The morning of the opening of the symposium I was asked to sit on stage for the opening ceremony where I was introduced as half of the team that had produced the textbook that was generally accepted as the bible of Humanities departments all over the world. It brought tears to my eyes that Chuck's and my hard work was being honored this way, and that our book was accepted to this extent all over the world.
A few hours later was the workshop hosted by the students of Amherst College, the one where I was the only adult participant. I was surprised that there were so many educators as well as students from all the neighboring colleges represented and in attendance. There were many questions read out and what couldn't be answered by the students on the panel with me, I thankfully could, or at least provide a path to the answer needed. I can't tell you how gratifying it was to be asked to autograph the hundred or so copies of the text presented to me by both students and their teachers after, I almost started to pass the books on to Chuck, but then it hit me that he was not here by my side to receive the attention he so rightly deserved. It was a strange drive across town afterward, for me, as I had to adjust myself to my current life, going home to my loving family and my adoring husband David.
When I walked in about six PM the table was set and the dinner was ready. The boys all rushed me, engulfing me with hugs and then their Daddy followed with his own hug and a wonderful welcoming kiss. David held me and told me that Chuck would have been proud of the way I had stepped up and represented the two of us and our text. I had to use the closest restroom to wash my face, to eliminate the tear streaks, and make myself presentable to our kids, but I was also thrilled that all our hard work on the text was still so well received.
David happened to mention, as we ate dinner with the boys, that they had snuck into the workshop for ten or twenty minutes, so the boys could see me. I was struck dumb, but the boys thought it was funny that they had snuck in with daddy, but Davey told me that he didn't know I taught so many older people. Matty and Eric were laughing, and David tried to explain to Davey that I had helped Chuck write the textbook used in colleges that helped students learn. I think he got it, but he still was just a tad reserved around me for most of the evening after dinner, until we got in a tickle fight just before bedtime, then he became my little cuddle bug again.
The symposium did lead to three teaching offers, but not only was I happy doing what I was currently doing, but my life was just about perfect just the way it was, I was content and didn't want for anything, well maybe a baby or a toddler. Time spent with little Chris or even running around with, or after, young Fred really brought out a renewed nurturing instinct in me. David, when I told him this, was as excited as I was, he was just afraid to bring it up, afraid that we didn't have enough time to spend with the three we had now…..,I interrupted him, assuring him I had thought about those things, also, but I had come up with a plan. I was going to use some of the profits from the editing business, and the proceeds from the textbook sales, and hire two more full-time editors, thus freeing me up to work from home. Mary and I could co-manage via the computer link ups we had in place now, and I could always take a youngster in with me if I had something to do in the office.
We made plans to go with Ken and Ben the next Thursday when they went to the DCFS monthly Open House. They still hadn't found the right match for them, but continued to go to the monthly open houses in the hope that the right boy, or boys, would be there that night. Ben and Ken were our most active and athletic friends and neighbors and they wanted to find someone who could keep up with them, or at least have the same interests. I notified our caseworker Mary about our desire for another boy, maybe a younger boy, and she said she'd try to find someone for us.
The second open house we attended with Ben and Ken seemed to have been meant to be. Right away Ken pointed out two young teens to Ben. The teens were in workout clothes and were hurriedly mopping themselves with small towels, obviously having to rush to the open house before they could return to their dorm to clean up from whatever sport or exercise, they had been involved with. Ken and Ben made a bee-line to them, leaving David and me standing in their dust, chuckling at their retreating backsides, wondering if they finally had met their match.
We wandered about and continued to look the crowd over and in the back row of the seating arrangements there was a single chair turned with its back to the room, a banquet type chair, and we could make out little denim-clad legs swinging back and forth under the chair, about a foot off the ground, the little sneakers going to and fro as the legs swung. We were drawn to him (it had to be a boy, we were at the open house for the occupants of the boys' dorm). We walked back to the back row of the chairs and saw him for the first time face on.
He was a little guy, I would have to guess at least a year younger than Fred, so possibly 4 years old. He had very dark skin, big brown eyes, and very curly hair that sat like a mop on the top of his head. He had a little hand-held video game in his hands he was working, and he seemed oblivious to what was going on in the rest of the room. David stooped down to see if he could make out his name tag and when he stood up again, he whispered to me that his name was Tyrese.
