The first year of the rest of my life

I don’t believe in coincidences. Well, not unless we’re talking two cooks who bring the exact same strawberry chocolate trifle to the potluck dinner. Or best friends buying the same shirt on separate shopping excursions. Those type of events are simply by-chance occurrences, possibly influenced by a to-die-for recipe or the similarity of fashion sense shared by BFFs.

But when it comes to the life-will-never-be-the-same again sort of events that may seem like they “just  happened” without any purpose or meaning, nope. Not a believer.

Things like my mom mentioning to my daughter in a casual conversation the 53-year secret that I was found on a doorstep. Not a fluke. Not happenstance. Not a “twist of fate.” Not planned by her, but orchestrated nonetheless.

The one-year anniversary of the “slip” was on Friday. The one-year annivdoorstep-announcement-angolaersary of my husband handing me the copied newspaper clipping my mom had stopped by to give me, but then left with him because I wasn’t home, occurred on Sunday.

In some ways, it seems but a few months since I learned this detail of my beginnings. Yet when I recall the long days of waiting for DNA test results and the painstaking plotting of the family lines of distant cousins, it feels like the past twelve months’ journey has spanned five years.

Three-hundred-sixty-five days filled with many memory-making moments, almost all of them “ups”. The in-person reunion with a half-brother. Many let’s-get-to-know-each-other email conversations. An undisclosed amount of time spent Facebook picture-stalking. Several lengthy telephone discussions. Many giddy hours consumed by an obsession to confirm family resemblances. Multiple late-night Facebook chats. A solo excursion of private moments to my “hometown”. An official tour of said town. Untold hours trying to absorb it all.

The year included only a few “downs.” Learning that my birthmother’s death in 1990 would prevent me from meeting her and assuring her I’d had a good life. And the unintended, yet not completely unforeseen, tsunami-type storm the unveiling of the secret produced for some of my birth family.

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Compared to many similar journeys, mine was but a short jaunt. Just five months and eleven days to uncover the identity of both my birthparents, from the day my Ancestry.com DNA results came back. Further proof to me of the orchestrated timing.

I have to wonder what this past year would have looked like minus the unfolding of this incredible journey . . .

For one, I’d have gotten soooooo much more sleep. But I’d have missed out on meeting the incredible people who assisted in the search.

I might, probably would have, written more on other topics and furthered my writing career path. But several birthmothers and adoptees reunited throughout the midst of my search, would still be looking.

My house would have been cleaner and more organized for sure. But my mother-in-law’s “mystery brother” case would have remained a mystery, most likely forever.

And I’d still be gazing into the faces of strangers, wondering if we were related. Pondering whether the similar eyes or nose or the-something-I-can’t-quite-name-familiarity about the person could mean we shared DNA.

One of the most incredible aspects of all of this is discovering resemblances between me and my birth relatives, on both sides of the family. Hearing that I have the same mannerisms as my birthmother is so intriguing. All my life, I didn’t look like anyone, and now I look like lots of people!

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What’s in store for the next 360+ days? I’m excited about more face-to-face encounters and the discovery of more in-common-ness at the paternal family reunions planned for September and November. A third reunion is possibly shaping up as well. I’m beyond thrilled to meet these close relatives I didn’t know existed until five short months ago.

On the sleuthing front, we’re working on three new adoptee/birthparent mysteries. Talk about stimulating exercise for the brain. I’m continually amazed at how many people have the same name—a frustrating conundrum when piecing together genealogical puzzles. And my daughter and I hope to travel in October to connect with one of the birthmother/adoptee cases we helped to solve. Makes us wonder what’s in store for the month of December. And January. February and March and so on.

All because of a casual conversation in my parent’s upstairs “junk room” where the secret slipped out. Was it mere coincidence that this particular conversation happened on that day? I don’t believe so.

As I continue to ponder the “why now?” question, it dawns on me that maybe I was/am at the best place in my life, right now, to hear the doorstep details. To launch the search, to find my birth families, to meet my relatives. To lend a hand to others searching as well. To have a ring-side seat to so many wonderful reunions.

