Here it is. The part no one ever talks about--the part where you outgrow your nanny. For us, we had long outgrown her. She has been with us for 18+ years. She is our second mother, our confidant, our friend, and most importantly, our family. She raised us--my brothers from the days that they were born. We see her every day, from 7 am to 7 pm, probably more than we do our own parents. She cooks for us, she cleans for us, she runs errands; she drives those of us who cannot yet drive. She is an ear to listen when we complain about the rest of our family, and she has always been the softest shoulder to cry on, the one who knows exactly what to say even in her thick Trinidadian accent. We have been with her through her move, through her family crises, through her health scares; and she has been with us through every single aspect of our lives.
She was there to send me off to college, and her firm hug was the first to make me cry. She was there through my worsts, begging me through tears to eat just one bite of food so that I wouldn't whittle away into nothing, hugging me tightly as she watched my parents drive me to the hospital because I couldn't just eat that one bite, and welcoming me home many months later after I had learned how to eat again. She was there for the death of every pet--every goldfish, every frog, every hamster, and every dog. She has been there through everything, every scraped knee, every bruise, every broken heart and every broken bone. She has been a constant source of warmth and love for all of us, and with her, our house truly feels like home. I can't imagine not being woken up by her every morning, ready with a cup of coffee and a slew of gossip or recipes or stories to share. There is truly no person like her; no one as genuine, no one as selfless, no one as loving or caring.
I remember once, we were out grocery shopping and she noticed the cashier's hands were dry and cracked. She immediately stepped out of the line, and when she came back, she had a bottle of lotion in her hands. She paid for her items and before we left, she handed the lotion to the cashier and said, "This is for you. I noticed your hands were dry, and this cream really helps. Please take it." The cashier bashfully took the lotion and said thank you, and we left without another word. I, of course, being the embarrassed adolescent that I was, asked her why she would do something like that for a total stranger. Her answer was simple--merely a genuine concern for the well-being of the cashier, whom she did not know and whom she would probably never run into again. And yet she cared, as she does for everything and everyone. She is the epitome of a humanitarian; a Mother Teresa reincarnate, willing to sacrifice anything for anyone with no regard or desire for anything in return. Ironically, her name is Theresa, so I suppose the comparison is more than fitting.
For the last 18 years of her life, she has dedicated herself to raising and loving us as if we were her own, through the terrible twos, to the awkward pre-pubescent phase, to the angsty teen years, all the way up to the uncertainty of our young adulthood. She has two children of her own, both fully-grown adults who have been just as much a part of our lives as she has. Her husband and children often joke how they think that Theresa loves us more, and we certainly have no problem pretending that she does.
We all knew this day was coming, the day that we would have to say goodbye to our second mother. Of course she has to move on--it was a blessing to have even kept her for this long. As she sat us down and told us, she promised that she would always be a part of our lives, that she would always love us, and that she would always be here for us whenever we needed her. When she saw our faces crumble, she became hysterical, telling us that she didn't want to leave, that she could never love another family or another set of children as much as she loved us, and that she would only leave if/when we were ready. After a few more hours and a few more boxes of tissues, she promised that she wouldn't leave--that she couldn’t leave--but we all knew that this couldn't be the case. These promises almost seemed like she was asking for our permission to go, and as she tried to convince us that everything would be ok, it became apparent that part of her was trying to convince herself, too. And even though my heart was breaking, I knew she had to go.
It is not her fault or anyone's fault that she has to leave--my youngest brother is 16, my middle brother 18, and I am 21. We do not need a nanny anymore, in fact, most of us are rarely even home. We know that she loves us and she loves working for us, but she is a nanny. She wants to babysit children, not grown adults who don't need her anymore. This job has no more room for her to grow, and as such, it would be selfish of us to deny her the ability to find a job that does have space for her to grow. And, of course, it is selfish of us to want to keep her for ourselves forever, instead of sharing her with other children and families so that they too can grow up with someone as loving and as kind as she. I know that this is the right thing--the only thing--to do, and yet a part of me wants to be selfish; a part of me will always want to be selfish. It is hard not to be selfish when you have had someone in your life tirelessly put your needs above her own. But it is now my turn to be selfless; I owe her this much.
I think, deep in the back of my mind, I always expected her to retire after my youngest brother went to college and we couldn't rationally keep her anymore. For some reason, it seemed like that would've hurt less. She has been a stable fixture of our home and our family for almost 19 years, and the thought of not seeing her or talking to her or even just knowing that she is there every day is a devastating one. Further, my throat can't help but clench shut when I think of her in a new home, with a new family, instead of here with us, where she belongs. And perhaps it seems this way because if she stayed with us until she no longer could, and we were subsequently her last family, then it would be like she was leaving us, if not only for the fact that we had already left her. Still, no matter the circumstances, it would have hurt. Delaying pain doesn't make it any less real, nor does it make it any less pronounced. And so, it seems that what everything has boiled down to is time--more time, not enough time, endless stretches of unchanging time. But time changes, and with it, so do the times. We have been monopolizing time as if we owned it or had any control over it, but we simply do not and cannot. It is time for her to move on, just as it is time for us to be ready for her to move on. We have to give her permission to leave, and we have to make ourselves ready or at least appear ready to let her go. We have to assure her that we will be okay without her, and that we know she still loves us and that this isn't the end of our relationship. We have to tell her that she doesn't need to come over or cook our favorite meals for us whenever we ask, despite the fact that through heavy sobs, she promised that she would. We have to tell her to ignore our tears and that it is okay for her to go because she is not ours to keep. And then we have to tell her goodbye--though not goodbye forever; just goodbye to what was.
But Theresa, before I do say goodbye, I want to tell you that I will always love you, whether you are downstairs, across the street, or in a different neighborhood with a different family. And even though my heart is still breaking, I know that you will always fiercely and unconditionally love us. Your next family will be the luckiest family in the world to have you, just as we have been for the last 18 years. It has been a privilege to have been raised by you, and an even greater privilege to love and be loved by you. You will always be a part of our family and a part of our lives, and we will always be a part of yours. Thank you for being the best second mother anyone could ever ask for; thank you for going above and beyond in what started as a job and ended in a relationship that will far outlast your time here. Thank you for the memories, both the good and the bad, and thank you for the memories that are still to come. We are not finished; this is not the end for us, only a new and slightly painful beginning. And so now here it really is, the moment we have dreaded and dreaded to wait for:
Goodbye, I love you, and I will see you soon.