We each took a chair and we placed them in front of him, and then he noticed us, looking up from his game and looking at us as we sat down. I asked if I could call him Ty and he smiled up at me and nodded as I told him that I was Matt and my husband was David and we wanted to talk to him for a bit. He spoke for the first time and asked if we were sure, there were a lot of other kids around, and we told him we were sure and he sat up a little bit in his chair, a little proud of having us sit with him.
Once he started talking he was a font of information, about himself: he was four, the doctor man had fixed a bad boo-boo on his foot, he had no family, he was the youngest in his dorm room, about the others in the dorm room: there were all those bigger guys and they had bigger wieners and some had a lot of hair in some places he didn't, would he ever get that big? And about the other youngsters in the dorm: Billy was sometimes bad and hit others, and Jeffrey was nice, but he sometimes had accidents and he smelled bad until one of the ladies in the daycare cleaned him up, and Bobby sometimes didn't eat all his veggies and he would put them in his napkins and his pockets sometimes.
When he slowed down a bit, I began to show him pictures of our sons and then their friends from the property, then I started to show him the pictures of our house and David showed him some of the boys on the horses and pictures of our neighbors, two of whom were on the other side of the room talking to the two teenage athletes. We were told we could call him by Ty, that was what he was used to. We asked him if he wanted to come visit with us at our house for the upcoming weekend and he just lit up. Were we sure? Did we mean it? Could he ride a horse? Would the other guys be nice to him? We chuckled and told him Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, answering all his questions at once and then David went to talk to Mary to arrange for us to pick Ty up the next afternoon so we could begin our weekend.
Mary filled in David, telling him Ty's short history. He had been taken in as a newborn when Ty's mother died during recovery from childbirth, a brain aneurysm. She hadn't listed a father for the boy, or any relatives except an older aunt. Tyrese was raised by the aunt until a month ago when she herself had died of a stroke and Ty was remanded into the care of the DCFS. He might have been a good candidate for fostering or adoption, but as we would find out, he had been born with a deformity of his left foot. Several of his toes had fused together and recent surgery just this month had corrected that, a procedure made easier than expected because the bones had grown normally, it was the skin between the toe bones that had to be separated and reformed, a procedure done by a local plastic surgeon for free. The only requirement right now was that he not get his entire foot wet while the skin, now reformed around his toes, healed and that an anti-bacterial lotion be applied twice a day. A plastic bag and good waterproof tape would make bathing easier, or if we took him in the pool, and regular doctor's visits for a few months more, but those were already set up.
David never batted an eye as she filled him in, he just told her that all that just meant that he deserved to come and be a member of our family. She went to prepare the paperwork for the upcoming weekend, and David returned to the two of us and reported to Ty and me that it looked like we were going to have Ty for company this weekend. I asked Ty when his preschool let out in the afternoon and he said right after lunch, so I told him that maybe I'd come pick him up then because otherwise, we'd have to wait until later in the afternoon when David got home from school. Ty looked up at my imposing husband and asked David if he still went to school and we laughed and David told him he did, every school day because he was a teacher, and then he asked if I was too, and we tried to explain that I worked with people who wrote books and he seemed comfortable with that explanation.
We three then went to see how Ken and Ben were getting along with the young athletes and they were just finishing up and it looked like they were coming toward us, a question on their faces. When we were within talking distance Ken asked if we could do them a favor and pick up Sean and Will for them tomorrow afternoon, as otherwise, they would have to wait until after five to pick them up as they were both teaching and had after school coaching to do also, that is if it was okay with us and also Mary.
I laughed and told them I had been thinking about picking up Ty here about 1 PM and I wondered if that was too early for Sean and Will. Ken told us the teens had the day off because of a teacher's workshop. Introductions were made all around and it appeared that Sean and Will were two of the older boys in Ty's dorm room, it seemed younger boys were placed in dorm rooms with older trustworthy boys to keep an eye on the younger ones at night. Ty and Sean and Will sat and talked among themselves for a few moments and us adults went and tracked Mary down and when she had a moment, we asked her about picking up all three boys tomorrow. All was arranged in short order and Will and Sean promised to help Ty get a bag packed before I came to pick them up after their lunch.