Only a GOD orchestrated event could have triggered this domino effect whereby dozens of lives have been impacted.

Reunion reports to follow soon! Next week the countdown begins.     Stay tuned . . .

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at  waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

 

 

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“We knew you came from somewhere.”

As the search for answers behind my doorstep beginnings came to an end, my mom made this rather profound statement, “Well, we knew you came from somewhere.”

Of course I did. I had a past before being found on the doorstep. A past that didn’t simply disappear because my future was headed in a very new and different direction.

Although they didn’t care what that past involved nor did they want to know any details, my parents “got” what so many adoptive parents don’t get. That where we came from would always be a part of us.

I came from somewhere, from people whose contribution to my existence did not simply vanish because the decision was made that we would part ways.

family tree picOnce I knew who those people were, I wanted to know about them. The mom and dad, the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Unless you are adopted, you won’t understand how exhilarating it was to click the box on my Ancestry.com results to “link my test results with a family tree”—the new tree my daughter began building after the mystery was solved. A tree comprised of my blood relatives.

For years, she’d painstakingly built our family tree, going back seven generations in some areas. The branches had swelled to include over 1850 ancestors. My side of the tree held the names and dates and stories of my adoptive family—the Hammitts and the Dagues.

I will always be a Hammitt regardless of whose DNA courses through my body. I’m proud of my Hammitt / Dague heritage. I love that my daughter created a family tree based on the rich history of these families who played a huge role in my life, in her life. That tree will never be deleted or replaced. Rather the new Brown / Hubbard family tree will rest alongside the Hammitt / Dague tree in our Ancestry.com account. Each as vital and important as the other.

As I connect more with my biological family, as we fill in the blanks of the last 50+ years, my mind swirls with “what ifs?”. What if I’d grown up with them? My life would have taken a very different path. My husband would be married to someone else. I would be married to someone else. Neither my daughter or son would exist. Nor would my grandson. I would have different children. Be someone else’s “Gram.” That’s a lot to wrap my head around.

A fellow adoptee who recently connected with his birthmother summed it up well.“If I hadn’t been adopted, my life would have been very different. But I wouldn’t have known the difference.” Another profound statement.

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Of course my life and his could have been snuffed out before we took our first breath. Abortion wasn’t legal in 1963 or 1965, but it took place all the same. In fact the Society for Human Abortion was established in San Francisco in 1963, openly providing information on abortion, and no doubt paving the way for the 1973 ruling that would legalize the killing of unborn babies.

Even though my birthmother determined she could not raise me or relinquish me for adoption through traditional means, she chose to give me life. Then shedoorstep-announcement-angola protected my life by making sure I would be found quickly. Remember the homeowner’s dog Frisky? When the small dog went out to do “his business”, no baby on the step. Minutes later when he scampered back into the house, he
jumped over the bundle of baby wrapped in a black shirt. Although the backyard neighbors had only lived there a short time, my birthmom and Mrs. N. were acquainted as members of a local club some years prior to 1963. I’m betting she remembered them as the good, family-oriented folks I discovered them to be, and she knew they would do the right thing.

I have to wonder if she checked the newspaper for word of her baby. I wonder if maybe she cut out the three paragraph snippet—in one publication—four paragraph blurb in the other local paper—and tucked it away somewhere. I wonder if she feared prosecution were someone to discover the doorstep baby belonged to her.

baby-safe-havenYou see, “Safe Haven” laws that allow a distressed parent to give up an unwanted infant safely, legally and confidentially, without fear of arrest or prosecution, and requires no names or records, didn’t go into effect in my state until 2000. I’m thrilled that this safe, legal option is available now.

Because not everyone who can father a child or give birth to a child is equipped to, in that moment in time, care for and nurture that child.

