Lots of memories in the last 23+years….graduation, weddings….
One of the best memories was Father’s Day of 2005 when Charley and Caleb gave Mike the greatest gift he could have ever received, adoption papers. They were 21 and 18 at the time and could make this decision on their own. Even though Mike had dreamed of that opportunity, he would have never asked them or put pressure on them. It was not possible when they were young, so he had not let himself even think about it, really; and I’m not sure he even put the thoughts together that it was something they could choose to do after turning 18. They had always called him Dad; and believe me, he was and is an amazing dad to all of our children.
It was always sort of sad when the guys got any recognition for their athletics in the paper or awards in school that with their last name being different, it almost felt like Mike didn’t get any credit (which he did not care about at all); but still it was just a bit of a downer. Teachers and friends all knew the last name was different, but sometimes even they hadn’t stopped to figure out exactly what that meant. I’ve been asked more than once if I was Charley and Caleb’s step mom 🙂
Now that’s the kind of dad he is!
We learned to laugh all of that off, like the few times people (mostly kids) referred to Mike and me as Mr and Mrs (last name of the boys)…all good memories though.
So that weekend with the adoption papers, as you might picture, was quite the surprise for him, to say the least. Charley and Ruth were dating; so she was in on it along with Caleb, Charley,our family attorney and me. It took a month or so to get everything legally in place, and it was SUCH a hard secret to keep. I think I’m the one that came up with the idea of a scavenger hunt as a way of presenting to him, so we worked to put clues and such together. They were funny clues such as “This gift is black and white,” (documents) and another clue “We had to go so many miles to purchase,” (meaning miles to the attorneys office)…..about 10 clues in all ….. Then the final clue was, “This is something you’ve always wanted and only we (Caleb and Charley) could give it to you!”
The next stop was an envelope with adoption papers, which still needed to be legalized and brought before a judge in a court room appearance.
The Saturday night before Father’s Day found us all standing there with our hearts beating out of our chests, waiting for him to open the envelope which contained the documents after receiving the final clue.
Just so you can get the accurate picture, we had not let Stephani and Jessica in on the secret, because we thought it was too risky they might say something. They were only 9 and 11. They didn’t have a clue as they stood there so excited as well. The next few moments were so emotional, and surreal. At first Mike was a little shocked as he began to read the pages of documents, which were a bit hard to follow with all the legal jargon. He was not really sure what he was reading (it was so quiet as we are all waiting), and then it started making sense to him as he was reading the papers. Being a man of few words as he is, Mike looked at Charley and Caleb, one of a handful of times in our marriage that there were tears in his eyes…..and sort of asked/declared, “Adoption?!” I think he wanted to verify before he got too excited. Little 9 year old Jessica was busy trying to look over his shoulder as he read. Of course she was clueless, bouncing up and down with the excitement of “dad’s getting a surprise.” Just when the moment was getting very emotional and intense, and Mike had just asked the question, “Adoption?” Jess started clapping and getting beside herself because she thought it meant we were adopting a baby. Hahahahaha such a funny moment tucked inside such an unforgettable memory.
A short 6 weeks later our family went on a cruise and Ruth went with us for the first time and her first cruise. There was so much excitement, and the girls were beyond thrilled to share a room with her. She had no idea how exciting this cruise would be. On the second night before dinner and while having pictures taken (a normal routine cruise activity), Charley proposed to Ruth after dating since they were 16, such a happy moment. She was completely surprised and we were all on Cloud Nine. We had loved her since we first met her, so this was a dream for all of us that was coming true. Our excitement would be cut short, however; because two days later on the same cruise, our family was involved in a jet ski/wave runner accident that came close to taking the lives of Jessica and Mike. It was so traumatic; and even though Mike and Jessica (who was only 10 years old at the time) were the two visibly injured, Stephani and Caleb had a deeper injury which occurred in their emotions, hearts and minds. Caleb had a much harder time dealing with the burden he put on himself as being somehow responsible for what truly was just an accident. It is still very painful for him to talk about, and he still battles the demons that want to destroy him with guilt. He and Stephani were on a jet ski together and had lost control of it, hitting Mike and Jessica on theirs, as they flew over the top of them, hitting them in the head….. totally a freak accident; but to say it was difficult for Caleb to live with would be putting it mildly.
