When Life Comes Full Circle

Yesterday I took Nicholas downtown to Coolidge Park in Chattanooga to play catch. His mother was recently in a car wreck and she needs to rest. So I called her up and told her to tell Nicholas to grab his glove and that I would be taking him out for the day. Spending time with Nicholas is important…for both of us. We have something in common. Four years ago Nicholas lost his father. Now that he’s 13, it’s more important that ever for him to be around an older guy that he can look up to and learn from. Nicholas’s mom is awesome. She has taken on the role of both parents quite well.

Nicholas is her only son and I can sense the intensity of her love towards him. Four years ago a tornado hit our neighborhood. The neighbors banded together like never before so Nicholas and I got to know each better. He would follow me around the yard and watch as I began to rebuild what the storm had claimed. It was similar to something that happened to me when I was his age. After my dad died, we needed a new roof on the house. So my mother employed one of our former neighbors, Jeff, to put on a cedar shake roof. As Jeff worked he noticed me sulking around the house, not doing much…perhaps still in shock over my father’s suicide. He told me to come up on the roof and help him. He taught me how to clear the roof, lay down tar paper, and install new shingles. My time with Jeff gave me confidence, direction, and focus. It laid the groundwork for my recovery. After we finished each day, he asked me about life, what I wanted to do when I grew up, and how I was doing in school.

Fast forward 11 years and it’s time for me to take off the roof that Jeff and I had put on. The tornado had caused so much damage that the entire thing needed to be replaced. Remembering what Jeff taught me, I got on the roof and began to work. I saw a familiar sight. I saw a kid walking around his house without much direction in life….still looking sad from losing his dad. So I invited Nicholas on the roof and showed him how to use the hammer to take of the old cedar shakes. It’s amazing to me how cyclical life is. What Jeff did for me I was able to do for Nicholas. Three years have passed since the storm. In that time I had moved to New York and started NYC Mannies. But every time I came back home to visit, Nicholas would come running yelling, “John! You’re back!” Last year I came back to visit and Kim, Nicholas’s mom, came up to me and said, “John, remember, you were our manny first.” And it’s true. I was Nicholas’s manny first.

I have worked for several families and supplied mannies to hundreds of families around the country. But I remain Nicholas’ manny to this day. Spending time with him in the park yesterday reminded me how far he’s come. His mom has done a great job with him and it shows. I’m excited that I get to spend more time with Nicholas now that I’ve moved back to Chattanooga. It’s great that I get to be a manny while trying to convince the world that they need to hire mannies. Nicholas and I both have a lot to learn. He needs to be more positive and I need to be more patient. We learn from each other. So thank you Nicholas for letting me spend time with you. I hope the next 13 years are even better than your first. And I’m honored to be a part of it and watch you grow.


Image via Flickr User Redrock Junction