I promised you more about the “cool process and the incredible people” that made this discovery possible. With absolutely no clues, the only hope of finding answers was to look into my DNA. We chose Ancestry.com’s autosomal DNA kit that tests a sample of saliva. The results provided a list of people who had also tested, with whom I shared DNA, referred to as “matches.” With the help of the amazing genetic genealogist Amanda R., we built a “speculative” family tree to determine how these matches fit together. Ancestry’s vast resources combined with sleuthing skills we didn’t know we possessed, uncovered the details that led us to my birthmother’s family. A couple months later, a new “close match” pointed us directly to my birthfather. Without Ancestry.com, the mystery would never have been solved.

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The company has experienced exponential growth in the last six months. In March their user base topped 4 million. Evidently having one’s DNA tested is the “in” thing to do. Which is fabulous news for anyone searching for genealogical answers via DNA as the more people who test, the more clues will be available to everyone searching.

Early in this journey, we discovered DNA Detectives, the amazing nearly 50,000 member strong Facebook group focused on using DNA to solve genealogical mysteries.The closed group–you must request to be a member–is administered by a faithful crew of kind, dedicated, knowledgeable genetic genealogists and “search angels” who pour themselves into solving family mysteries. Here we made friends with other searching adoptees, learned valuable search tips, and gained deep and impactful insights into the emotionally charged world of digging for adoption answers. The stories are as unique as the individuals, each looking for answers that can only be found in the DNA that links them to their ancestors.

While some people search for years—decades even—to solve family mysteries, the puzzle pieces fell into place very quickly for me. I found both birthparents in just five months and 11 days. Something I have to believe is related to the “why now?” factor. At this very moment, a situation is unfolding that was spurred by my searching for answers. Someone touched by my journey has embarked on his own important quest for answers.

More adventures await as the visit to my birthmother’s grave and the house where I was born will happen soon. I’ve connected with several more of my eight, newly-discovered half-siblings. Plans are coming together for meeting my birthfather, his sister and possibly some of the sibs. And my eyes will be ever open for more “why now?” evidence.

So stay tuned . . .   cropped-head-shot-2

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for.

She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at  waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

 

An Adoption Story: The Final Pieces – Part 2

 

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While my parents had years to ponder my “foundling” beginnings, to conjure up scenarios about the who, the when, the why,I have had but a few months to imagine the details surrounding my being left on a doorstep. I have to agree with my mom’s repeated murmurings as the pieces have fallen into place. “This is not at all how I envisioned it.”

We peer at pictures of my birthmother who passed away twenty-six years ago—pictures we’ve studied for months—now placed next to a new-to-us picture of my very much alive birthfather.

This final piece of my adoption puzzle fell into place just over a month ago wDSCF8697 (2)hen my birthfather’s sister appeared as a “close relative” match on Ancestry.com. “Aunt Donna” broke the news of a long ago doorstep baby to her brother who knew nothing of a pregnancy or a baby girl.

At her urging and with his blessing, I sent him a brief email message that included the newspaper clipping and the link to the letter I posted in area newspapers last August, looking for anyone who remembered the doorstep baby from 1963. I struggled with what to say, and although I wasn’t thrilled with the final product, I hit send anyway. His response was quick and accepting of the situation. My loss-for-words condition remedied itself as we exchanged many get-to-know-you messages in the days that followed. He didn’t shy away from my questions which required him to sort through long ago memories and try to fit new pieces into a puzzle that he didn’t know had holes.

Despite the fact that the situation was anything but expected and is the furthest thing from neat and tidy, he’s been very welcoming. He brings four biological half-siblings as well as two adopted daughters to the equation. Add my two maternal half-siblings and my three adopted grew-up-with-me-my-whole-life brothers and that makes a grand total of eleven siblings. Eight brothers, two adopted sisters, and one biological sister.

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Yes, I have a sister. And yes, we look alike. (From an earlier post:  What if I had a sister out there somewhere? What if she looked like me?)

I also look like my birthmother.  And paternal grandmother. And even Aunt Donna. My son shares a strong resemblance with one of his maternal uncles. There’s actually quite a lot of family resemblances all around confirmed by several picture montages comparing me at various ages to my new relatives.  And I’m loving it. To finally look like someone is incredible.