I had snapped a few pictures while we had been talking to Ty and I now took one of Ty with Will and Sean, the three of them talking about going away for the weekend, the three of them obviously excited about the opportunity. We realized others were leaving at that point and we got ready to leave ourselves, David and I telling Ty that I'd be picking up all three boys right after their lunch the next day and Will and Sean telling us they'd try and explain to Ty what the weekend could be all about eventually, as he just thought of it as a new experience, seeing the farm and having bigger boys to play with for a few days. I thanked them for that, but I didn't want them to dampen Ty's enthusiasm in the process, so we talked for a few minutes about this and decided to just make this first visit for him about having fun.
When we got home that evening the boys were told that we were going to have company for the weekend. They got to see the pictures we had taken so they could see Ty and, also Will, and Sean who would be staying with Ben and Ken for the weekend also. Our boys were excited about having a little one staying with us and they all promised to be good big brothers to him while he was here with us. David and I had talked about how our boys would feel about another boy coming into our family, especially a younger boy who would need a bit more attention from us, but once we explained Ty's circumstances, and the recent operation on his foot, they responded as we had hoped and couldn't wait to meet him and began to start planning a month's worth of activities with him to be crammed into two days.
When I pulled into the parking lot of the DCFS Boys' Dorm I had to stop myself from running in there to pick up Ty. I had actually missed him last night as we were tucking in our boys. Before going to bed last night, the three boys had insisted on setting up a room for Ty and stocking it with some of their own toys and games they felt they had outgrown and even some of their own outgrown clothes and shoes and even a pair of kid's cowboy boots. Pictures Davey and Eric had colored for him were on some of the walls and ten-year-old Matty had brought a teddy bear he thought Ty might like to sleep with.
All three of the boys were ready, each with a packed bag for their weekend in the country. Sean and Will had Ty between them on the bench beside the check-out window. The two 14-year-olds looked so much more grown up in their street clothes and Ty, when he saw me approach them, grinned from ear to ear and shyly gave me a little wave as he squirmed on his seat, but bounced to me when I held out my arms to him. I asked him how his foot was today, and he looked down at his feet and said they both felt happy today. I told him I felt happy too today, and that got me a little boy hug which I gladly returned. I then stood and shook both the older boys' hands and told them I was pleased they were coming to Ben and Ken's for the weekend and that we should get signed out, so we'd be home when all the teachers and students got out of school.
I went over the other adults on the property with all three on the drive back home, explaining the children who lived with them and that we were all having a big dinner tonight at David's and my home to welcome the three of them to our farm and they would get to meet everyone at the dinner, if not right after school.
I had to make one stop on our way home, and when I pulled in the drive of the old Victorian where my editing business was the boys asked if this was where I lived, but I told them I just had to go in and sign some checks, but they could come in with me as it might take a few minutes, and yes, this place was where we all had lived at one point or another, and I pointed across the yard and they could see the huge rectangle where our house used to stand. We entered by the back door and I showed them into the kitchen where I had placed some muffins Pat had baked that morning and a half gallon of milk so they could have a snack as I sat and signed this week's paychecks for the staff.
As the boys ate and drank, I completed the paychecks and placed them into the proper envelope for distribution by Mary later in the afternoon. By the time I was on the fourth one, Mary had come into the kitchen and offered to take the boys on a short tour as I finished. They all seemed to like Mary so with her they went to explore my workplace.
I honestly tried to answer all their questions on the way home, but some of Ty's had me laughing so much it was hard to concentrate, how did David and the boys and I move our house down the roads, did the horses pull it? What if someone was sleeping when the house moved? Would they wake up in a different place? Was that what I did for work, signing papers? In the kitchen? Why did Mary call me Boss?
When we pulled into the property from the road, of course, there wasn't a house or any other building right in front of you, but as the drive curved there was a branch of it off to the left and then the old carriage house in its new setting was right in front of you and Ty expressed all the boys' feelings by saying, "WOW" as I pulled in front of the house on the circular drive, we'd unload the boy's bags and I'd park the car in the garage later.
We entered the house and I gave Sean and Will a place in the vestibule to place their bags until Ken and Ben arrived home and we then went on a tour of the first floor, and then outside to the patio where they could see the pool in its glassed-in housing and the horse barn on the other side of the yard. I asked if they wanted to see the barn and of course they all did so off to meet the horses we went, Pat coming with us after I had the time to introduce them to each other. Wade had taken Chris home for a rest, so we'd meet up with them later, but the focus of all three boys now was the horses.
