I flew back to the States in December of 1992 with conflicting emotions. I was excited to see my family and friends. But I was sad to be away from Steve.
Part of the problem was that the process didn’t seem to make any sense. First I had to show up in the States and prove I was actually present, or I would never be allowed to immigrate back to Australia. And, oh yeah, the person to whom I had to prove my presence was not, at the moment, present herself.
Checks for processing fees went missing, as did passport photos, certain signed documents. I had to obtain another set of medical exams, blood work, tuberculosis tests, and police record checks--and in response, I got lots of “maybe’s” and “come back tomorrow’s.” It would have been funny, in a surreal sort of way, if I had not been missing Steve so much.
This was when we should have still been in our honeymoon days, not torn apart. A month stretched into six weeks. Steve and I tried keeping our love alive through long-distance calls, but I realized that Steve informing me over the phone that “our largest reticulated python died” or “the lace monitors are laying eggs” was no substitute for being with him.
It was frustrating. There was no point in sitting still and waiting, so I went back to work with the flagging business.
When my visa finally came, it had been nearly two months, and it felt like Christmas morning. That night we had a good-bye party at the restaurant my sister owned, and my whole family came. Some brought homemade cookies, others brought presents, and we had a celebration. Although I knew I would miss everyone, I was ready to go home.
Home didn’t mean Oregon to me anymore. It meant, simply, by Steve’s side.
When I arrived back at the zoo, we fell in love all over again. Steve and I were inseparable. Our nights were filled with celebrating our reunion. The days were filled with running the zoo together, full speed ahead. Crowds were coming in bigger than ever before. We enjoyed yet another record-breaking day for attendance. Rehab animals poured in too: joey kangaroos, a lizard with two broken legs, an eagle knocked out by poison.
My heart was full. It felt good to be back at work. I had missed my animal friends--the kangaroos, cassowaries, and crocodiles.