Jeff’s Story

I wish I was a guy with a story. But I can’t really tell a story without telling a story, so here goes.

People like Joe DiMaggio, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa have wonderful stories.  I don’t think I have one. I’m just a normal guy – more of a geek, really. In the past, I did what I did because I was fortunate. Blessed. I never really had a plan, but somehow managed to find myself in the most amazing of circumstances. At the age of 12, for example, I stumbled upon these volumes of books… in the “adult” section… 

The backstory is that I grew up in an overprotective household. I wasn’t allowed to play with the other kids, go camping, take part in sleepovers or be a Cub Scout. There’s really no one to blame. I started life as a scrawny, sickly kid. Bloody noses every week for no apparent reason. My mother was always afraid I’d get beat up or hurt in some way. Because of being in the house most of the time, I had pent-up energy that had to be released. Some of my methods were pretty embarrassing – like practicing martial arts without ever having had a single lesson. I’d push back the furniture in the living room, run from corner to corner and attempt a flying kick like they do in the movies. I knew what the kick looked like in my mind. I’d hate to see what it really looked like.

Fortunately, every summer my mother took my sister and me to the library. That was our escape. My sister and I would compete on the number of books read or who read the most interesting books. Usually the bet would fizzle out by the third visit, but we enjoyed going anyway.  It was a treat leaving the house and losing ourselves in the different universes experienced in the library. 

The summer following her 7th grade, my sister gleefully announced she would be picking the series, “The Little House on the Prairie”. She read “Little Women” the summer before and was up for the challenge for another. My sister read books like a machine.  She went through them like branches through a woodchipper. On the other hand, that summer I bounced between sharks, dinosaurs, and the life of Harry Houdini. I was looking for something different. I wandered into the “adult section” and was pulled into another world.  My sister and I considered the “adult section” as the section that belonged to college professors.  Books designed for people who were old, like in their mid-twenties!

A flashback to a flashback:  When I was in the third grade, my father was working on his associate’s degree.  Often, he shelved books from previous semesters into our humble, sturdy, walnut colored, three-shelf bookshelf.  Just standing close to my father’s books made me feel special. Grown up.  The books were heavier and very different from the books they gave us in elementary school. I was enamored by the weight and the smell of the paper. These simple sensations caused me to peruse the inviting pages and chapters. I felt like a spy learning something no one else in my class knew.

Walking through the adult section felt like walking through a forest.  The shelves were six high and daunting.  I searched for a book with the same, look, feel and smell as one of my father’s books.  Since my sister was doing a series, I wanted to compete with my own.  I found a set. Seven volumes. It was on the second shelf from the top. The binding of the spine was a thick black. Each volume approximately two inches thick. The front cover was a clear plastic. The back was black and made of a cardboard-like material. Beneath the clear plastic was an Army Green title page that said something like “The Study of Mathematics”. Intrigued, I turned past the title page. The top of the first page showed a picture of a single pencil and the number 1 next to it. It progressed in number until it reached ten pencils at the bottom. Each successive page was about determining how many pencils were in the picture. Really? This was going to be fun! I envisioned having bragging rights the end of the summer.  I would have looked at and possibly read adult books. I felt sneaky because this first book was designed for me.  How many pencils?  Ha!  I could do that.  Child’s play.

Because the author had a wonderful, comfortable teaching style, it was simple to go through all the volumes. No concept seemed any more difficult than the first page of the first book. I had a blast! By the end of the summer, at the age of twelve, I completed all seven volumes. I had fun. It wouldn’t be until I entered high school that I would understand what I learned that summer was Differential Calculus.  It wouldn’t be until I got into college, that I would actually apply in class what I had learned when I was twelve.

I lived most of my younger years by the seat of my pants with no real plan. I knew what I didn’t want, but I was never sure about what I wanted. My sister was different. 

My sister was a rock. Always stable. Always focused. Her compass pointed in one direction and it was a true direction. She was close to her religion and her worst swear words were “gosh” and “dang-it”. No matter how far I strayed from the fold, she was there for me. There are pictures through time (some actual photos; others, memories in my mind) where she held my hand and would be my rock. She would quiet my storm. For me, she was an angel in human form.

Anabel’s Angels is about my personal relationship with my sister. It is this personal relationship which helps to guide and stir the spirit of this organization. It’s in how we treat others, bring joy and laughter and how we endeavor to lift spirits regardless of the odds.

It is therefore not directly of me nor my sister, but of the relationships developed, the paths to fostering those relationships and the results of our actions that make Anabel’s Angels the organization it is and is to become.