Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I had the most wonderful surprise a couple of weeks ago! I received an email from my niece, Amanda, that she was in the area (all the way from New Mexico) with her husband and four kids to visit the husband's family here in Georgia, and wondered if I was anywhere near to where they were in Lafayette, Georgia. Well, uh, yeah...I was about fifteen minutes away from there! We made a plan for me to drive there to visit with her, and then possibly make plans for her to come to my home before they left on that Friday. I hadn't seen her since 2003 when Melody, Garrett and I drove to Panama City, Florida for a very brief visit with her and Kathy, so I was full of anticipation. But first, a little history...

This is my sister, Kathy, pregnant with Amanda. As most of you know, back in 1978, I found my birth family, which included an aunt and five half-siblings. A few months later, in May 1979, one of those siblings, Kathy, came to live with us in Colorado. She was a single mother of a small boy (Jacen) and was pregnant again...and needed a place to live for awhile. Being a new big sister, I was quick to say "sure, come on down!". They moved in, and in the beginning all was well as we got to know each other. Then we began to get on each other's nerves. She eventually found a little trailer to move into, and in Sept. 1979 gave birth to her little girl, Amanda, and I was in the delivery room to welcome her into the world.

Kathy moved into a little apartment, and we co-signed for her to get a phone. All was not well with us for one reason or another, and she got into a church situation that bordered on being a cult, which I disapproved of. We rarely saw each other, and for some reason there are no photos of Kathy and I together during that entire year even though we were new family, and there aren't even any photos of me and Amanda, which I find so strange! Anyway, almost a year after she came to Colorado, Kathy and the two kids vanished. Literally. She moved to Las Vegas and didn't even tell me she was leaving. And left us with a huge phone bill.

Flash forward to 1989, ten years later. Kathy, who I was still in touch with occasionally, called to say that she needed a big favor. She was now the single mother of three kids - Jacen, Amanda, and Brandon - and had been having a very difficult time. She had been in an abusive relationship with a guy named Jim, and he had molested Amanda. She was trying to get out of the situation, and wondered if she could send Brandon and Amanda to stay with me for the summer. I said yes.
Their faces show that they were happy to be with us, and I know I was delighted to have a chance to get to know the little girl I had welcomed into the world! We lived in the country, and had four dogs, three cats, a new litter of kittens and three horses (actually, they were more like big dogs, but that's a whole other story). It was a dramatic change from the life they were used to! Amanda especially loved the horses.

Look at the joy and excitement on her face! I think this must have been the very first time she had ever been on a horse.

As happy as they look in these photos, all was not well. Amanda was, not surprisingly, acting out in so many ways. We started butting heads big time. I remember one time her stomping out of the house and across the pasture, with me in hot pursuit, screaming at her that she damn well would listen to me and to come back to the house! Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse, and my hopes of being the favorite aunt who showed them the good life turned sour for all of us. After four weeks, I had to call Kathy and tell her that the kids needed to go home. I am not proud of that. And for years afterwards, to this very day, anytime I thought of Amanda, I remembered those four weeks and felt that I had let her down in so.many.ways.

As the years went by, Amanda's life did not get any better. She lived thru several of Kathy's dysfunctional boyfriends and religions, as well as a life at poverty level in the home of a single mother with three kids, and eventually got into drugs and went to rehab. She herself became the single mother of three children beginning at age 18. Other than that oh so brief visit with her in Florida in 2003 (literally maybe 30 minutes), we had not been in touch all those years.
So, here we were in June 2010, seven years since I had last seen her, and only the third time in her life that I'd spent time with her. As we sat next to each other on the couch in her in-laws home, everyone excused themselves so she and I could visit. After we exchanged details about each other's lives, I expressed to her, with a shakey voice and near tears, that I had never forgotten that summer that she and Brandon had visited us in Colorado, and how I had always felt that I had let her down and was so sorry. To my surprise, she said she had always remembered that period of time, even my chasing her across the pasture, and that it had a great deal to do with where she was today.

She said that the visit had shown her what a 'normal' and stable life could be like, and that that was something she wanted for herself someday, though it took her a while to get there. It also fueled her love of horses. For the last three years, she has been married to a real cowboy, and they live on a 'ranch' and home that was built by his grandfather, some 300+ acreas...with horses. She's a stay-at-home mom with three kids and a step-son, and credits her memories of those four weeks with us as an example that she lives by. I was astonished to hear this...and relieved.

