When Bobby returned to New York to live with us again, my parents insisted that he find some means of employment so that he could make a living. Before he joined the Marines, Bobby had grown close with the father of his ex-girlfriend Vivian named Klaus. Klaus was a mason and Bobby had done some work with him at times to make some extra bucks. A hard drinking but good hearted man, Klaus struck me as a more good natured version of Robert Shaw’s memorable character Quint from the movie ‘Jaws’. I think it was his work and friendship with Klaus that inspired Bobby to take up masonry. He enrolled in a masonry program and upon completion became a union bricklayer.
Bobby continued to live my parents house, as I did. My brother John had been married since 1987 after he and his girlfriend Lisa had a baby girl born that summer. During his stay with us, Bobby got into a stormy relationship with one of Lisa’s girlfriends. While their relationship was in its last throes, Bobby started working on the refacing of what was then a department store called Sterns at the Broadway Mall in Hicksville, where his attention was caught by a blonde haired woman named Chris, who worked at a travel agency just a stone’s throw away. Bobby and Chris had actually been acquainted with each other during their teenage years. The two of them started going out and as with my brother John and his girlfriend Lisa, Bobby and Chris decided to get married after he got her pregnant. They got married on New Years’ Day of 1990 in a small ceremony conducted at the church of a pastor who lived across the street from my parents’ house at the time. While Chris had a friendly personality, I never warmed up to her the way I had with Regina. Chris had a face that vaguely resembled Uma Thurman, but she had these bugged out looking eyes that made it difficult for me to maintain prolonged eye contact with her when I would speak with her.
Their first child, Sean, was born in February of 1990 while I was spending a semester in Albany, New York as an intern in the New York State Assembly. They rented the upstairs of a house in East Meadow and my mom would help them out with watching Sean for them and chipping in for formula and diapers. A second child, a girl they named Krystal, was born in 1993. But Bobby and Chris’s marriage was not exactly a paragon of stability. They both drank and did drugs and they argued frequently. In another apartment they lived in in Hicksville, when mom, dad and I visited, we were disturbed to find several holes in the wall that were created by Bobby’s fist during one of those arguments. They ended up separating, either in late 1993 or early 1994, my memory failing me on that point. Bobby got into some kind of trouble with the law and was told that if he did not undergo treatment for alcoholism, he would go to jail. Bobby opted for the alcoholism treatment program.
While this was going on, my parents were spending the winter of 1994 down at their condo apartment in Florida. I don’t remember where John was at the time, but I did not see much of him that year. Thus, when Bobby checked himself in for an alcoholism treatment program at the Nassau County facility in Plainview, I was basically the only family member who was around to support him. I visited him often and we started to develop a close bond that I never really had with him before. After his rehab program ended, he began to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly and he shared the first floor of a rental house with his AA sponsor. Even though I was an atheist, I would sometimes attend AA meetings with Bobby in a show of support and I participated with him in the AA bowling league that would play on Friday nights at the bowling alley in Plainview.
By 1995, Bobby’s AA sponsor moved out and Bobby reconciled with Chris. She and the kids moved in with him at the rental house in Hicksville. Chris herself, having been on welfare for the past year, was studying to be an LPN as part of a program to get off welfare. However, she would end up dropping out of the program as she got pregnant with a third child, another boy named Bobby Junior, who was born in 1996. Chris had also cleaned up her act and was drug and alcohol free at the time.
The mid-1990’s proved to be a halcyon era for Bobby and our family as a whole. We often would have family dinners during the holidays at their place and in the summer months Bobby loved to demonstrate his prowess at cooking steaks and burgers on the grill. During football season I would spend Sundays over at Bobby’s place watching the Jets and the Giants while munching on buffalo wings and playing the role of uncle with my two nephews and niece. Life was still hard for Bobby and Chris, and at times they had trouble making ends meet. Bobby also still displayed that famous temper of his. But each year that passed by with Bobby staying sober seemed to confirm that his drinking problem would remain a thing of the past.
To be continued...