Bob Lanning tells the story of his 46-year polyamorous relationship with two other military men.
Bob Lanning met Don in 1966. They met Keith in 1971.
And they were together until Don’s recent death.
Keith and Bob are married now, but they miss Don every day. As Don says, “After 46 years, it was like a lifetime, so we go on.”
In his words:
My name is Bob Lanning and I’m from Altoona, Washington. Don and I met in San Francisco, October 1966. And we met at the Missouri Mule, and I heard him order a drink at the bar and he told them he wanted a Manhattan. And I said to my friend, “Oh my God look it’s a real live New Yorker.”
And he said, “Yes I am, I’m from Long Island, New York.”
And I said, “Well how would you like to take a real live actress home and fuck her?”
And he said, “Okay!”
And so that was the beginning.
I loved Don for his sense of humor, which was dry to a lot of other people. Don was a captain for Trans World Airline, he was their youngest captain ever. Being a captain for TWA, he might be gone two weeks, three weeks, so even though we were partners I would only see him like each time he came home. In 1971, when I was managing a bar in San Diego, Keith came in–his ship was stationed down there–and he came in in uniform, and when I saw him walk through that door with his dixie cup and white uniform I said, “Oh my god, I’m having that sailor.” But everyone else wanted him too. And I lucked out and I got him.
I asked Keith if he would be willing to try a threesome, and when Keith said yes, he would be willing, then we went to Don and the three of us sat down and discussed if this might be a possibility. And Don said yes as well. We would try it because he would rather that I had one person, because during that period AIDS became so prevalent that if I had one partner I would be a lot less apt to get ill, from many different things, maybe, but mainly AIDS, which was killing our friends, and killed many of them.
So we did give it a try, and 43 years later, Keith and I are still together. It sounds strange to other people, but we didn’t do it for other people. We did it for ourselves. It worked very well for us. Even though we were all three military, his being Air Force, Keith and I being Navy, and myself, Marine Corps.
Don was the better cook of the three of us, though we all three cook. I like to clean, and I’m kind of anal about everything has to be neat and everything has to be in order. Keith would do the dishes after a dinner party, and I would set the table and put the flowers and invite the guests. We liked to dance. We went to many clubs, we bowled, we traveled all over the United States, we had several trips to Europe. Don was at his best when we were out dining, where he had a bottle of wine and a delicious plate of escargot. That’s when he would start telling us stories and, even if we’d heard them before, we were drinking and eating too so they held us in rapt.
We had shared so many memories together. And held each other when our parents died. All three of our parents brought us up the same way: “Excuse me, I’m sorry, Please, Thank you.” It just kind of comes natural, like holding the door for a woman, that my mom said you hold a door for a lady, until nowadays when I try to hold a door for a lady and they look at me and go, “I can hold my own door,” and I let go of it and I say, “Yes you can.”
Don became ill about two and a half years ago. He discovered superficial cancer on his back and on his arms, and small places on his face. Which, they were able to remove very simply and we thought that was it. Then one day, the three of us were in the front room having a cup of coffee and Don said, “Bob, there’s something wrong with this pectoral.” And I felt it. He had a huge lump in his chest. So they did a mastectomy and removed it and then a couple months later, they discovered he had a huge mass on his liver. That took him pretty quickly, because once they started doing chemo, they decided they would use an experimental chemo, and that just about… He couldn’t eat anymore, he couldn’t drink anymore, he couldn’t do anything basically. He went from a robust 245 pounds down to 98 pounds.
If it hadn’t have been for Keith, I probably would have just said, that’s it. I just can’t do it anymore. But Keith being there with me to help me and get me through it.
We since then sold our house and we got married, finally, because it was just the two of us. Having this relationship for all these years, both of the guys have taught me to accept more people for the way they are. We miss Don a lot to this very day. After 46 years, it was like a lifetime, so we go on.
Originally published at ImFromDriftwood.com. I’m From Driftwood envisions a world where every lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer person feels understood and accepted, and every straight person is an ally.
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