Immediate family and very close friends have oohed and ahhed over the picture comparisons. But I won’t be sharing them here. Not yet. Maybe later, maybe never. Out of respect for all involved, I’m not revealing the names, the pictures or even the small Midwest town where the story unfolded. As much as I’ve enjoyed sharing this journey with you and would like to share the pictures, I’m very aware that this story isn’t mine alone.

Neither is the decision to share the “news” with my half-siblings and new extended family. While I get one vote, it’s not the deciding vote. Would I like to meet them? Yes, I would. But I won’t insist nor will I approach any of them on my own. This story of decisions made long ago has the potential to impact a host of people’s lives. Should connections and relationships develop, I will welcome them. If some never learn of my existence or choose to remain strangers, those are choices I will respect.

howWhile this ends the search for the “who”, many questions remain. Like how did she conceal the pregnancy, when and where did she give birth, did anyone help her with the birth or walk with her through that difficult time? It’s looking like those questions will never be resolved because the one person who holds those answers no longer has a voice. My greatest concern as I uncovered the truth was that no part of this journey bring judgement upon my birthmother or the decisions she made.

As a close friend listens to the latest update, her head shakes and her eyes widen. “So what’s the why?”

As in why now?  Why after all these years are the answers lining up to questions I barely knew to ask?

“That’s what I keep wondering,” I murmur.  Now it’s my head that’s shaking, moving back and forth in a kind of circular, what-in-the-world-is-this-all-about motion.

Because now that there’s no one to tell, “You did what you felt you had to do and it turned out okay,” the why of this journey is looming large. I felt certain whythere was someone who needed to hear, “It’s fine, really. The story had a happy ending.” That surely someone had been waiting fifty-three years to know what became of her/his baby girl on the doorstep. But no.

Since we began this quest, my daughter and I have reunited three searching adoptees with their birthmothers. One adoptee will celebrate his 50th birthday this week having connected with his birthmother who has looked for him for years. We also solved the case of the “mystery brother” for my mother-in-law and in the process discovered a plethora of new first cousins for my husband and his three siblings. A newfound niece will join the family celebration for my mother-in-law’s 91st birthday this weekend. We couldn’t be happier about connecting with this newly discovered branch of the family.

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Maybe the “why” of this journey has less to do with me and my story than I assumed. Maybe the purpose in my search was the opportunity it created to assist in the reunions mentioned above. Or maybe my quest was about the reconnecting with family this discovery has spurred for my new Aunt Donna. While I find myself still longing for my birthmom to hear the words, “It turned out well,” from me, the grown-up version of the tiny baby she walked across two backyards, that’s another decision that is not mine to make.

I suspect there are a variety of “whys”. That evidence of new reasons and purposes will continue to emerge. I do hope that’s the case. This experience has been, all at the same time, overwhelming, inspiring, and satisfying. And this whole business of reuniting people is as heartwarming as it is addictive.

So what’s ahead? For one, a special trip to my hometown as well as more reflections on the cool process and the incredible people that made all of this possible. While the search may be over, I’ve a feeling the journey has just begun. And I’m counting on some more “whys” too. So stay tuned for more . . . very soon! 

ScribcolumnBeth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

Unraveling an Adoption Mystery: The Story Continues

When my daughter tested her DNA with an Ancestry.com, Christmas-gifted kit this past January, it was mostly to uncover her ethnicity and to hopefully add branches to the family tree she’s painstakingly built over the last five years. And for fun. A cool way to indulge her love of history in general and genealogy in particular.

dscf8661When I spit into the test-tube like container of my own DNA test kit in August, it was to seek information about my unknown beginnings and maybe even uncover the identity of my birth parents. While I’d always been curious as to the details surrounding my birth and surrender for adoption, discovering I’d been left on a doorstep, having not been born in a hospital, had piqued my curiosity to a level bordering on obsession. The who, what, how and why questions raced through my brain.