Of course, they had never been around horses before, but that didn't make any of them shy away from these big animals. They petted and got horse kisses for doing so and they all thought that was great. We had been in the barn for about an hour when Pat offered another snack to the boys and we all went up to the house again and Pat had juice and fruit for the boys, telling them there would be brownies when the others all came home from school in an hour. We used that hour to walk the lane, Pat and I showing them where everyone lived and then, real quiet, we went into his and Wade's house where Wade was working on some farm property bookkeeping. Wade looked at his watch and seeing it was time for Chris to be up from his rest he went up to get the cute baby. Of course, they all had to hold him for a few minutes each, even Ty thought he was so cute.
By the time we had walked the lane and seen the four houses and the barn down there it was almost time for the first school bus which would be Glenn's bus from the high school. Now as you know Glenn and his father John came out to each other not that long ago and John and our lawyer Tom Wilkins had met and started dating. Glenn hadn't had any such luck himself, but I wondered, as we walked up the lane to meet his bus we could see at the roadside at the mouth of our drive, if one of the hot 14-year-olds with me would meet with his approval when they met.
Glenn exited the bus and turned back to wave at some friends and the driver before turning and seeing Jay and me walking with three "new" boys, Ty holding my hand as we moved to meet up with Glenn at our driveway. Jay left us to get the after-school snacks ready for the upcoming surge and I introduced Glenn to our weekend guests. Will and Sean had good manners and greeted Glenn as an equal (after all, they were all the same age) and handshakes were exchanged all around, but true to his caring personality he picked up Ty and hugged the lad to him to greet him. Ty liked that a lot.
We went indoors to wait for the next bus and the three14-year-olds were soon at the kitchen counter, deep in conversation, as I took Ty and his bag upstairs to show him the room our boys had prepared for him. He was so pleased I think he was about to weep as he walked around the room touching everything and he kept turning to me asking if this was all for him. I sat on his bed and told him how Matty and Davey and Eric had set it all up for him so he would have his very own room in our house. He said that was really nice of them and I agreed, telling him they even colored the pictures on the walls for him and I thought he was going to lose it then and there, but we heard the front entry door so I told him he could thank them because I bet that was them coming in the door now, with Glenn's brothers. He grabbed my hand to pull me off the bed and rush so he could meet my boys and thank them for his room.
All the grade and middle school boys were here, and Ty went right up to my boys and thanked each one for his wonderful room, recognizing them from their photos he had seen on David and my phones the day before. Matty, Davey and Eric were quite taken with Ty and they almost forgot to introduce him to Drew and Carey, but they did and then as a pack they all went to the kitchen counter where Pat was dishing up their after-school snacks and Sean and Will were getting to know Glenn, and Glenn was all but in a trance with these two guys talking to him.
An hour later the rest of the residents began to show up, including Fred, who came home from nursery school with his parents, JC and Brian. Fred ran right up to me, asking where the new boy was and then they saw each other across the crowded room, the dark and swarthy Ty and the elfin Fred, and they ran to each other, standing about a foot apart and took each other in, and then just hugged, like they had been waiting for each other their whole lives, I know, that's stupid of me to say that, but they really did fall in some kind of love that afternoon. Yes, Ty was thrilled to see David again, and he was so polite to JC and Brian when Fred brought them to meet Ty, but the two of them held hands for almost the rest of the evening, even as Ty showed Fred his new room.
I was beginning to see that Glenn was just as enthralled by Sean and Will, and it looked like they were as enamored by Glenn as he continued to hold their interest, except when Ken and Bill arrived to greet their weekend guests. It was so cool to see these young 14-year-olds, in the midst of finding someone that was their own age they could relate to, turn their attention to these two guys who they had been admiring since yesterday, walk up to them and ask if they were happy to be here. Not only were they happy, but they each had an arm around Glenn, and I think he was the happiest boy in the room, except for Ty, and maybe Fred. I wasn't doing too badly myself, and with David next to me I felt finally as contented as I had ever thought was possible, and beyond.
