Why Virginia you ask? The short answer is we're going to a very dear friend's graduation. The long answer, is more like a trip down memory lane. A trip that started 18 years ago….
A little history: Although I moved to Jacksonville in 1995 to help take care of my parents, neither one really needed the kind of "hands on caregiving" they would one day require. Dad made it clear I had a place to live, but I also needed a job. I had worked a grand total of two jobs in my life. Well three, if you count that job I did in Rhode Island where I answered the phone for a police academy. [I was the only girl (barely 18 years old) on a secluded lot … think wilderness camp. The bathrooms were, hmmm, camp like. One day during a break, I had to go so I trotted over to the wooden shed that housed rows of urinals. Urinals! I should have turned around, before my second foot crossed the threshold. Call me naive. No, call me stupid. I kept walking inside looking for the stalls, with nice clean toilets, seat covers and lots of toilet paper. I found instead, three cops with their pants around their ankles on open air toilets, no stalls, no locks insight. I blanked out the rest of the story except to say I left and never returned. I can still hear the guffawing as I ran from the place.]
For most of my married life, I shared the Navy Adventure." My thrill seeking husband went to sea and I took care of the home front. Except when I sold sewing machines. I have no idea why I picked this job, or how I got the job. Perhaps because I'd been sewing for years. But really, how hard could it be?
Well, you try tconvincing someone they could not possibly go another day without a $600.00 sewing machine. Make no mistake, this was the Cadillac of stitching devices. I was used to the $100.00 Kenmore version. If memory serves, I didn't sell too many. But I did set the security alarm one night before remembering to get something out of the store, which, when I opened up the back door, sent a silent alarm to the police department who sent a SWAT team out, in full regalia, to sneak up on the robbers (me, unaware stealth commandos were slinking their way around the building). I came away with my life. A few weeks later, when I concluded selling was not my forte, the store owner made me an offer I couldn't refuse on my very own Elna Air Electronic - still one of my prized possessions.
After I got divorced, I put in an 8 year stint as administrative assistant for the National Helicopter Association. Sounds impressive, but really I was the #2 person in a two person operation. In essence I was the person who did the dirty work. Like Mikey, the Life Cereal kid, if my boss needed someone to climb into a dumpster, heft 50lb mail sacks, crawl into ceiling duct work, get her legal papers signed by by her X-husband, take her to the hospital, and sleep on bags full of money, she asked me. I may have balked, but I never refused. Most of the job was so unbelievable I couldn't put it all on a resume.
And that my friends, is the work record I had to present future employers when I got to Jacksonville.
"Just wait," my sister told me. "My friend is about to adopt a baby and she's going to need a nanny." So that's what I did. I waited. Until one day I got a call for an appointment to meet Laura and Preston Belcher. Wonderful people who I would grow to love just like family. But I confess, I had eyes for no one but Robert. At one month old, fresh out of the hospital from a bout with RSV, he probably only weighed 6 or 7 pounds. I'd had my own children. I had a granddaughter. But I wasn't quite prepared to fall in love so fast or so hard.
Robert and I spent almost every day of the next 4 years together. I was the adult in the relationship. He was the teacher. We chased garbage trucks, rode elephants, hung Easter eggs, splashed in puddles, played "castle," watched movies, jumped on trampolines, and did most everything else a young boy can think of. When he took his first steps, I was there. I bought him his first pair of cowboy boots. I attended his birthday parties, his sporting events, and first day of school(s). I took him to swimming lessons, the doctor's office, the playground, and the Monster Truck rally.
Then my mom got sick. I needed to stay home more. Robert went to Kindergarten. The Belchers moved away. It was not the end of our relationship but things changed. What is it the priest says at the end of a wedding ceremony? "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder." There is no doubt in my mind that God joined our lives together, that March day back in 1996. In the words of that Navy advertisement - being Robert's nanny was one adventure after another, never a job.
I feel like a hypnotist just clapped his hands and I'm back in room 119 at the Econo-Lodge. The air conditioner pumps out cold air. My phone chirps to let me know I have a message or two waiting. Sweetie sleeps beside me. I don't know how long I've been typing. It's like that every time I start remembering the years I spent with Robert. Tomorrow I get to throw my arms around a man/child who stands a head taller than me, who I haven't seen in 2 years, and feel that same heart connection that time has not erased.