Traveling with an infant definitely can be a challenge but dad Rubin Swift never expected to be stopped at the Frontier Airlines gate at the Phoenix airport and be informed that he and his baby girl Ru-Andria couldn’t even board the plane.Rubin had learned that he had a newborn daughter in Arizona and he was being awarded custody.
The 43-year-old Cleveland, Ohio, dad packed his bags and headed south to rescue his baby and take her home.He visited his daughter for the first time and began bonding with her at Banner University Medical Center. There, he met NICU volunteer Joy Ringhofer, who was 78 at the time.
Baby Ru-Andria had been transferred to the NICU after birth for several days as a precautionary measure.
Recently widowed, Joy recognized that Rubin was a doting father even though he had been thrust into a surprising situation.
He has three grown children from a prior marriage and four step-children with Tiffany, then 32.
For some strange reason, Joy felt compelled to jot down her phone number and give it to Rubin, shocking him.
She even offered to give him a ride to the airport on the day he was scheduled to leave.
It turned out that Ru-Andria wasn’t able to fly with Rubin because he needed to have proof of her age. Frontier Airlines’ policy is that an infant must be at least seven days old to fly.
But it would take up to a week to get the proper documentation!
When Rubin ran into the huge barrier at the airport, he had no idea what to do. He toyed with the idea of sleeping on the floor of the airport for days, waiting until he could pick up her birth certificate.
“I was out of money and the hospital told me that I wouldn’t be able to get a birth certificate for seven days. I was worried that if security saw me sleeping at the airport with a newborn, they’d take her away from me and charge me with neglect. I was stuck.”
He reached out to his wife Tiffany and she was at a loss.
They just didn’t have the money for him to rent a car and drive home or reserve a hotel room and wait it out.
“When he called me from the airport and told me that they weren’t going to let him fly until he could get a birth certificate in four days, I felt panicked … I didn’t want him to sleep at the airport. I was scared because it looked like we were out of options.”
For a fleeting moment, Rubin thought of contacting Joy, the NICU volunteer who kindly gave him a ride to the airport and showed him nothing but compassion.
He was out of options, so he took and chance and called the senior citizen.
He told her what had transpired and she insisted upon returning to the airport to pick up him and his darling daughter.
“I told him, ‘I’m going to take you home with me,’ so wait right there. There are a lot of dangers out there, but there’s a lot of good, too. I’d enjoyed talking to Rubin at the hospital and helping him with the baby. He was polite and kind and I could tell that he had a good heart.”
Rubin, a deli owner back in Ohio, could not believe Joy’s willingness to rescue him, a stranger, and Ru-Andria from their predicament.
“I’m black and she is white. I’m a stranger who grew up in the projects in the Bronx and she’s a great-grandmother who recently lost her husband. She knew very little about me, and yet, she took me in. Color wasn’t an issue to her. She showed me that in this crazy world, there is still compassion.”
Rubin contacted his wife to tell her how Joy, his angel, had gone above and beyond to help him out.
She, too, was in awe. But Rubin didn’t hesitate to take Joy up on her offer, since he had a wonderful feeling about her the day he met her.
“Miss Joy was like an angel and she’d really bonded with Ru-Andria. Whenever my daughter heard her voice, her face would light up. As soon as she took us in, I knew we’d be friends for life.”
The middle-aged dad and widowed senior citizen cared for Ru-Andria together and chatted endlessly in the four days they were together.
Joy shared that, at the time, she had four children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
They took Ru-Andria for refreshing walks, went grocery shopping and even visited Joy’s late husband’s gravesite together.
“I could see the pain in her face from losing her husband, so at the cemetery, as we sat there with the baby, I said, ‘Hey, Charles, look — it’s your new granddaughter.’ We had some touching and wonderful moments. I lost my mom to cancer in 2007, so Joy really became like a mother or grandmother figure to me.”
When the birth certificate was ready and Rubin and Ru-Andria could finally head home, he couldn’t wait to see his wife and their children.
But he knew he’d miss Joy. The two vowed to stay in touch and regularly visited via FaceTime, which fills Joy’s days with happiness.
“We just knew that we’d always be in touch from that day forward. We started out as strangers, and ended up as good friends. Rubin is very grateful to me, but I’m also very grateful to have had the opportunity.”
Rubin recognizes that Joy could’ve easily turned him away. Instead, she opened her door and her heart to a stranger and his baby, saving him from a stressful situation.
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