Miscellaneous

My September 11 story – Steve Ward

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I went to middle and high school with Steve Ward…we graduated from the same class. We weren’t close….we knew one another, but were not really ‘friends’….and occasionally something close to ‘enemies’. The last time I saw him was in June of 1996 at our 10th H.S. Reunion, the only one I’ve ever attended. He had to introduce himself to me again, as I didn’t recognize him. I recall exactly what we said to one another: ‘

‘Steve…I remember you of course, I just don’t remember you being so…’

‘Bald?’

“No, tall….I honestly don’t remember you being so tall.’

I hadn’t really noticed the bald yet, in truth, until he said something about it.

We spoke for a bit, caught up on our lives, and the conversation was friendly and enjoyable. Ten years had changed both of us somewhat (I admit I didn’t have as much hair on my head either) it seemed, and whatever differences we might have had once upon a time were forgotten to history, as they so often are. It wasn’t a lengthy conversation, but one (of many that night) that filled me with a feeling of nostalgia and serenity that old wounds were finally healing. Speaking with Steve was one of those ‘healing moments’. We never met again after that.

On September 11th 2001, I had been living in Massachusetts for two months. I worked in Boston, across the street from South Station. I was growing accustomed to ‘city life’ and all the hustle and bustle. I had been advised that it was more intense, more ‘dangerous’ than what I was used to…what I’d grown up with in Gorham, Maine.

I was sitting at my desk when a coworker rushed into the area to tell us all, ‘The World Trade Center has just been bombed.’ The news was shocking, to say the least, and confusing, as details were limited and panic was already high. Everyone crowded into the conference room, a television set was tuned to a local news broadcast, and we all watched in both silence and horror as the scene unfolded before us in vivid colors of people injured and trapped and fleeing for their lives…blood red and black despair in clouds of white destruction.

I didn’t know then that Steve Ward was in one of the towers that were attacked that day, and that on September 11th, 2001 he would lose his life. Over the years, on this date, I think about watching the events unfold on television that day and thinking that I was, unbeknownst to me, and like so many others, watching someone I knew depart the world in such a horrible way.
Some time later, when the rubble had been cleared and a barrier erected around the site, then known as Ground Zero, I visited Manhattan and went to the (former) World Trade Center location. On the wall people had written names of people lost that day. There were too many walls and too many markings to read through them all, even if I was only looking for one.

Fortunately I had a pen in my coat pocket that day. I took it out, removed the cap, and added Steve Ward’s name to the others. It may have been there already, but if not…at least it was then.

Each year on September 11th I think of Steve – the ‘brainy jock’ I knew only so well…..despite six years of attending the same schools. I think of his family’s loss, and how this date must impact them each year. I think of the brother, son, and friend that was lost to so many that day, and I think of how grateful I am that my last tangible memory of Steve was a friendly conversation, a warm smile, a gracious handshake, and a pleasant exchange.

Steve Ward…..never forgotten.

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Parenting

On The Day You Were Born

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Today is my son’s birthday. He is 8 years old. This photograph was taken of him shortly after we met him, through foster care, and began spending time with him before adopting him.  He was 2 years old at the time.

On the day you were born, my son, it was September 10th, 2006.  The world was preparing, for the next day, to mark the 5th anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies this country has ever seen, the World Trade Center bombings.  The sun was shining, the temperature was in the lower 70’s, and Daniel Smith, the son of Anna Nicole Smith (someone we used to watch on a reality show) passed away at a very early age.  His mom lost her son on the day that your mom welcomed hers into the world.

I would not meet you for another two years.  Papa and I had decided to pursue adoption through foster care, but had had to terminate a placement earlier that year (around your 2nd birthday) and had thought we might ‘hold off’ for a while on getting to know any other kids.  All in all, it was one of the best decisions we ever made (to wait) because it brought us you a few months later.

I have no photos of you as an infant.  I likely never will, whereas the foster family you were with for the first 18 months of your life were made to surrender you for not taking good care of you medically and were very angry to lose you.  Although I regret that they were not properly caring for you at the time, I can understand, fully, the feelings they had when you left their lives. I would feel much the same.

On the day you were born, I had spent several months at home taking care of another little boy, Aiden, but was starting a new job the very next day, September 11th, 2006.  I was wondering what the people would be like, hoping the work was something I could understand and do easily, and that I’d like the new job.  I didn’t know that that day, September 10th, while I wondered if my new job would fill my time with happiness, that several miles away a little boy was being born that would fill my heart with happiness one day.

I didn’t create you, my son.  I have never met your mom, nor your biological dad, and I cannot tell you much about them as people.  I can tell you your mom’s age, and a few months ago I found a picture of her and printed it out for you to have something to see what she looks like.  Through her eyes I can see your face, and see where you got some of your features.  Through her eyes, I can see the physical relationship between you and the woman who brought you into the world.

There’s a poem that was written several years ago now by an adoptive parent.  It expresses my feelings for you, my son.

“Not flesh of my flesh”

Not flesh of my flesh
Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn’t grow under my heart,
But in it.

I have known, and felt, for most of my life that I’d want to be a dad one day.  I’ve also known for that time that I would have to go to great lengths to be a dad, and the ‘old fashioned method’ wasn’t necessarily in the cards for me.  I knew that I’d most likely have to adopt.  I also knew that I didn’t have to create a child myself, biologically, to love them unconditionally.

Though I look in your mother’s face, in the photograph I gave to you, and see physical traits that you share, I look in your eyes and I see a smart, funny, caring, sensitive boy.  I see the mischievous way you joke with people, and the love you feel for them. I watch you with Aiden, and I see the worship and adoration you feel for him.  I see the wonder and delight you feel when something new sparks your interest or pleases you.

With your words I sense the curiosity you have of life and the world around you.  I hear the wonder in your heart as to why you were placed for adoption, why your mom isn’t in your life, and I am grateful beyond words that you understand that you deserve a good, safe life, and that was what I wished to give you when I adopted you.

With your questions, and your revelations, I know you place a great deal of trust in me, and I am honored that you feel me worthy of that trust.  I hope to never betray it, and that it will not change over time.  I will always want to protect you, to be a place you can assign your trust, tell your secrets, and know that you are safe with me, no matter how old you grow.

With your arms around me, and your cheek pressed to mine, I feel the love you have inside you to give, and I am so very thankful that you choose to give it to me.  I am not a perfect parent….but my love for you is without measure, without boundaries, and without an end.  Despite the errors I make, I will always love you and never want anything but the very best for you.

On the day you were born, the greatest gift I’ll ever receive came into this world….the boy who would one day become my son. I didn’t bring you into this world, but I am so very happy that I get to guide you through it, and share your life with you.

Happy Birthday, my sweet little man. I love you to infinity and beyond.

Daddy

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