On their way out of town to head back to New Mexico, the whole family stopped by our house for a few hours. And this time we took every combination of photo possible! (Don't worry, I won't show all of them!)

Here we are, thirty-one years after we first met!

I kept saying that I thought that Amanda and my daughter Melody look so much alike, but I may have been the only one to see it. I think they have the same cheekbones and smile.

This is her cowboy, Scott. Just the nicest guy! And they seem to be very happy.

I'm so glad to have a photo of my daughter and grandsons with my niece and her children, and hope that someday they will be digging out the photos and remembering back to when they all met on that incredibly hot and humid day in Georgia.

Thirty-one years ago I saw a little girl take her first breath, and was one of the first ones to hold her. I was so pleased to be able to tell that girl now a woman how proud I am of her, and how proud she should be of herself, to have gone thru so much in her early life and to come out the other end with this lovely family and life that she has made for herself.
New Mexico is a long way from Ringgold, Georgia! We've promised to keep in touch when we can and if we want, but no pressure or expectations. Even if I never see her again, I will always remember this visit...and this time have the photos to mark the occasion!


glnroz said...

Circles can be unexpected sometimes, can't they? :),, Thnx for letting us hear this story,,

Wendy said...

Wow, I'm continually surprised at how much I don't know about your life and family. It's so wonderful that she's doing well. And that picture of Davie with the kids is so great.

lakeviewer said...

I do hope you and she stay in touch. She needs stability and you have been steady with her even for only a few weeks that summer. She knows what she needs.

Donna said...

You have the MOST interesting life and family...you should write a book!!! No one would believe it's true!!

Oz Girl said...

Loved all the pics Linda... and that's so awesome that she has turned her life around. What a cutey pie hubby she has! :-)

Bernie said...

Linda I think Amanda has a strong look of you and her daughter looks like your daughter.....could you follow that?
I think it is wonderful that she realized you were only trying to help her and look how she looked up to you and your family. I am happy she put her life together and really pleased she came for a visit.....you will see her again, I'm sure......:-) Hugs

yaya said...

It's always easy to look backwards and think of what should have been, what could have been or what we should have done...obviously you made a great impression and helped her alot. I'm glad you reconnected and she's doing so great. She's a cute young lady and very lucky to have a wonderful Aunt like you!

Jeanie said...

You have to feel good about the influence you had on her in the short time she lived with you and what it has meant in her life. I'm glad you got so many good picture of her visit. Those will mean a lot to both of you.

Cheryl said...

What an amazing story. Your neice must have great inner strength, perhaps you both share those genes. Amazing too how we hold onto guilt and a feeling we must take everything on our shoulders, I hope your load is now much lighter and that your neice has had most of her hard times and has much joy ahead.

CHERI said...

What an amazing story. It's wonderful that the two of you have your way back to each other. Sounds like your neice is on the right track now and I am sure part of that is because of you and the love you gave her.

kobico said...

There is something in Amanda's eyes that reminds me of yours and it makes me wonder if her mother has those same eyes. I am so glad that Amanda was able to hold onto that vision of balance that you were able to give her, however brief it may have been, and use it to turn her life around.

Jerry said...

I think that when you do right that ultimately the world -- life -- circles around with a reward, And you found it. You should be so proud of her, and of yourself.

Ginger said...

That is so neat that she called you and you were able to get together. I can see the family resemblance.
You felt guilt for not being able to help her more, but I think you were amazing that you had her and her brother for 4 weeks!! It sounds like you helped her more than you realize.
I hope you keep in touch with each other.

Whitney said...

I love this story - reminds me that salvation rarely looks like what we think it will, and even what we might worry was a "failed" attempt to reach out can change someone's life. Sometimes, the simple act of trying is what saves. So wonderful that you were able to be a safe harbor in the midst of such a dark storm in her life.:)

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Ah, what a full circle story. So sweet and I don't usually use that word so glad it was indeed a good visit.

Funny how we interpret things - where we think we have not performed as we should and then turns out it was just what the other person needed. So what's with the planning all the time to do the right thing. Maybe shooting from the hip with emotion works. Okay, maybe not all the time, but glad in this case.