– a true story by Jennifer Walker
When I was two years old, my mother put me in a day care center. She tells the story of how I was terrified to stay at this place until a two-year-old boy named Bobby joined the group. As long as Bobby was there, I was not afraid. Both of our mothers had to work full-time, so Bobby and I were there every day together. The staff reported to my mother that we were never far from each other’s side. When nap time came we would refuse to nap unless our blankets were side by side.
After three years in day care, it was time for public school kindergarten. The day care staff tried to prepare us for the fact that we wouldn’t be together again. That didn’t make sense to my five-year-old mind. I wanted to always be with Bobby.
Our mothers, acting independently of each other, enrolled us in the district’s elementary school. Imagine our surprise when I reluctantly went for my first day of kindergarten and there was Bobby! We were in the same class! Again, we played together every day.
Bobby was the bright spot in my life, since my home life was anything but happy and secure. My father would go out drinking and come home and hit my mother. My only joy and security was my time with Bobby at school.
In first grade, the children started to tease us for playing together so much. We didn’t care. Our favorite activity was swinging and telling each other jokes.
Meanwhile, life at home was growing more and more unhappy. Lying in bed at night, I would hear my father yelling at my mother and hear my mother crying. I felt so sad I didn’t know what to do. To comfort myself, I thought of Bobby during those times and tried to remember the jokes he’d told me that day.
In second and third grade the teasing grew intense. The boys called Bobby a sissy for playing with me. Sometimes he’d leave me and go off to play with the boys. Those were very sad days. Usually, though, he’d continue to play with me.
One night, when I was eight years old, my father came home more drunk than ever and began hitting my mother very hard. I tried to stop him and he struck at me. I ran to my room crying. I wished I could sneak out of my house and be with Bobby. In the middle of the night my mother woke me saying, “Get up, pack some of your favorite things. We are leaving here for good. Now hurry!”
My mother’s voice was urgent and I obeyed her. We got in the car and drove west for seven days. All the time we were driving I cried. I wanted to be with Bobby, the one person that I felt secure and happy with.
I gradually adjusted to a new life in California. I never saw my father again. I learned to make new friends, yet every night for years I thought about Bobby and missed him. My mother would not let me write to him. She said my father could then find us and maybe kill her. That sounded pretty scary to me. As I grew, she refused to tell me about my past, what city we had lived in, etc. In time, I forgot all about Bobby.
I became a rebellious teenager and left home when I was sixteen. At seventeen, I married a man ten years older than me. I thought I loved this man until, shortly after we were married, I discovered he was an alcoholic. I wanted to leave, but didn’t know how. Just as with my mother, my husband began beating me up after his drinking binges. My mother and I weren’t talking. I had no idea where my father was and I didn’t have any close friends. I felt resigned to my fate.
One night, with two black eyes and a bruised body, I got in my car and drove away. I ended up driving for several days until I came to a coastal town in Washington State. During the drive, I decided one thing—I would never trust a man again! I concluded that, since my own father was abusive and violent and my husband turned out to be the same, then all men must be bad.
Eventually I got a job as a waitress and began to carve out a simple yet lonely life for myself. My mother and I began talking every week on the phone. It felt good to be in communication with her again.
One day, a customer brought in an ad for a workshop on relationships. “Well that’s sure not for me!”, I remarked with much sarcasm. “I never want to be with a man again. I’ve had it, I’m done.”
That seemed like a strong statement for a twenty-five-year old woman to be making, so she teased me a little, then seriously urged me to go. “You are too young to give up on relationships,” she said with a smile. She then ripped out the ad and placed it in my pocket.
Returning to my lonely room in the boarding house, I looked at the ad. Something about the possibility of a loving relationship intrigued me. Then all my fears came up and I ripped up the ad and threw the pieces in the garbage.
When I went to bed that night, I felt lonelier than I had felt in years. Usually I was very good at holding in all my feelings, yet that night I couldn’t keep them down. I felt the pain of having an abusive father, then having the same experience repeated in my marriage. I felt lonely, but so fearful of ever trusting again. I hadn’t given much attention to spiritual matters, yet on that lonely night I prayed to be able to trust again. After a while I slept peacefully.
When I awoke, I knew with a certainty that I must go to the seminar on relationships. Something seemed to have happened to me during the night. Then I remembered my prayer. “Maybe this is the help I’m needing,” I thought as I rummaged through the garbage to retrieve the ripped-up ad. Finding one piece with the phone number intact, I called and registered. I felt lighter and happier than I had felt since I was a young child.
The day of the seminar came and I felt a strange combination of fright and enthusiastic anticipation. I quietly entered the room and saw that it was filled with people. The frightened part of me grew and I almost ran out of the room, but the enthusiastic part of me found my way to a quiet corner where I awaited directions.
A young man came over to sit next to me. He said he felt a little overwhelmed by all the people and needed to find a friend. He told me a joke and made me laugh. Something about his manner made me relax. I found myself opening to him. He told me he was part American Indian and his name was Sun Bear. Sun Bear and I spent the entire seminar together. At the end he asked for my phone number and I gladly gave it to him. We began dating. When Thanksgiving came, I asked if he would come to my mother’s house with me for the weekend. He agreed.
My mother greeted us both with warm hugs. She began to ask Sun Bear about his past. I was getting annoyed with my mother for probing into Sun Bear’s life so deeply. Finally she stopped and a very strange expression crossed her face. Abruptly she excused herself and was gone a long time. I apologized to Sun Bear for my mother’s unusual behavior.
Finally, she came back, holding a photo album. “Sun Bear,” she asked with choking emotion, “Did you have a different name in childhood?”
He looked uncomfortable with this question and I was seriously annoyed, then he responded, “Yes, my mother and friends called me Bobby.”
My heart began to pound wildly. My mother pulled out a picture of two little children on a swing. “I believe this is you, Sun Bear, with my daughter Jennifer.”
Love had guided us back together after seventeen lonely years. We have now been married for thirty years and feel so grateful to be together again. And oh — I still love to listen to his jokes.
This story is an excerpt from the Vissell’s book, Meant To Be: Miraculous True Stories To Inspire a Lifetime of Love, containing 38 of the most amazing and inspiring stories you will ever read. Look for it at your favorite bookstore after January 15, 2000.