Eventually, David and I went to help Pat get dinner ready, stepping into the kitchen to find Wade already there with little Chris in his bassinet. John and Tom arrived after John had his last class for the week and as they helped us in the kitchen, they got to see Glenn in his element and the two youngest boys formed the foundation for a friendship that would last the rest of their lives. Once everything was set for the buffet we called for the boys to line up and David and I helped Ty and supervised Davey and Eric, and then JC and Brian followed with Fred and after them it was the older boys and then the adults, everyone finding a place at either the huge harvest table or the big rectangular table from the patio we had brought in to run alongside the harvest table.
I have to say that everyone slept in their own beds that night, at least in our house, but I'm not too sure about the rest of the weekend, Glenn and his two new friends were everywhere together, along with Ben and Ken, who certainly didn't mind having Glenn along for the swimming, horseback riding, basketball, and even working out in their home gym and the morning jogs and the evening strolls.
Ty and Fred were so adorable when they were together, which was just about every waking hour all weekend, in fact, David teased that we would have to add another house to the property so those two would have some privacy. Fred wanted to be with TY when I first took him for a horseback ride, but settled for riding with his dad JC as they rode alongside us as we as a family introduced Ty to our leisure time on the farm. Ty shared his enthusiasm with Davey, Matty, and Eric as well as Fred, and David and I and whichever other adults were with us at the time. I asked Ty on Sunday morning if he was having a good time with us all and he told me that he was having the bestest time ever, and I then asked if he would like to come back next weekend, after his week at nursery school, and he was just about incandescent when he realized he could come back. Mary had told David and me that she didn't think he had a grasp of what it would mean to be fostered or even adopted, but she thought that he would be receptive to staying with us should we decide he was the young boy we were looking for to complete our family.
She explained this to us as we waited for Ty to be brought down for us to check him out for his third weekend visit, David having the afternoon off that Friday due to a teacher's workshop that morning. He spoke up and told Mary that we had already decided that we wanted him to become a permanent member of our family, and that we didn't expect to have to return him after the weekend, and she surprised us by saying that the councilors at the DCFS home had recommended the same, that Ty was becoming so attached to us, and his bestest friend Fred, that they were recommending permanent custody to begin as soon as we signed the paperwork she then pulled from her briefcase. There were two attendants helping to pack Ty's meager belongings up and getting Ty prepared for leaving the other children, except for Will and Sean, for good this time. It was the confirmation we expected that both older boys were going to be fixtures at Ben and Ken's house, also starting this weekend. That was when Ken and Ben arrived, ready to pick up their two foster sons. Mary got them started on their paperwork right away and when both of us couples had completed our assignments the three boys and their belongings were brought to us in the lobby.
It was a very joyous dinner that night as we announced that Ty would be staying with us "forever" and Matty, Davey, and Eric all high fived the tyke, bringing giggles from the four-year-old who loved being accepted by his new brothers. Later as we strolled the lane he had to run and get Fred to walk with us, and all three guys from that house joined us and we ran into Ben and Ken with Sean and Will on our way to the two houses across the way, Glenn and his brothers waiting on the porch to join us in our nightly stroll through the fields. From the house, John and Tom came out and from the next house over, Wade and Pat emerged with Chris in his carrier sling draped across Pat's chest. Tons of congratulations were extended to the three new permanent residents as we continued our way toward the gate at the far end of the farm lane through the fields, and on the way back, Ty had his choice of backs and shoulders to ride on the way back home.
I won't say that there were no problems raising the four boys to adulthood, but nothing more or less than any other family experiences. We were very lucky in that regard, but with my business going strong, David's teaching career fulfilling and satisfying, the boys all well adjusted and content, we thought we had made the best life for ourselves and our family we could have, there wasn't anything I think we would change, not even deciding to trade our old in town neighborhood for life in the countryside, living in the converted carriage house we had moved to the farm.
As always, this was a very cool story. I am very impressed with all the kids and their parents.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
As many now know, the circumstances the children came from in this story were real cases I encountered while working with two state's CASA volunteer groups. Our goal was always the best possible outcome for the children, and our recommendations to the court officials were, for the most part, followed through on. I'm pleased to say that the kids in this story all were successful in their assimilation into the families, and have themselves reached out in their adult lives to help children still in the system for one reason or another. Some times caring for a dog or cat just isn't enough for some people.