They say that there is always one child that tests your parental mettle. I had four children – two sons and two daughters: Rob, Dave, Sue and Nan. All were born less than two years apart.
My youngest daughter Nan was always the class clown. Many a stern-faced teacher watched their classroom discipline dissolve when their own barely controlled mirth got the best of them. Testament to Nancie’s comedic prowess. She was always ready for any adventure that would lead her out of the classroom. She was deceptively cherubic and funny as the devil. She skipped classes regularly, unfazed by in or out of school suspension threats. More often than not she could be found down at the high school shadowing her sister Sue.
Undaunted by Sue’s dire predictions of impending disaster – and disaster came – at 15 Nancie was pregnant. She kept her secret from everyone except her sister who threatened her daily to tell if she didn’t â€” until she was nearly six months along. Athletic and physically fit, Nan even passed her high school sports physical with no one the wiser. She had become quieter. Her friends didn’t seem to be calling as often and for months no teacher had sent home letters requesting a conference or signature.
One evening as we were cleaning up after supper, I caught something wistful in Nan’s glance. A sadness almost, and before I knew it I blurted out, “Are you pregnant?” We both gasped when she said, “Yes.” I held her while we both cried. I was stunned, thinking she’s only 15…15! A baby having a baby.
In her seventh month, Nan’s body blossomed. The large belly seemed incongruous with the little girl face. Ultrasound confirmed that she was having a boy, and suddenly it was all much more real. The baby was healthy. We started calling him Jesse.
Nan’s boyfriend and the father of the baby rejected her totally. She was isolated from her peers and dropped out of school to attend a special school for pregnant teens.
Two months before Nancie delivered my now fabulous 13-year-old grandson Jesse, she went to a church fair with her sister Sue, brother Dave and a friend of Sue’s. As they were getting into Dave’s car for the drive home, Susie grabbed Nancie’s hand, pulling her out of the back seat as she was struggling to sit down. “C’mon, Nan,” Sue said, “You sit in the front. I’ll sit back here. Besides it’s safer. “And,” she teased, “you’re too fat!” 🙂 Less than 15 minutes later a drunk driver swerved across the divided highway and slammed into the rear passenger side of the car killing Suzanne instantly.
As the car spun out of control, glass shattering and sand swirling, my son fought to keep the car on the road and out of the river. When the car finally stopped, Dave shouted, “Is everybody OK?” And then they saw Suzanne.
To say that we were devastated somehow doesn’t capture the agony of that loss. I remember holding Nancie in the emergency room while she sobbed. She kept saying, “It should have been me. I was supposed to sit there. Why Susie? She was the good one.”
My son sat there, gray-faced and hoarse and said, “I should have done something.” As if he could have.
I consoled them I hoped and as time forces you to, we moved through our grief and life spun on all around us. Nan was barely 16 when Jesse was born – Just 2 months after we lost Suzanne. And after a long and difficult labor in which Nan never cried out, never shed a tear or complained.
We all devoted ourselves to Jesse. He was the life in our sad house. He never lacked for a pair of arms to hold him. Nancie took on the responsibility and challenges of motherhood with all the energy and determination she possessed. She was tireless and devoted. No matter how much sleep she lost, through colic and teething, she soothed him and loved him tenderly.
When he was just a few months old, Nan went back to school and as Jesse grew into a toddler, Nan graduated from community college. Jesse started kindergarten and Nan started the final years towards her bachelors degree. It took her longer but she persevered. Nan was pregnant with her daughter Caitlyn Suzanne when she took her finals. She had a C-section on December 13th and walked with her classmates to receive her degree on a bitter cold January day just 6 years ago.
Nothing has been easy for Nancie and she has lost much. I wanted a different life for her but she doesn’t see it quite that way. Whatever she has had to face she has met with a smile and a jaunty shrug. The gold band she wears is thin and plain â€” too big for her slim fingers. Nan wears a dimly sparkling zirconia with it. “Someday,” she smiles wagging her fingers. “But other things are more important. I want a house! Who needs diamonds?” She grins at me.
I know that diamonds don’t bring you happiness and aren’t a measure of how much one is loved or not, but diamonds are a symbol. I want my daughter to have that. Something as precious as pure and sparkling as she is. Nan is the genuine article and any diamond would love to be adopted by such a beautiful, generous, and creative woman… to shine on her finger in the light of her smile. Please consider my daughter, Nancie Ann Ramos.
My heart walking,
Her mom, Darla Stevens,