As you might have guessed, Mom had a few boyfriends over the years. A few of them I really couldn't stand; some I tolerated. One, I daresay I loved. I imagine he and Mom might have married, if he hadn't tried to save us from himself.
You see, Jim (that was his name) was a really nice and really neat kinda guy. Most of Mom's boyfriends just kinda tolerated her daughter, talked down to her, bribed her with little presents that they thought an X year old girl would like. Not Jim.
Jim learned from Mom that I loved horses. Wherever he lived, he was near a store that had these absolutely to die for (in my eleven year old opinion) postcards with photographs of horses. Gorgeous, brilliant, beautiful photographs by a fellow in Czechoslovakia named Tomas Micek. Jim bought every one he could find, and he'd mail them or bring them to Mom at work, and she'd bring them home to me when she picked me up from school.
Those postcards really made my day at times... that was when school and the teasing was starting to become intolerable, and Mom must have told Jim about it, because he did anything he could think of to encourage me to be myself and tell me that I was really someone special. I just hunted down the photo postcards a few minutes ago and read them again, and I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes.
For a couple special occasions, like my birthday, he sent me beautiful bisque figurines of pegasus and unicorns, which I still have as well.
Looking through the photos these past few days, I came across a few pictures of Jim, but not many, and none that I really have memories from. The memory of him that stands out most in my mind is when he picked me up from my saturday morning typing class at Cerritos College; after he'd let me into the passenger seat and made sure I was buckled in, he went around to the driver's side to get in. For some reason, I wanted to see what would happen if I moved the gearshift, and when I did, the car started rolling back. He hopped in quickly, stepped on the brake, and the car stopped.
I knew I'd done something wrong. If it had been Mom, she would have yelled. If it had been my dad, he would have yelled. But I never ever remember Jim raising his voice, ever. I must have looked like I was expecting him to yell too, but instead he reassured me, and told me that it was only natural to be curious about how things like that worked. He just said next time, to wait until he was in the car to try it.
I imagine if he'd been around when I got older, he would have happily taught me how to drive, and been a lot more patient with me than Mom was when she first tried. But that wasn't to be. Somewhere along the line, Jim was diagnosed with ALS -- Lou Gerig's disease... or if you're more familiar with him, the disease Stephen Hawking has.
He didn't expect to live for too terribly long after that, and I suppose he didn't want to be a burden -- emotionally or physically -- on Mom and I, so he wrote her and told her that he couldn't see us anymore, and gave her his reasoning.
I imagine I was pretty heartbroken on hearing that... Mom explained at least part of the 'why' to me, but I didn't want to hear it. Oh, how I didn't want to hear it. He had been so wonderful to me, and no one else ever measured up. He was the one boyfriend my mom had when I was growing up, who I really really really would have liked her to marry.
Several years later... perhaps eight or ten, I got a phonecall one afternoon from a stranger. He asked for Mom, but she was still at work, so he left a message with me. He asked if I remembered a Jim Palmer, and I said yes. He was Jim's brother -- Mom had met him at one time, but I never had -- and he wanted to let Mom know that Jim had passed away. I told him I was sorry, and that I would pass the message on to my mom when she got home, and he let me go.
It didn't hit me then... in fact, it never really hit me until just a few months ago when I came across the postcards again and reread all the sweet things he'd said to encourage me. When I finish this entry and Jev is ready to go to sleep, I'm going to take my favorite of the postcards and put it up on the wall over the head of my bed, with my Mary Engelbreit calendar, and the gorgeous card I found at the Nature Store a few weeks ago, of a moonlit night on the coastline in Big Sur, California.
Jim, if you're up there, I hope you know how you touched the life of one small girl who soaked up every bit of encouragement you gave her. I remember you, and I wish I'd had the chance to know you better. God bless you...
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