With the help of an archived newspaper article containing the brief details concerning my “foundling” status and a quick Facebook search, I discovered a granddaughter of the couple who found me that mid-November morning in 1963. She’d been eight-year-old at the time and seemed to remember the incident as if it had happened yesterday. Her barely-contained excitement as we spoke on the phone was so genuine and refreshing as she shared details not included in the short, three paragraph write up. Two weeks later we met in person when my husband, daughter, grandson, myself, and my parents made the one-and-a-half hour trip to the city where I’d been found and presumedly had been born.

As we lunched at a local diner, she shared the details of that morning, recounted time and again over the years by her family. When her grandpa let their dog, Frisky, out sometime after five a.m., he was certain there was nothing on the step. But five to ten minutes later, when he opened the door to let Frisky back in, he noticed “something” on the step. Assuming it was Frisky having rolled his small body inside the rag rug on the step—as he was known to do—grandpa called out to the dog, expecting him to shoot from inside the rug cocoon, a trick he’d perfected. But when Frisky came from the yard and jumped over the step into the house, grandpa nudged the “something” on the step with his foot and was rewarded with the sounds of a baby. He scooped up the bundle of blanket and a man’s black wool shirt that encased a 5 lbs. 12 oz. baby girl. He and his wife raced the baby to the hospital, concerned for the child’s well-being.

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front of the house where I was found

I was found to be in good health but remained in the hospital for three weeks, where the nurses named me “Susie Hope”. The woman whose husband discovered me on the step worked in the hospital cafeteria. In the weeks that followed, after her shifts, she often made her way to the nursery where she would hold and rock me. Hospital personnel heard of her frequent visits and instructed the nurses to “not let her do that anymore”, fearing she was forming an attachment to the baby … to me. The nurses, however, chose not to stop her from showering me with attention. I tracked down an employee who worked at the hospital in November of 1963. Although she worked in another department and never saw me, she remembered the doorstep baby story well. She shared that my frequent visitor, a friend of hers, also bought me an outfit. Ah … how sweet.

How I wish those kind folks were still alive so I could meet them, express my gratitude for their thoughtfulness, and share that the “doorstep baby” story did indeed have a happy ending.

My DNA results took only one month to return, less than the six to eight week timeline the website suggests. It contains lots of fascinating information that a caring and very knowledgeable genetic genealogist is helping me to decipher. In addition to the way cool detailed analysis of my ethnicity, the report also indicates a whopping 234 (and counting!) 4th or closer cousins. “And counting” because as more people test with Ancestry.com every day, new connections are discovered. I’ve already gained eleven new cousin matches in the month since I received the results.2016-10-12-5

One first-second cousin match has provided us with enough information to zero in on the family of one of my birth parents. A member of that family has submitted a DNA test, whose results will hopefully narrow down, if not confirm, either my birthfather or mother.

Friends have asked the same questions I pondered myself before even purchasing my DNA kit. Why do I want to do this? What am I hoping to gain? Other than to satisfy even a little of my raging curiosity, I immediately knew I wanted to ease the mind of those involved in what had to be a gut-wrenching decision. “You did what you felt you had to do and everything turned out fine. My story had a happy ending,” I’d say if I got the chance.

Then I’d be tempted to ask, “But what about yours? How have you been since then? Did you spend years worrying about me or regretting the decision?” I hope not. I really hope her life and his life turned out well.

What I really wish is that I’d discovered the “doorstep baby” detail earlier, when the chance of connecting with those involved would have been more likely. But I try to shoo that thought away each time it creeps in because GOD’s hand, HIS protection and timing have been so evident from the very moment I was laid on that door step, that I must continue to trust in HIS plan. I believe with my whole heart there’s a reason the pieces of this giant puzzle seem to be falling into place at this very moment in time.

Life is full of “whys”. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to unravel the mysteries, decipher the motives, and get a gasp on what the future holds. But isn’t it better to trust in HIS goodness and rest in HIS plan–even and especially when we can’t see the end game?

