveling companion.)
There’s a bit of debate in the family over where his name came from. You see, I fancy myself a football guru. In those days, there were two quarterbacks at the top of their game: A young Brett Favre and Drew Bledsoe.
Yeah, the name Drew was on my mind, but for the record, I have been and will ever be a 49ers fan. So, to put a long-time family discussion to rest: Yes, I liked the name Drew, and I first gave it thought because of the Patriots quarterback. (Note: This was well before the Tuck Rule and the soon-after hatred I bear for that organization.) But Drew just sort of was. He was never a Fido or Barkey. He was never a dog. He ate what we ate. He went were we went (I mean traveled…he pooped outside after that one time in the car). He was a member of the family. So when I sat down to write about what it must be like for someone who has to watch death, I thought about the relationships and what we lose when people die. I wanted to feel like some parts of us always remain.
Which brings me to my second reason:
Well, I won’t get too deep. It’s been nearly 20 years, but it’s still a bit hard to talk about. My family’s seen some rather hard times. I’m not trying to compare our troubles to others, only speak on how our troubles affected me. There were some very special people in my life that I had to say goodbye to. I won’t go into the details because I’m a private person, and not all of this information is simply mine to tell. But watching those people leave my life ripped a part of myself away. That pain found its way into Bob’s story. These people didn’t die. They simply had to leave.
So as I wrote the full version of Bob, I realized what I was writing about. Inevitably, you have to say goodbye to the people you love. Being in the military, I’ve done that quite a number of times. If anyone’s figured out how to make it hurt less, they’re smarter than I am. It hurts. Every time. Moving, deploying, death. It just fucking hurts. What I wanted was a little way for me to feel like some part of them is with me, and some part of me is with them.
Why am I saying this now? Well…because sometimes, the people we miss actually come back. Last year, when Bob was but a mere “new release” one of those people I had to say goodbye to and I reconnected. This individual had a nickname for me, and the first words the person asked were if that nickname was still approrpriate.
I only cried a bit more than I am as I type this.
You see…I’m weird. I’ve know what I wanted my whole life, and I can say my dream came true. I have new goals to pursue, and WAY more to learn about this dream occupation of mine, but I also know the happiest time in my life. It’s not any one time. It wasn’t JUST that night when I got that Facebook message. It was all the times I felt a bond form that I knew nothing would break. I remember the first time, the first WORDS I ever read to The Junior (Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, she was 1 night old). I remember teaching The Boy his first Jutsu (The Transformation Jutsu. Now he uses it to hide and ambush you with tickles. Listen, I like Anime, and a young man needs to learn his techniques). I remember the MOMENT Ben became my best friend (We were talking about a particular day on the bus, and how he was ready to stand up for me). I remember climbing trees with Collin.
I could go on forever. And that’s the point of Bob. Life goes on. The human soul, in whatever form you think of it, never goes away. It actually grows. I believe our souls grow each time we form a bond with someone new. Those bonds never break. Even the mortal limits of existence can’t erase a person, and that’s special.
So I created Bob. This guy who has the honor to take that essence of what makes us special and Pass On those memories to others, so that we never really leave.
I want to take the chance to thank all of those who’ve read it. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reviewing it. Thank you for showing interest in my work. I’ll never pretend that I don’t throw myself (figuratively) into my work. I do. Ever book I write has some part of myself in it. That’s because writing is just another form of sharing one’s soul with the world. Thank you for allowing me to share that part of my soul with you.
Happy birthday, Bob. I shall always strive to live because that’s the point of life.
Thank you for reading,