Because there are several of you who have asked, ‘What’s the story behind your kid who doesn’t look anything like the rest of you?’ I made a phone call, asked permission, and am now laying it ALL out there.
The short answer to the question “How To Adopt a Child Without Going to Court’ is by omission: when the birth parent doesn’t give a shit.
Okay- short story long:
Our kids had many friends.
We had the kind of home that all the kids tended to congregate at- plenty of food, plenty of room, always something going on, adults that were interested in them, etc.
Ben and I knew all of them, though some better than others. It didn’t matter. A friend was a friend was a friend blahblahblah, unless I caught you smoking pot- and then you were out.
One day, our son Chase, came through the door with a young man I knew, bashful and polite, but wasn’t one of the ‘regulars’. They both looked stunned and dazed.
He sent his friend upstairs with a, ‘I’ll meet you up there in a minute”, and then turned to me and said,”Mom, we have a problem.”
Oh Jesus. My favorite sentence.
“Tyler’s sister has just committed suicide.”
“She was found hanging from her bathroom door and his parents are out of town. He doesn’t know what to do.”
“Where is she?”
“I don’t know? Maybe at a hospital?”
“Okay. I’m going up to talk to him.”
“Tyler? May I come in?”
A small, “yes.”
“What’s happened? Can you tell me?”
“My sister’s killed herself.”
“What have you been told? Who called you? Where are your parents?”
“I just saw my stepbrother. He told me. He found her just a little while ago. I was with Chase at the gas station. I can’t breath.”
“Where are your parent’s?”
“They’re picking up my other step sister from an Outward Bound program where they sent her because she was in their way.”
“When are they expected home?”
“I don’t know. They never told me.”
“Who’s taking care of you and all the other kids? Who’s the adult at the house?”
“We have a full-time housekeeper. She’s there. She cooks too. And drives us to school.”
“Why don’t you stay here, with us, until this all settles out. Okay?”
“I’m going to talk with Chase now, okay? Chase, can I see you alone please?”
And so I found out that Tyler was part of a blended family- except the blender had very dull blades.
His birth mother had died of an accidental drug overdose when he was just shy of eight and his stepmother’s first husband had died of something that she had sued over and won a wrongful death claim leaving her a very rich woman.
Tyler’s stepmother came to the marriage with three young kids (two girls and a boy) controlling the purse strings, and his father with three young boys- and the backbone of a slug.
All through that week, we both waited for a call from his parents.
I chalked it up to shock, but still….
Several days later, Tyler told us that his stepsister’s funeral was scheduled for the coming Saturday.
“Did your Dad finally call?”
“No. I found out at school from some kids.”
I called his family house and was told (by the housekeeper?) that neither parent was taking calls. I told her I had Tyler with me. She said, “that’s nice.” then hung up.
Ben, I, and our two children, took Tyler, standing with him, to the wake.
His stepmother was so drugged she could barely speak. Tyler told me that that was the way she always was. Stoned on prescription meds.
His father just bobbed his head up and down, with a stupid grin on his face (was he high too?) when I introduced myself, told him that Tyler had been with us, and would he call me to discuss ‘matters’?
I never received that phone call- ever.
Little by little Tyler, a senior in High School, told me what is was like to live in his home.
I’ll just say, here, that it was not a happy home and I’m being -g-e-n-e-r-o-u-s.
Over the next several weeks, with no contact from his family, I was encouraged, by my friends and family, to call Tyler’s father and stepmother.
I decided not to: I wanted to see just how long, and to what degree, they were willing to abandon him.
And they were VERY willing (several months of ‘willing’), so with High School graduation upon him, I decided it was time for a
showdown conversation with his father.
“Hello. Mr. Smith? My name is Cheryl. You’re son has been living with my family for the past several months. I think it’s time we talk.”
“Oh. Sorry, I’ve been really busy lately. Could we talk tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow? I’m sorry I thought you said ‘tomorrow. No. We will talk today at 4pm, here, at my house, and if you don’t show-up I will be at your home, pounding on the door and roasting weenies in your driveway, so it’s going to be today, Mr. Smith. Am I clear?”
“I’ll be there.”
“I have a big mouth, Mr. Smith. You don’t want me using it in our small town. Start being smart.”
Next up: the fam…
“Chase. I’d like you to not return home after school today. I will be having a meeting with Tyler’s father and I don’t want you around until I call you.”
“Because I said so.”
“Bryn. I’d like you to go to Rachel’s house after school today. I am talking with Tyler’s father here this afternoon.”
“I’ll stay in my room.”
“As long as it’s Rachel’s’ room darling.”
“Ben. I’m going to have a talk with Tyler’s father later today. I don’t want you here.”
“Because you don’t like conflict, and this is going to be painful for someone. And I don’t want it to be you.”
“What are you going to say?”
And, he showed up. Tyler’s father, and, we had a talk, or maybe I should say ‘I had a talk’.
He attempted to garner my sympathy by telling me he had recently been diagnosed with cancer.
I said I didn’t give a shit. I really did.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass about your health. We are only talking about the son you have failed to have contact with for over five months.. The one who not only lost his mother, but has now lost his beloved stepsister. The son you and your wife have on all sorts of unnecessary medication. The kid who can’t get up in the morning without his pill, and can’t go to sleep at night without ‘his helper’. We are not talking about you. We are not talking about me. We are talking about him. And if you think because you have a ‘law’ degree you can manipulate this conversation you will find yourself sadly underestimating me.”
What I did give a SHIT about was 1) his son’s stability, 2) his son’s collage education, and 3) he having anything more whatsoever to do with his son because he was a sniveling tripe of a little man with no business being a father, and didn’t deserve any of his children, but I could only save one.
We agreed on a financial arrangement for Tyler’s college fund (no other monetary compensation was offered or requested), and he was on his way- never to be heard from again.
Never. To be. Heard from. Again.
That was 12 years ago.
Our entire family has taken him in as one of their own- all the weddings, the picnics, the holidays. The whole kaboodle.
Tyler graduated from Collage, did a ‘find myself’ moment in Colorado, and later found his way to New Orleans, after Ben and I relocated here.
He now lives down the street.
There have been ups-n-downs, like any young man finding his way.
But he will. Find himself.
And he can always come home.
Because WE are the blended family now…
and I keep my small appliances in tiptop shape.