A.J is my oldest. In many ways, he and I have grown up together because I did have him pretty young. When he was in middle school, he went through a tough time and ran away for about eight hours.
I was pregnant and on bed rest. AJ would get out of school first, then pick up Vinnie from elementary. I would meet both boys outside on the porch, knowing that they were home safe.
One day, just like any other day, I went to my porch. I see both boys walking. Everything looks to be fine. Instead of both boys crossing the parking lot to the apartment, AJ makes sure Vinnie makes it safely up to the porch, then he takes off. No word, no “I will be back soon” nothing. He just leaves.
Immediately I start to worry. Very out of character for him. I wake Joe up (he was working nights at this time) and tell him what happened. Joe gets dress and goes looking for AJ while I question Vinnie. Vinnie was so young at the time. There is a seven-year AJ difference between the boys.
Hours go by and there is still no AJ. I called the police. The police come over, asked for pictures, looked around the apartment and told Joe and I they would keep an eye out, and after forty-eight hours, they would classify him as a runaway.
I was not having that. Six months pregnant with a high-risk pregnancy, I took matters into my own hands. I pulled on my coat, told Joe to keep an eye on Vinnie and not let him know what was going on. Joe was worried and did not want me to go. I am a fighter though, and when my children are at risk, nothing will stop me.
Nathan. Nathan and AJ have been friends since elementary school. Nathan is a good kid who had a shitty start in life. His mother committed suicide, his father in jail. Nathan’s grandmother was raising both Nathan and his sister. I knew exactly where Nathan lived and made the quick five-minute drive over there.
Maybe it was the stress, maybe the fact that I was high risk, I do not know, I was not feeling good. However, I was on a mission. I knew I had it in me to keep my oldest and youngest child safe and that was my only goal. I pull up to Nathan’s house, make my way through the long knee-length grass that was in desperate need of being cut, and knock on the door.
Eventually, Nathan’s grandmother, Nancy, opens the door. We only know each other through word of mouth. It just so happens she is a substitute teacher at Vinnie’s school. All I had to say was “Hi, sorry to bother you I am….”
And she knew.
“Of course, I know you come on in.”
She directs me to her dimly lit living room. I take a seat on the sofa, while she sits directly across from me. All of a sudden, I am surrounded by cats. Cats at my feet, cats on my lap. Everywhere I looked, there were cats, which, naturally put me at ease. It is only then that I pick up on the scent of litter boxes that need to be clean.
I ask her about AJ. I tell her I do not know where he is and ask if she has seen him or if Nathan has said anything.
Nancy tells me that she sees AJ often. She tells me he is a good kid who struggles because his own father abandoned him. She understands because, in many ways, her own grandson is going through the same thing. She assures me everything will be fine, and as hard as it is, to try to give AJ the space he needs to work this out.
I do not know if it was the authority of her words or her own experience, but I knew she was right. I knew AJ just needed a bit of time because his bio sperm donor is a lying piece of shit who has always chosen everyone else before his own son. Pretty hard stuff when you are a preteen boy.
Just like Nancy said, AJ came home late that night. We talked, we gave him his space, and we let him know that his crappy ass father is no reflection on him.
Before we knew it, life resumed back to “normal.” Nathan quickly became an even bigger presence in our life. Halloweens we would take Nathan with us trick-or-treating. Thanksgivings, Nathan would spend with us. On a few occasions, Nathan even came with us to my in-laws’ house. And please no, this is no reflection of the grandmother. She was getting old and it was just hard for her to get around like she used to.
As the years go on, both my boys remain close with Nathan and his grandmother. I send food over when I can, I give Nathan a place to crash when need be. I do what I can, and many times it was not enough.
AJ called me tonight. Crying.
It seems that Nancy is not doing too well. She only has days left. Hospice has been called, and Nathan, who now has two children of his own, is hopping on a bus from Olympia to make it here in time to say “goodbye.”
Nancy, God bless her soul, is one of the strongest women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She literally sacrificed it all for her grandchildren. She is a Spitfire. She is the epitome of strength, and even though many years have passed, we will all come together on her last days and honor her.
As of the writing of this post, Nancy passed away. Sadly, Nathan did not make it in time. He is here now though, spending time with AJ, and we will do what we can to help him through this difficult time, just like Nancy helped me all those years ago.
Sadly, in the end, there were not many people in Nancy’s life. I hope in some small way, you can all get a sense of the epitome of strength Nancy was.
Rest In Love, Nancy.