I visited with my Middle Son's daycare provider yesterday. She set the bar for me when I first opened my daycare. Simply put? She inspires me.
My Son was two years old when we met Nettie. I was nervous about sending him off to a daycare without his older brother to be his voice if things were not right. Then we met. My mother's spidey senses didn't go off. In fact, I felt perfectly at ease with her, her home and what was important to her. She had babysat for a friend of mine and she provided a glowing reference. And we were off!
Nettie cared for My Son until he was almost 11 years old. She became a vital part of his life. She remembers the smallest things about him. Yesterday she reminded me that when he was young, he never put his hands out in front of him to protect himself when he fell. This resulted in a few 'face plants' before she taught him how to fall. "I remember teaching him how to fall with his hands out, in the grass ... he eventually learned ...", she recalled with a chuckle yesterday.
Nine years of drop-offs and pick-ups, and the stories that each one of us must have heard about the other (out of the mouths of 'babes' ... namely My Son) over the course of time gave us each a pretty good sense of knowing each other. Not in a best friend kind of way. Not in a business manner either. But a mish mash of personal and business ... and simply that feeling one gets when you are on the same wavelength as another person. Oh, and also when each party plays a vital role in raising the same child.
Little bits and pieces of our lives came into view over the course of those years. Perhaps she knew more about me and our home life because you do open the door to 'everything personal' at times, when raising a child together. She revealed little bits and pieces about herself along the way. Not the full picture. Just a glimpse.
I have spoke to Nettie a handful of times before, during and after my daycare years. So I got to know just a little more about the business side of how she made things work for her in her daycare world. I have always held her in highest regard and took what she said to heart and incorporated as much as I could into my daycare ideals.
The last time I spoke to Nettie, she was in the process of winding down her daycare. She was weaning herself down slowly. Her husband had recently passed away and she was heeding the advise "not to make any big changes during that first year" after his passing.
Then we spoke yesterday.
She hasn't changed a bit from the Nettie that I have always known. Happy, upbeat, joking around and her realistic view of the world and manner that you just make the best of things.
What I heard most of all was a deep contentment that (I don't think) a person can fake. She completed the process of weaning herself out of the daycare world but that doesn't mean that she isn't busy.
She is still in the same house, with a renovated kitchen that she absolutely adores! She has hired a neighbor to help out with mowing the lawn, but the TLC that she always gave to her yard still provides her signature touch when you walk past her house. She is actively involved with her friends and has created a sense of purpose about her that made me feel that she wakes up each morning with a mission.
She laughingly commented that her daughter said that she has spent too much time living on her own. "I don't live alone!", she replied. "I have my cats." Ahhh ... Nettie and her cats. They have always been an extension of her family. Then she went on to describe the personalities of her two cats in a way that only Nettie could.
Nettie's children and grandchildren don't live in Our City. Two of her children live a province away and her third lives a three hour drive away. She drives out to see them ... and sometimes flies out to those further away. Her grandchildren's ages vary from age 2 to 21. Her children did a marvelous job in keeping her surrounded in youth ...
We touched on the serious in a language that is shared by 'those who have been there'. She spoke of her Oldest Son's issues with his father and that he simply could not forgive him. He (the son) saw 'what his father did to his mother'... Her youngest son has acquired the ability to separate his love for his father from his hate for his actions.
Nettie brushed it off with ease. "Sure, I was afraid a lot of the time ... but there were a lot of good times too ..."
She is not living in fear any more. This is the difference that I heard in her voice. She is becoming more of the person that she has always been.
She has no regrets. Her motto is (paraphrased slightly because I cannot remember her exact words) 'You cannot live in the past. Live for today ... because tomorrow is not guaranteed'.
It just so happened that yesterday was Nettie's birthday. Her age came up a few times over the course of the years that I have known her but I always forgot it as soon as I was told. She is 'ageless' to me. Age simply never mattered. Nor does it matter to Nettie.
I reflected on our conversation and it made me ponder (ever-so-briefly) the question, "What if I had stayed ..." in a relationship where I lived in fear.
I cannot know for sure, but I am afraid that I would not have weathered the storm well. I am grateful that I got out. I have 25 good years behind me now. Twenty five years.
I can't begin to imagine what it is like to walk in another person's shoes. Like those who stay in jobs that are killing their spirit for reasons that paralyze them ... there are those who remain in relationships that are not healthy.
As long as one can look back on their past with Nettie's motto (that I truly believe that she lives and breathes) ... that decision was right for them.
But when I see a person soaring to new heights after a 'lifetime' of being in a situation that must have brought them to their knees at times ... I can't help but wonder 'why did they wait'?
Everyone's best choices for their own situation are unique. As long as one doesn't allow bitterness and regret to taint their future happiness ... as long as one can look back and reflect on the good times ... they have made the best choice that was theirs to make.
'You cannot live in the past. Live for today ... because tomorrow is not guaranteed'.