Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

A letter to Phyllis and Jack,

In 2022, as the world started waking up from the covid shutdown, I reached out to my friend Phyllis from Fallbrook. We had not spoken for a few months. I had been busy getting my daughter into college, navigating a military move during a pandemic, and still nursing my youngest. Phyllis was just as busy. She and Jack had a special network of friends, and she was deeply involved in her grandchildren’s lives.

Phyllis was a fairy godmother, breezing through her days spreading love and kindness to all the children and animals in her orbit. I always thought of her as an angel here on earth. That term is often overused, but if you have been lucky enough to come across a similar angelic figure in your life, consider yourself blessed. They are rare.

Phyllis filled her days helping others, and kept a full detailed calendar to ensure she was available when needed. So when the world came up for air, I reached out to Phyllis to check on her and Jack. I texted her a few times, but did not receive a reply.

A few weeks later, her daughter posted a beautiful picture of Phyllis on Facebook. The post did not include a formal announcement, but there was something in the homage photo of her mother as a young woman, before kids, before marriage, that had significance. Her daughter messaged me that Phyllis had passed recently.

A beautiful angel had returned home, and I would not be receiving another text, or making the trip back to the west coast for my boys to visit their Grandma Phyllis again. My heart ached, and still does..

I met Phyllis in 2015 when I put out an ad on a babysitting website. My husband and I had just adopted twins and we had zero family and very few friends around to help us navigate the early days of parenting twin infants. We were stationed at Camp Pendleton and lived in Fallbrook.

At that point, I had moved at least five times, so home became a less traditional concept. We lived in a house in Fallbrook, but until meeting the Terry family, I did not consider it home. But I genuinely needed help with the twins since I worked full-time, our mothers lived on the other coast, and I had no idea what I was doing.

When I posted my ad, Phyllis was one of the first responses I received. Her reply said, “I am retired and a Grandmother and I do not think I can care for two babies full-time, but I would love to help you when I have time.”

The idea of a Fallbrook grandmother resonated with me, and we met for coffee within days. I carried the twins into the coffee shop, and placed each baby in his car seat on the table for her to take in. She gently placed each baby back onto the floor without saying a word. It was love at first sight for all of us and Phyllis started watching our boys a few days a week.

The twins spent the first two years of their lives visiting Grandma Phyllis and Papa Jack’s home. Phyllis laid out cozy blankets for them to learn to rollover and crawl on, Jack designed a homemade ball pit in their living room, and in the summer set up a little baby pool, and all of the sensory toys and baby gates that come with the first two years of life.

I remember Phyllis would bathe them every time they got dirty. She lovingly gave them a bath in her sink. I remember her teaching me about the perfect temperature of water needed for a baby. She purchased extra clothes for the twins to keep at her house, and Jack and Phyllis bought them plenty of toys.

It became a running joke that although I paid Phyllis a minimal amount when she watched the kids, she definitely spent more on them then I ever paid her. She took them overnight a few times, and we were always grateful for the sleep!

Phyllis and Jack welcomed us into their home. We became part of their family and we had a standing invitation at Christmas, their annual trip to Catalina, and vacations on the river. Phyllis and Jack’s love was big. Their circle unlimited.

We have been in the Marine Corps for over 20 years now, and since we left Fallbrook, we never again experienced being welcomed into a family or a community as we did with the Terry’s of Fallbrook. And we always kept in touch. Phyllis came to see the twins when my husband was promoted. And she fell right back into her role as Grandma.

We all agreed we needed to spend more time together to stay connected. But after another two moves, the pandemic, and then unbeknownst to us, Phyllis’ cancer, we never again got to see our beautiful friend. Jack served in the Navy. And I think between Phyllis’ heart and Jack’s understanding of military life, a desperate new mother, and the sheer lovability of two beautiful baby boys, we merged families.

Phyllis was and is an angel to anyone who knew her. From her Rainbow girls to her family, and friends, Phyllis’ warmth extends far beyond her departure from earth. I will never be able to repay Phyllis for everything she did for our family. But I want to publicly thank Phyllis and the Terry family for welcoming us into your home and your community.

Thank you for loving our kids. And mostly, thank you for teaching us the limitless power of love. Grandma Phyllis, we love you eternally. I will pass on your love to others, as I know you would want me to do. And I will cherish the boys like you taught me how to do.

Mary Anderlonis

 

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