Charley and I went with Mike and Jessica in the ambulance while Ruth, Stephani, and Caleb followed in a taxi. The ambulance had no working siren or air conditioner, and it felt like a million degrees inside there. Jess was still mostly unconscious, so I feverishly talked to her to keep her somewhat awake as that is one thing I was told that I understood from the non English speaking paramedics and the difficult language barrier.
Mike was out of it even though he was conscious; he kept having to be reminded where he was, and his behavior was very erratic. I was not out there in the ocean when the accident happened; instead, I was taking it easy at the beach there in Playa del Carmen. I was never one to get in on these type of activities, so I sat there drinking my coke and decided to call my sister. Her phone was ringing when I heard someone screaming my name several yards away down the beach. At first I couldn’t find who the screams were coming from; but soon my eyes focused in on someone running and realized it was Ruth, screaming my name and running towards me still with her life jacket on and dripping wet from the ocean. I knew something was horribly wrong. The big invisible pause button that gets pushed when these types of things happen was pushed, and I couldn’t move.
I had just placed a call to my sister to tell her of the engagement excitement and completely lost track that I still had the phone in hand. It had gone to her voice mail which recorded everything that was said between Ruth and me. My sister would hear it and be unable to contact me to find out if everything was OK for 24 hours. The last thing she heard after hearing Ruth say to me, “There’s been an accident on the jet skis,” was me asking Ruth who was hurt and if they were alive.
Soon Charley showed up; and as we walked/ran to the ambulance, he told me he needed me to prepare for what I was going to see…..and be strong. I asked him if they were going to be OK? He replied he thought “Dad” would make it but he wasn’t sure Jess would…..words that hit me like a million pounds.
As we approached the scene where they had laid Jess on a board and were preparing to bring her to the ambulance, I first saw Steph’s face (she was just 13) and then Caleb’s, both so full of fear. They needed me to comfort them for their own emotional wounds; but I would not be able to help them because of focusing on Jessica and Mike, who were needing me the most. There was not enough of me to go around. Ruth and Charley helped fill in the gaps and were absolutely incredible.
Of course our phones weren’t working except for Mike’s Blackberry (which no one knew how to use but him, as far as looking up numbers). That’s the first time I realized how I know no one’s number anymore; it’s just a name in my phone
Ruth could only think of one friend’s number from memory, so she called her to call everyone else to pray. I was in no place to even try to think of phone numbers. My entire attention was on Jessica and Mike….and in that order, since Jess was more critical than Mike, and she was still coming in and out of consciousness.
Back in the ambulance earlier, Mike had a lot of blood coming from his chin which was split open. He was not himself at all after being knocked unconscious and face first into the ocean. He was in a world of his own and not the person he would normally be for me in that situation. We eventually arrived at the hospital which looked like a run down apartment with a garage, the emergency room. Suddenly, I felt fear surround me as the reality hit that this was not a modern hospital, or from the looks of it, possibly not even a hospital. We were obviously in a very poor and scary part of town, but there was no other choice; we needed help.
I’ll never forget being in that one room “emergency room” which literally was the garage, Mike on one side of the room and Jess on the other. Charley and I took turns talking non stop to Jessica to keep her from falling any deeper into sleep which was extremely difficult. She would only open her eyes briefly when we would speak. She still had not really said anything since being rescued by Caleb out of the ocean, ,just moaned and groaned.
Meanwhile, Mike was lying on a table underneath a single light bulb that was hanging from a string as a man (doctor?) pulled out what looked to be a rusty tackle box that he might have fished with before. He opened a bottle of rubbing alcohol and began to pour it over Mike’s gashed open chin. I could hear Mike wrenching in pain. I turned to look at him for a moment and caught sight of a fly buzzing around the light bulb inches from Mike’s face as the man pulled out a needle from that same “tackle box” and began stitching up the large gash.
About that time Jessica began to throw up blood which is probably the worst thing to see after a head injury, a sign that something very serious is wrong. Things seemed to be getting worse.
I felt like I didn’t have time to even pray, but yet I don’t think I ever stopped praying. Everything was happening so fast yet SO slow……I would soon hear words from the doctor that no mom ever wants to hear. Just when I thought everything might be OK, his words literally brought me to my knees.