Happily ever after

It’s been a busy three-day weekend but at least I wasn’t at work. Work has not been terribly inspiring lately, but the last time it has truly inspiring was about three years ago so no surprise there.

Still it was weekend with the chance to catch up with friends. As Lisa reported on her blog we finally managed to get together at our usual spot, the Barnes & Noble halfway between our respective houses, and spent 90 minutes or so just chatting about life. We are not as accessible to each other as we used to be. Her new job means she no longer has much time to chat on the job. She has actual work to do all the time now. Mine never allowed much time for chat and after my desktop gets converted to Windows 2000 minus chat clients there will be no opportunity for that either. But now that I know she’s usually off work at 2 PM, I plan to snare her some Friday afternoon when I am off too. Weekends always seem busy: she and hubby are running off somewhere and my wife, daughter and I have a fairly extensive laundry list of things to do. Anyhow it was great to catch up with Lisa. Now I have a list of FDA unapproved “supplements” to try to add more pep to my life and help me sleep better. The “natural” sleeping pill I had Terri try last night had her barfing up the contents of her stomach two hours later. So I don’t think she’ll be trying that one again. But I slept well with one tablet of GABA I picked up at the GNC store. But I was tired anyhow.

But Lisa wasn’t the only old friend I caught up with this weekend. On Friday I ventured into the wilds of the Virginia Piedmont to locate Cyndi at her new location seven or so miles past Warrenton. I haven’t mentioned Cyndi before so an explanation is in order. Cyndi came briefly into our lives in 1987-1988 when Terri and I, married but childless, thought foster parenting might be something to try. I was 30 at the time and Terri was 27. We had been touched by a news story on TV about Vietnamese boat people and had in mind to be a foster parent to one of these orphaned children. We were surprised to find out after we had gotten training that instead of a Vietnamese boy or girl we were offered Cyndi instead. She was 13, appeared to be sexually active, and came with had a very bad case of juvenile diabetes and bad parenting issues up the wazoo. She was instantly popular because of her good looks. She projected a come-hither attitude that reached the radar of every older boy of dubious character within five miles. What self worth she had at the time appeared to be vested in her ability to attract men.

We had her for five months before we had to ask her to leave. She was 13 when she arrived, wasn’t used to following rules and I wasn’t used to coming home to find boys camped out all over my house. I felt like a failure in the foster parenting business. Cyndi got shuffled from one group home to another group home and consequently one school to another school. While her personal life appeared to be a wreck from my perspective, we kept in touch. I occasionally would meet her at a McDonalds to see how she was doing and leave feeling disheartened. She had frequent problems managing her diabetes. She turned an adult with no health insurance. I recall once coming to her rescue to buy some high priced medicine she couldn’t afford but needed for some sort of infection. Although far behind in her school work she did manage to graduate on time with her class, which surprised both Terri and I. We attended her graduation and felt hopeful for a time.

But then it was more of the same. She’d meet some man of dubious moral character, live with him for a while and get dumped. She’d pop into our lives, usually with a phone call, at bad moments in her life. I recall two phone calls while she was in the hospital. If I remember correctly the last one was when she was pregnant (out of wedlock) with her daughter Kelsey and going through some sort of diabetic shock. Through it all I tried to be loving and supportive and told her that I loved her. On the inside though I was appalled. Getting off the phone I felt depressed and wanted to cry. Cyndi meanwhile kept going through men and kept bouncing from job to job. Among her mini careers included work in real estate and sitting behind the counter of a tanning salon.

One day her Fairy Godmother must have paid a long overdue visit. Either while she was pregnant with Kelsey, or shortly thereafter, she met Chris, who subsequently married her and adopted her daughter. Unlike the other men Chris seemed to be a man of character who genuinely loved her. They’ve been living happily every after since then. Until a year ago they were living in a townhouse in Centreville. We saw Cyndi very infrequently: every 3 to 5 years. In 2000 they all came out to the house for a Memorial Day cookout. And Cyndi and I traded sporadic emails that were of the Christmas card type.

Cyndi is now 30. Chris must be doing very well indeed in the plumbing and landscaping business because I was surprised when I finally found her house in the Virginia Piedmont. It’s in a new development in the middle of nowhere but which, given the inexorable growth of the population and Virginia’s wholesale lack of any land use planning, will doubtless turn into a large community of people. Within years there will be traffic jams just driving into nearby Warrenton.

I don’t know what they paid for their new house but it would be considered a McMansion in our neighborhood, except she has a real lawn, not one of these postage stamp lawns you see around here. It would be a $750,000 house in my neighborhood. Cyndi is a stay at home Mom and has a more than full time job maintaining the property and looking after her daughter. The downside is that husband Chris, who works in Northern Virginia has long commutes, long days and often works on the weekends.

While the house is new it is clean an impeccably furnished. While I have little appreciation for interior decorating I was pretty wowed: I bet Martha Stewart would have given it her seal of approval. There was a large SUV in the driveway, next to which my comparatively puny and 12 year old Toyota Camry looked out of place.

So she seems to be doing quite well. We chatted for a couple hours, I inspected almost every part of her house, and we talked about her daughter, husband and life in general. I’m hoping that since I am out that way about twice a year anyhow that I can keep in more regular touch with her. From all appearances she is living the “happily ever after” lifestyle now. And while as a teen her morals left much to be desired now she clearly has her head together. I find much to admire about Cyndi now as an adult. Her stubbornness that I observed as a teenager is now something of a virtue. She has the time, energy and determination to turn her house in the middle of nowhere into a showcase home. Her diabetes is under control. She’s an American success story. No Las Vegas gambler would have bet a nickel on her in 1987. She seemed destined for an express ticket to Hell.

My challenge seeing her again was to respect and appreciate her as a fully-grown adult and to not appear condescending. Much of our relationship has been has been me in the father figure role, and I see her infrequently enough where I tend to see her in the prism of her teenage years and not as a fully matured and capable adult. Thankfully I think I succeeded. It was a meeting of equals. And I hope our two families can continue to enjoy each other’s company for many years to come.

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