07 June 2015

You Sometimes Find Out the Damnedest and Saddest Things When You Google A Former Acquaintance -- Remembering Justin

A photo I found on the internet that Justin took.

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
- From 'The Circle Game' by Joni Mitchell

The first person I ever babysat is dead. I googled Justin the other day for the first time only to discover that he died latest December.

In the mid Seventies I was living with Becky in Chico. I was 21 and she was 19. We moved in together less than a week after meeting. Our relationship lasted almost exactly a year. About the only things we had in common were hearty appetites for sex and alcohol which we enjoyed indulging together. I’m embarrassed to say that she left me and not the other way. Becky did not possess a towering intellect or indeed any intellect at all. We clearly had no future together and I was the last person to recognize that.

I was going to college and she was working at a fast food restaurant. Becky got friendly with one of her co-workers a married woman named Robin. She was married to Bill and they had a three year old named Justin.

We babysat Justin a few times. He was a cute precocious kid and I enjoyed his company. The feeling seemed mutual. When Becky split I remained friends with Bill, Robin and Justin. Bill and I had a fair amount in common and although Robin seemed a bit snooty she was okay. Justin I liked a lot as I mentioned before.

I ended up — as we said in those days — crashing at their apartment for a Summer so naturally we all grew close. The downside to this was that they were born again Christians. It was odd because fundamentalist Christianity didn’t seem to mesh with their personalities or lifestyle. Bill regularly attended the Assembly of God church and church related functions. It will foreshadow future events to say that Robin was more about talking the talk than walking the walk when it came to the church. For about a month or so I got caught up in the whole Jesus saves deal as I detailed in an earlier blog post. This was actually quite funny because I was an all star sinner at the time and thus my brief flirtation with religion was unmitigated hypocrisy.

Another thing going on with Bill and Robin was that they were perpetually broke. They would regularly write bad checks to buy groceries. Of course they were convinced that the power of prayer would rescue them from poverty. I had plenty of drinking and smoking money but nothing else to spare so was of little help. A good friend of Robin’s once visited from Ohio and gave them a loan and later my brother did too. My brother and Bill met in Berkeley when the two of us came down for a visit and because fast friends owing to their mutual friendship with Jesus.

Eventually I became involved in the school newspaper and then its transition into an independent paper and also with finishing my degree and also with chasing women and drinking and using drugs. I had little time for Bill and Robin and Justin. Anyway Robin was becoming increasingly aloof and her disapproval of me was obvious. I could do without her false piety.

I didn’t see much of them for about a year when I heard somehow that Bill had managed to send Robin on a European vacation. Alone. I mentioned this in passing to my brother and he hit the roof. Bill had never repaid the loan he gave and here he was sending his wife on an expensive vacation. My brother wrote a letter and trusted me to give it to Bill. I never peaked it but was quite certain he let have it.

I tracked Bill down and found that he was working at a cemetery. I gave him my brother’s letter. He read it as if he fully agreed with my brother’s sentiments. I always knew Bill to be an honorable fellow despite his less than forthright financial dealings. I always liked him too.

It was then that Bill told me about Robin. She had met a man on some sort of cruise during her European vacation, a rich older chap, and they had fallen in love and she was going to divorce Bill and marry this rich guy. I was shocked but not surprised. I had always doubted Robin’s integrity. As I noted earlier she talked a good game but couldn’t back at it up by so much as going to church on Sundays.

Bill seemed more angry than anything else. He had spent some time with Robin after she came back and lowered the boom. He said that for that short time “they were never closer.” Which I took to mean there was some pretty serious sex between them. Bill met the guy who cuckolded him too. He had told Bill that he knew it was true love between himself in Robin because he “could see it in her eyes.” Bill repeated this and scoffed. He clearly thought it was a load of bullshit.

Anyway he had Justin who was about five by now and was not letting Robin get her mitts on him.

It was another two years before I saw Bill and Justin again. Bill had a very pretty girlfriend and seemed quite happy. Justin was still very cute and was clearly going to grow into handsome young man. Bill said that Robin had tried a couple of time to have Justin visit her but Bill didn’t trust that he’d ever see his son again if that happened and thus refused. Bill was a good dad.

That was 1980 and I haven’t seen nor heard from Bill since. I googled him but his name is too common. Justin I managed to find and there he was just a few months deceased.

There were scant details. He lived in Hawaii where services were held. I know it was him because his father was listed as William and his mother as Robin. Bill lived in San Diego and Robin in Switzerland. There was nothing about cause of death. Somehow this was extremely frustrating to me. It makes a big difference to me whether a person died of drug overdose, or cancer, or in a car accident or suicide, or heart attack.

Justin was 42 years old married and had a daughter. Among those who survived him were a brother in California who must have been another child of Bill’s and a sister from Switzerland who must have been Robin’s.

I couldn’t find a whole lot about him other than that he took some very nice photos like the one above. There were a few hints about Justin but not enough to form a clear picture of who he had been, what kind of life he led. I sure hope Justin enjoyed his 42 years.

Justin did have a twitter account. For his bio he had just written: “Beautiful family, living in paradise, with good friends, good food, good beer...what else is there?”

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