I'll admit I hadn't thought about Joe Wellington in years. The times he did pop up was when I'd see the book, "The Bone People" on the shelf. But I didn't really think about him.
Then, in April 2013 I began to pack up our belongings after the sale of our house in preparation for the BIG move overseas, I saw the book again and thought of him. And BAM. Memories from San Francisco came flooding back.
At this point in time, I was very excited about the move to New Zealand but nervous. Not only had I quit a job that I loved, but I was going to be a full-time mom. Of course, moms are always "full-time" so it never seems fair to say that. But taking care of my son was going to be the only thing I have to do. Who was I going to hang out with? While my husband would be able to socialize with co-workers, what was I going to do? What's in it for me?
When I saw the book on the shelf that Joe gave me with his inscription, I was giddy. I ran out of the bedroom to my husband in the living room shouting, "I will have a friend! I can find Joe! I know this guy there!"
So, April 2013 was the beginning of the search for Joe Wellington.
My husband and I flipped open our lap tops and immediately searched Facebook. There were several Joe Wellington's that popped up but none in New Zealand and none that looked even close to what I remembered.
We Googled. Unfortunately, nothing promising there, either.
A link brought me to a page for someone named Joe Wellington in New Zealand who passed away from AIDS. I gasped, hopeful this wasn't him. A quilt made for this person with things on it that honored what that particular Joe enjoyed during his time here didn't bring any recognition. I suppose it could be the Joe I am looking for, but I'm hopeful that my search will not lead me to that end. There is a link to be able to contact The New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt makers but I'm not sure I'm ready for this task quite yet.
My next attempt at searching for Joe was as soon as we got to Wellington in July 2013. Living in temporary housing for the week, I grabbed the phone book out of curiosity and found one or two J. Wellington's living in Wellington. There were actually quite a few 'Wellington' names listed and I thought about calling them.
When I suggested this to my husband, he asked me what I would say if I were to call.
"Hi, I'm looking for a Joe Wellington, " I rehearsed.
"And what if they say 'ok, yes, I know him' or 'that's me'?" My husband, helpful and curious.
"Then I would say, 'oh is this Joe Wellington who is in his mid-thirties? Possibly visited San Francisco in December 1998'?"
My husband thought it was a long shot but was supportive.
My nerves rattled, I admit I've not made any of those phone calls yet. We've been living here for five months and I have yet to find the courage. Expect that this will be on my list of things to do in order to search.
I've done a few more internet searches since being here only to be directed to "Tequila Joe's", a restaurant in Wellington.
It took two months for our container to arrive in New Zealand with all our furnishings. During that time, I prayed that my journals from my youth would provide me with information about Joe. Maybe confirmation that his surname is in fact Wellington.
I also emailed my parents and asked if they remembered meeting him in Minnesota. "Of course", they said. But that was it. They remembered having dinner with him and watching a movie. They remembered the NAME of the movie, "There's Something About Mary", but they didn't remember his last name or anything else. They even had a two- hour conversation with him while driving him to the airport. But that was it.
When our belongings arrived in September 2013, first thing I did was grab my journals. Anyone who knows me, knows I have been an obsessed journal-writer since I was eight. And I have every single journal from that age, too. Finding the one dated 1998-1999 was a challenge. And I found the part where I wrote about San Francisco. But do I mention Joe?
I wrote about the Australian couple I met but not about Joe. Nothing. So bizarre. Not even his name.
I will continue to wade through my writings, but it will take time.
In the meantime, I continue to gawk at every man on the street who may or may not look like Joe. I must remember that we saw each other a very long time ago and I have no clue what he looks like today.
This should get very interesting.