However this slice of my life concludes, I’ll be fine. Will I be disappointed if I don’t get all the answers I’m seeking? Probably, yes. But that’s okay. And if the reasons for now being the time this mystery unravels are never revealed, I admit I’ll always wonder. But that too will be okay. GOD’s got this. HE’s always had this situation firmly in the palm of HIS hand. 

I’ll keep you posted!  🙂 Scribcolumn

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

Incredible Journey

Vintage reads

Who remembers the movie, Homeward Bound, subtitled, The Incredible Journey? Yes, an entire auditorium of raised hands fills my vision.

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Now. Who remembers the book titled, The Incredible Journey? Hmmm. A few uplifted hands spike from the audience like corn volunteers in a soybean field. (Can you tell I live in the Midwest?)

Yes, boys and girls, The Incredible Journey was a book long before Sally Field and Michael J. Fox lent their voices to a foolish dog and a sassy cat. Don’t think I’m criticizing Homeward Bound. The producers and director made sure the heart of the story remained true to the book, and I love that movie. It’s one of the few I’m willing to watch again and again and again.

Sheila Burnford published The Incredible Journey, the novel, in 1960. Between the slightly foreign voice of a Canadian author and the acceptable writing style from over half a century ago, kids today will have a harder time appreciating the original story than they did back when I first read the book.

Wait a minute. I’m assuming you know the premise of the story. In case you don’t: because a family has a temporary living situation that doesn’t allow pets, two dogs and a cat have been boarded with a friend of theirs. Of course, the animals don’t know why they’ve been separated from their beloved owners, so they run away from the caregiver and head home.

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The book and both movies pull at the same heartstrings. Yes, both movies. Before Homeward Bound, there was another film, appropriately titled The Incredible Journey. It was completely faithful to events in the novel and narrated in much the same way as the omniscient narrator tells the story in the print version.

 

You would think children would not enjoy the older movie. It’s black and white, narrated, and has no animal voices provided, but my six-year-old granddaughter sat in front of the television, enthralled. Similar to the 1986 comedy-drama, The Adventures of Milo and Otis, children of today still get wrapped up in a story of real animals against the elements.

If you haven’t read The Incredible Journey, go for it. Insist your kids read it, or make it a family read-aloud. Like I mentioned in my September 10th post, make sure your children eat their literary vegetables.

Dysfunctional Family Desired for Story Premise

Vintage reads

Remember those good old TV shows from the Fifties? Andy Griffith, Leave It to Beaver, The Lone Ranger, and a host of others. Today’s viewers say, “Boring. No conflict. Not enough action.”

 
Excuse me? While superheroes didn’t bounce out of the sky and smash a city to individual cinder blocks, the characters in those programs faced real problems and taught children how to solve them. In many family comedies, Dads led their wives and children through a jungle of moral decisions. The parents, as a team, guided their children toward wisdom, unlike many of the buffoons in today’s sitcoms.

 
Take Eddie Haskell, a problem that never stopped. Wally and the Beaver didn’t like him, but they treated him with grace. Their parents told them to, they obeyed, and further conflict was averted. At least, until Eddie tried something else, and the cycle repeated.

 
Or Opie Taylor, Andy Griffith’s son. I remember an episode where he had to choose: prepare to fight the bully for what was right or join the crowd to do wrong. Thanks to his father’s consistent example, Opie chose to stand for righteousness.

 

 

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Dennis the Menace entertained us with his inept efforts to be helpful, and his generous heart taught children like me to love our neighbors. His parents were often at a loss as to how to handle what Dennis might get into next, but they always explained to their son how he might have done things differently with less disastrous results.

 
Even westerns taught Judeo Christian morality. In The Rifleman, a father taught his son right and wrong and to use violence as a last resort to save other lives. The Lone Ranger never looked for credit for his good deeds. The rescued asked, “Who was that masked man?” as he rode into the sunset. Lessons in humility.

