Five years have passed since the day my son’s adoption was finalized.
I mark this day each year not by the calendar date, but rather by it being the Friday before Thanksgiving.
I remember waking on that morning, five years ago, feeling a mixture of joy and trepidation. Joy that the day had finally arrived, after nearly a year of anticipation, trepidation at what could still happen to mar the day. Having been raised to ‘always anticipate the worst, and then be pleased if it doesn’t come to pass’, I feared that Murphy’s Law would prevail, and whatever could go wrong would. The train would break down on the way to the courthouse. The paperwork would be incomplete. Some heretofore unknown biological family member would step forward and challenge the proceedings. The adoption would not take place due to some technical difficulty. All these scenarios played out in my head that morning, causing me no end of anxiety.
Thankfully, I was mistaken, and my fears were all for naught.
It rained on Forever Day. The wind whistled through the season’s last leaves as they dropped from the near barren trees and danced about on the ground below. The air was moist and thickened by fog, limiting visibility. That mattered little to me, as my vision extended no further than my own mind, as lost as I was inside my head that day as to what was about to transpire. I was going before a judge, along with many other people, to legally become a parent. Something I had only dreamed about for many years was finally to come to pass. I was on the verge of crying from the moment I woke that day, until I finally succumbed a few hours later when the documents were signed, and I stood outside the court room holding a three year old boy to me whose understanding of that day was that he dressed up and got balloons and presents and sat in a big chair and pounded a gavel on a bench. I knew that it was so much more than just the trappings laid out before us. I knew that from that moment forward, until I drew my last breath, that boy was my son.
As I stood there holding him close to me, hugging him tightly, scarcely able to believe that it was more than just a dream that I would awaken from, I finally cried the tears I’d been holding back. It had been a long, emotional journey to arrive at that moment. Taking in an infant for 14 months and then experiencing the pain of loss when he no longer lived with us each day. Meeting a boy through foster care that we had thought to adopt, and then had to terminate the placement as it would not have been in the boy’s best interests to proceed, and finally meeting the boy that was now clinging to me and who a judge had a few moments before decreed was now legally my own child. I had had so many days and nights in that whole process of questioning if I was doing the right thing, if I was strong enough, man enough to be a father. I don’t mean just ‘having’ a child – most anyone can do that by one means or another. I mean I questioned if I was strong enough to be more than just a dad…to be his dad, no matter what that meant; no matter what sacrifices came with the rewards, no matter the lows that accompanied the highs.
I held him out a bit in front of me, looked into his eyes, and knew for certain that I was that strong.
Five years later, to the day, I have not questioned it since. I have watched him grow and learn and become. I have dried his tears, and hugged away his sadness. I’ve comforted his moments of questioning about his mom, and why she isn’t in his life. I’ve let the glow of his smile warm me, and let the light in his eyes brighten the darker moments of parenting that we all see from time to time, when the energy to keep going doesn’t seem to be in ready supply, or when they don’t understand that you are ill or sad or just plain worn out and want you to play with them, so you do, and then you realize that’s the best medicine for whatever ails you…the joy of a child.
There is a day that comes every June where children ‘honor’ their father. It’s a ‘special day’ set aside for just that purpose, to pick out a card with just the right sentiment, or present a gift that you hope they’ll like, or make them breakfast and tell them it’s okay to just sit back, relax, and take it easy all day long. I won’t say that day isn’t special to me, but something about this day, also National Adoption Day, a day when so many families are made permanent, always causes me to pause and look at my son and think of how grateful I am to have him in my life and to be his dad.
This day is really, for me, a day to celebrate. More than any card can convey, more than any gift can please. This day is more to me than either of those things. This day is special and significant to me in ways that, no matter what skill I might possess with words, I will never truly be able to convey. This day is like Christmas, and my birthday, and winning the lottery, and every other wonderful thing that can happen to a person in life all rolled into one. This is the day that one of my fondest desires came true, and an amazing little boy became my son.
This is the day that ‘forever’ began.