Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Baby Sitting Job

I had lots of baby sitting jobs as a teenager. Some of them were tolerable and two in particular were downright disturbing. But the most important baby sitting job I had was also the most fun, and the one that taught me and touches me the most. The one I'll never forget.

For me, most good things seem to happen in summer, my favorite season. This was no exception. My summer job was to baby sit "B". I knew his family well, and I was so excited that they actually trusted me enough to care for him during the work day. I began when he was 3 years old. I was not only thrilled to have a job, but I actually liked B! Besides being cute, he was also...quirky. I happen to love quirky kids.

When I would get to his apartment, his mom always ran down the usual list of things that made him crazy-hyper that were forbidden: sugar. I would laugh and assure her I remembered. She would tell me this for my own protection. As I had a long day ahead of me, she warned me how hard my job would get if I gave in.

When she would leave, we would turn the TV on. But not to Barney or The Smurfs. These were the days when MTV actually played music videos, and B seemed to know the words to every single hit. My favorite was watching him perform "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard. He was my little 3 year old entertainment.

After we did that, I would usually sit in the recliner with him to "read" his favorite book. Which was not actually reading, but a game we played. The book was My Book of Bible Stories, and his mom read them so often to him (you know how kids are) and he listened to the stories on tape so often, that he literally had memorized the entire book, Adam to Armageddon. So I would say, "Ok B, tell me Story number 66" and he would start to recite. I would follow along in the book to see if he got it right. He did. Every single time. Over 100 stories and he knew them all before he could even read a word.

This book also had vivid illustrations. One time B's mom had taken him to the store. When they got to the cash register, she said the cashier had tons of makeup and jewelry on, with very long red nails. She was trying to engage B in conversation, but B was having none of it. When the lady wouldn't give up, he finally said, "Wady, you wook wike Jezebel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" His mom was mortified, but then admitted to me, "Well, she did look like her.... sigh..."

Summertime is hot and calls for cold drinks. What better to battle humidity with than a Slurpee from? 7-11 happened to be near B's house. So, I suggested that we take a walk down there. When we got there, I told B we were going to get Slurpees. "What's that?" I got one for him and let him taste. His eyes grew huge at the first taste of the sweet, cold, sugar-laden drink. It was soooo good! We slowly walked home, slurping all the way. Every 1 or 2 minutes, B would say, "What is this thing called again? A slimy?" "No B, it's a Slurrrrrpee." No matter how many millions of times I told him that summer, he always forgot and called it a Slimy. "Are we getting Slimies today?" "No, B, you had one yesterday and went crazy-hyper. Your mom's gonna kill me."

So, we'd curl up in the recliner with a book, and B would start rubbing my elbow. This little boy loved skin. He especially loved to rub people's elbows with the palm of his little hand. He rubbed ever so softly, in a circle, smiling up at me every now and then. We would tell stories and play games. I thought he was the cutest little boy in the world.

As it does, time passes. Quickly. B was older, about 9, and I didn't need to babysit him anymore and besides, I was in a flurry of wedding plans. I remember being told that B asked his mom if he could come with her to my bridal shower. I was honored! Maybe he did still love his baby sitter after all. During the gift opening, he sat in the front row with the little girls to watch the gifts being opened. All the little girls were killing each other over who was going to pass the next present to me. Not B. He sat there with a sly little grin on his face, watching, and I felt so proud that he was secure enough to ignore the fact that he was the only boy there.

A few days later, his aunt told me that B said, "Wow, now I know why people go to bridal showers! They get to see down the bride's shirt every time she bends over to pick up a present."

More years pass. B grew up. B is 24 years old now and married. Nine months ago, they had their first baby. I could not imagine B being old enough to be a daddy, because to me he is still a hyper, Slimy Slurping, precocious little 4 year old. Though I can totally imagine him being a daddy. And a darn good one. Rubbing those little baby elbows, toes, head. A great dad.
Three days after he first laid eyes on his new baby daughter, he received a call from his doctor. He was dying. A newly discovered, rare form of kidney cancer with no successful treatments.
Four months of painful surgery, recovery and backfiring experimental medication....and in July he was given 2 weeks more to live. But he is still here, albeit ravaged with tumors in every part of his young, but failing body.

The only thing I could do was write to him. I did. I told him how much those summer days meant to me, in charge of him. How he made me laugh, and how those memories have always been precious to me. I told him that in life, there are people who touch us profoundly, yet we sometimes let them slip away and it becomes months then years that we haven't talked to them. But that doesn't mean that we don't still love those people. That we don't still think about them each and every day. I told him he was one of those people in my life.


Anonymous said...

I wondered where this was going, when I found out I just sat here and howled. I am so sorry for B, his wife and his little girl and for you. At least you will still have such lovely memories.

La Belette Rouge said...

Heart breaking and a lovely remembrance. I am so happy he is beating the odds and outliving the doctors expectations. I wish you lived closer to him so you could take him a slimy. I am sure he would enjoy that.
Holding you both in my heart.
Much love,
Samos Sestre
p.s.WV was "psyness".I am guessing that means psychologically induced sinus pain. Let me give you a sentence, "After an afternoon with my sister-in-law I has serious psyness pain."

Paula said...

What a wonderful wonderful memory. Thank you so much for sharing.

So sorry I have been MIA recently. Will be back to blogs soon. :)

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Actually, part of the reason I posted this is that I do live close to him. We live in the same town.

Part of the reason I haven't gone to see him, is because he has had some very bad days/weeks and I know that it wouldn't be ok. I do not want to impose, that is why I wrote him a letter.

He told his aunt (my BFF) after he read the card, that this is how true friends are. We can pick up where we left off. And he laughed and said, "I remember the slimies!"

My brother was going paint a portrait for him, but now he's getting transferred to another prison, so he had to send in all his art supplies. The painting on the blog is by my brother (though I cropped it, and it's actually my own son.) But I thought it was appropriate.

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

This made me cry even tho I knew about it. I've been meaning to ask how he was doing and here you said. Such a sad thing and so young. Quite a nice tribute to him.
I recognized the 'half' painting of your Brother too. :))

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

oops.. I meant BY YOUR BROTHER. :))

~TessaScoffs said...

cc - i'm typing from my phone so please forgive lack of eloquence, etc. just wanted to say that your letter is an incredible gift for b's wife and baby daughter. perhaps one day you can buy that sweet baby a slimy.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

When I read the last line, I burst into tears, but with a smile. :)

Vicki said...

How heart breaking and heart warming at the same time. You've been with this person almost his whole life. I don't know what else to say...I do want to go get my little ones out of bed though and just hold them as if somehow that will prevent anything from being forgotten. This just makes me desperate to keep memories of them.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

I feel exactly the same as you...I hugged and held my kids extra yesterday...And I just feel so incredible bad for his mother. He is an only child. ***heavy sigh***