By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
Robert Pool has a saying: “Work the problem. Don’t let the problem work you.”
“And that’s what we’ve done,” says his wife, Shawna.
Parents teach their children many things. How to tie their shoes and to look both ways before crossing the street. To count their change and to not talk to strangers. They learn to love their families and to look out for each other.
Michael, 21; Jeanie, almost 18; and Nathan Pool, 14, have learned all this and more from their parents.
And this all came about from Shawna’s reaction to “the most annoying voice at the end of a phone” she’d ever heard.
Robert was a manager for a hotel chain in Charlotte, N.C. She was a regional manager for a national clothing chain. Every month they would have a monthly meeting at a local hotel.
“He kept calling me to have our meetings at his hotel. I didn’t want to,” she said. “I told him to stop calling me. And he never did.”
So she decided she’d fix him. She’d set up a blind date with him and not show up. Maybe that would stop him from calling.
But, happily, things didn’t work out that way. She liked the way he looked. They married 23 years ago.
“And the rest is history,” she said.
She is originally from Fairmont. Robert, born in South Dakota, grew up in North Carolina.
All three children were born in North Carolina: Michael in Charlotte, and Jeanie and Nathan in Asheville.
After a while Robert got into the restaurant business and was transferred from North Carolina to South Carolina, and eventually to West Virginia five years ago.
The moves have made the Pool kids “resilient,” Shawna said.
They’ve also made Jeanie and Nathan very close, “closer than any kids could be,” she said.
Michael has always been more independent and now lives off campus while studying safety engineering at Fairmont State.
Jeanie is a senior at East Fairmont High School and Nathan is a freshman. Even now, she continues her “little mother” ways with her younger brother.
Shawna is involved with the National Youth Advocacy Program, which works with the DHHR in placing children in foster care. This has helped her children become more sensitive to the plight of other less fortunate children.
“They’ll see that I’ve not had a good day. Maybe I’d seen or heard something at work that caused me to give my kids an extra hug or makes me not want to talk about it,” she said.
“I help process paperwork for Medicaid, and the things I read and see can be difficult.”
Jeanie and Nathan help when they can “out of the goodness of their hearts,” like making Christmas stockings for the children, she added.
“They know that not all children can be with their moms and dads, or even with their siblings. This has made them closer. They know what children in foster care can go through. This had made them band together.
“I’m not sure how else to describe why Jeanie and Nathan are as close as they are.”
Constantly moving when they were younger has also given them a common bond. Because it’s tough always being the “new kid” in school, Jeanie started looking out for her baby brother.
“By the time he was in fourth grade, Nathan was at his fourth school,” Shawna said. “With East Junior High and High, that’s six. Hopefully we won’t have to take him out of East until he graduates.”
Jeanie still continues her role of “mother-sister,” as Shawna calls it.
“She even talks for him. She’s a little mommy. They’ve been close knit since birth. She’s almost 18 and she’s still that way with Nathan. She drives him to school and picks him up from practice.
“I never have to worry about Nathan because Jeanie worries about him.
“Knowing the foster care system, that some children need to be with foster families or adopted, has made them better rounded kids and more sensitive to their surroundings,” she said.
“They stand up for someone else. They are more aware of others. They know what it’s like to be the ‘new kids.’ They definitely know what it’s like to not have friends. So they try to make sure everyone has a friend. They do this from experience.
“I think this says a lot.”
Email Debra Minor Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.