 
I want the same lessons of goodness in the books I read where characters solve problems in an honorable manner. It’s why I prefer the classics, books that contain intact families who love each other and face conflicts together. I get so tired of the dysfunctional families and missing parents in today’s literature. As an experiment, I went through the archives of The Scriblerians and checked the family situations in each of the books I’ve reviewed. I was dismayed by the results:

 
Dysfunctional Family/Missing Parent Intact, Loving Family
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Even if I discount the handful of books written past 1990, I found that authors use the lack of a good parent as an integral part of the conflict for the child protagonist. As much as I love each one of these stories, I’m saddened by that reality.

 

 

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Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars is a case in point. Thirteen-year-old Sara lives with her snarky teenage sister, her little brother Charlie, and their aunt. Their mother died; their dad split. Charlie has unnamed developmental disabilities. Today we might say he’s on the autism spectrum. Sara loves Charlie; she hates his neediness. She hates herself as many young adolescents do. The novel is beautiful and character-driven with a flawed protagonist who finally realizes she loves her family as it is.

 
Most of the events in the plot could have been accomplished with a mom and dad still around. Two parents could have struggled together in dealing with Charlie’s eccentricities, and teens in their struggle for independence get in grand funks even when they grow up in wonderful, loving homes.

 
Strong families are not exempt from ongoing crises. I’m currently writing a fictionalized memoir covering the first five years of my little sister’s life. Our parents enjoyed a solid marriage, and they had to cope with the uncertainties of raising a profoundly deaf child. Heartbreaking events occurred, and comical episodes still made life fun. We were strong. We were together.

 
This is what I feel called to do in my writing, to glorify God with stories of family who strive together to overcome the obstacles in their path as they journey through life, pilgrims on the way to the Promised Land.

A Baseball Mom and the Mudville Nine

 

My initiation into the world of sports began thirty-three years ago when my oldest son ventured into the world of t-ball. As each brother reached the grand old age of four, he joined the ranks of youth baseball teams. I have no better memories than those balmy evenings in June bruising my behind on bleachers and cheering my little boys to victory.

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With spring’s arrival, we leapt into all things baseball. Visiting the baseball card shop. Practices. Washing uniforms. Games. Washing uniforms. Concessions. I even sold an article to a magazine extolling the agony and the ecstasy of a six-inning Little League game!

We instituted baseball traditions at home. The season opened with our favorite videos. Major League, Major League 2, The Sandlot, and my husband rediscovered his childhood favorite, It Happens Every Spring. Other baseball movies rotated in and out, but those four were the staples of our viewing diet. To gain relief from hotdogs and nacho dinners fresh from the concession stand, I could be counted on to bring the boys’ favorites of tuna macaroni salad or ham and cheese sub sandwiches to their games. By the time, the youngest was in high school, those subs had won the distinction of a home run meal for the team between doubleheaders.

hs batter

Years passed. The oldest boy dropped baseball to create a successful high school sports career in swimming. The next son earned a college baseball scholarship but declined the money once he realized baseball practice and travel to games plus premed courses and biology labs equaled not enough time to succeed in either endeavor.

With one child left in baseball, I cherished every inning. He did not disappoint. We were able to attend games through all of his college years. Even better, he coaches his own high school team now. My husband will travel out of state to visit him later this month to attend their tournament. I’m jealous.

My boys will tell you that I never truly learned baseball lingo (“It’s not a hit, Mom. He only made contact with the ball.”). I don’t mind the teasing. Even though the words rarely come out of my mouth correctly, I’ve learned a lot more about baseball and life raising my sons than the years my parents dragged me to my brothers’ games.

PleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGod, don’t let him strike out. PleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGod, help him to pitch over the plate. Not every one of those prayers was answered with a yes from the Almighty. Through God’s grace, this mom and her kids learned how to handle the success of RBIs and sacrifice bunts, as well as how to endure the humiliation of fielding errors and hitting the batter.

casey at the bat

All of this to say: my favorite sports-oriented poem is “Casey at the Bat.”  As literature, I enjoy the rhythms of the poem. As a baseball aficionado, I appreciate the details of the game. As a Christian, I love the spiritual lesson. If you’ve read it, you know the moral of the story.  If you haven’t, read it! Then comment and let me know what the life lesson is.