51 To 15

51 To 15
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BY TERRI RIMMER

He told me he really missed me and could I come see him for Christmas in that old town that I grew up in but no longer recognized.

My heart sank as I knew I had to work and it was our busiest season; I still wanted to see him so I told him New Year’s Eve weekend might be a possibility. I reminded him that that day was the 12-year anniversary of my boyfriend Ruben’s death and the nine-year anniversary of my dad’s; it was a tough day to get through.

As many times as I’ve traveled, it was the first time I didn’t have any travel anxiety, which was nice.

I had a dream before I left that I got off the plane and there he was, hugging me tight and not letting go.

I didn’t have any nightmares like I usually do before I make my yearly birthday trip; but then I have had nightmares every night since I was three.

The He I speak of is one of my former foster fathers who I’ve kept in touch with since the 80s, though my foster mom died in 1988. His name is Terry too, and he remarried in 1988 – a woman named Ann who is three years older than me.

Terry graduated from high school in 1968 and married his high school sweetheart, Peggy. He grew up in Medford Place and I lived in a house on Harold Street just down the road, from the time I was a baby until age three,

I was two when he graduated from high school. When I lived with he and Peggy I wound up going to their alma mater.

There was only me and one other passenger in the shuttle to the airport because our flights left so early. It was supposed to be bad weather here and there.

I never travel this time of year but Terry was going to be off work the whole month of December before starting his semi-retirement job.

Just as in my dream, he gave me a big hug when he picked me up from the airport and whisked me away for lunch at Ole South Barbecue, one of our family’s haunts, and then we went sightseeing so he could show me how much everything had changed. I hadn’t been there since 2008 for my dad’s funeral and while I thought it was depressing then to see the hangouts of our childhood boarded up and “ghost towned,” it was ten times worse now.

The old Mobil gas station where one of my stepbrothers had worked in 1978 was something else. The massive forests of trees were now townhouses, the stretches of roads were now four-laned, the old Belmont Hills Shopping Center where we saw “Jaws,” “Logan’s Run,” and numerous other movies were town homes, too. The Burger King and Turtles were gone.

AGAPE Smyrna Church of Christ foster care agency that placed me with Terry and Peggy, and before them, The Letchworths, went out of business. It became too costly to run.

The beloved DQ on South Cobb Drive was closed and the Peking Gardens Chinese Restaurant was under new ownership and the food was terrible.

That night Ann, Terry’s wife made dinner in the old kitchen where, at 15, I prepared a Seventeen magazine recipe of lasagna and served it to my foster mom Peggy and Terry with great care and anxiety.

On this night, after dinner, while I helped Terry clean up in the newly remodeled kitchen in this completely refurbished house, I wondered how I got here.

Amidst Christmas decorations, Terry and Ann worked on their traditional puzzles and I gave them one I brought for them, though I couldn’t put two pieces together.

I could remember what was where in every corner of every room in the house and exactly how everything looked.

Now the fridge beeped if you didn’t push the door in all the way and the dishwasher made a noise repeatedly until you hit a button when it was done.

Now the house had an alarm because of a robbery while they were at work. The only evidence that I ever lived there was the original bed frame in my old room and the original flooring which had not been replaced.

I went to the bathroom after unpacking a few things, looked in the mirror and said, “I remember you” to my foster mom.

The first night I was there this time I cried a little and talked to my foster mom, trying to remember her nickname for me until it came to me: “Kitten.” I told her she should be here. She assured me that she still was in spirit.

In the middle of the night I got up to get a glass of water, looked out over the great view of the trees, similar to my family home’s kitchen window, and said again, “I remember you.”

I remember watching TV in my room with my foster mom Peggy when “Luke” and “Laura” got married on “General Hospital,” sitting on the edge of that bed, so excited. I practically ran off the school bus, throwing my books down and tearing through the house to see the episode. We were so excited!

I remember when I got in trouble once and Peggy had Terry take the TV out of the room, which was easy since it was on a TV cart with wheels.

I remember getting ready for church, which I hated going to, yet I would watch Terry diligently studying his Bible at the dining room table, which is now a refurbished hospital door.

The morning I got ready to return home after my weekend this time, I saw the same man dutifully poring over his devotional and I admired him once again for his faith and dedication.

And I realized that though things had been replaced and upgraded, that nothing had changed in this house.

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Terri Rimmer
Terri Rimmer has 34 years of journalism experience, having worked for ten newspapers and some magazines. She wrote for associatedcontent.com, later bought out by Yahoo Voices from 2005-2012. Ms. Rimmer published her e-book "MacKenzie's Hope" on booklocker.com under the family heading. It's also listed on adopting.com. On Jan. 15, 2018 her story “My Birth Daughter’s Miracle” was published on Sunnyskyz.com