We were at the tennis club when a front desk team member alerted my wife to a phone call placed on hold for her. I thought that was a bit odd and wondered who’d be trying to reach her there.
She spoke for just a minute and then turned with a huge smile on her face and shouted…
“It’s a girl!’
Little did we know that being put on hold would have new meaning as time passed.
Months earlier, we had met the birth parents at Catholic Social Services and seemed reasonably assured that they would be giving the child up for adoption and that we would finally become parents.
Finally…because after ten years of marriage, two scary miscarriages, and infertility work, time seemed to be running out.
I remember my wife’s tears following a multi family picnic the previous year when there were kids everywhere except in our car on the sad ride home.
If you’ve been in this situation or know a friend who has, it is like nearly every conversation at these get togethers centers on kids and their happenings while the youngsters romp gleefully nearby.
There’s usually a newborn there with beaming new parents showing off their bundle of joy. We would smile and listen to them gush about their boy or girl and then leave with an ever widening hole in our hearts.
So, this phone call that Sally was on seemed to be the answer after ten years of infertility and the wounds that go with it.
We were invited to visit the hospital to meet this sweet baby who, we learned that day, had been named Destiny. Her name seemed to match perfectly with this magical moment in time on the long road to parenthood.
This car ride home seemed to be the one we’d hoped and prayed for over the years.
But then, being put on hold took on a new and scary meaning. As you can imagine, when the birth mother spent time and bonded with little Destiny, she began waffling about relinquishing this bright eyed baby.
We received a call from the social worker that the baby had been placed with foster parents until a decision could be made.
Our hearts were like newly inflated pink balloons with someone holding a sharp pin at their edges.
This was the beginning of an entirely new and exasperating…’being placed on hold.’
Nineteen days on pins and needles thinking/hoping that every time the phone rang that this would be the one…the one that would make us shout out loud…the one that would someday lead to our bundle of joy being admired at picnics and parties and dressed up at Easter and Halloween.
We could not voice the shared thought that the longer this went on, the more bonded in love would the birth mother and Destiny become. Friends were like ball players in the dugout afraid to speak as the pitcher pursued a no hitter and thinking they might jinx him.
The next to last time you’ll read this word…’finally’ was the call that changed it all.
The trials that began ten years ago had ended. Our daughter was coming home.
The hope that started to build when Dr. Jim said a patient’s daughter was pregnant and might be placing the child up for adoption had been realized.
Fast forward…we get a stroller and a crib, bottles and pacifiers. None of these you purchase in advance due to the potential jinx factor.
The case worker calls to see if we can meet her at her office to pick up ‘our’ Destiny daughter who will now be called Carly.
Hearts racing, we greeted Annette and Destiny was brought in a few minutes later.
I’ve pitched in front of five thousand fans in a national tournament and Sally’s had a hole in one, but nothing compared to that moment. Frozen in time and unforgettable as a first kiss…moments that your soul whispers… ‘yes, this is real and remember to give thanks.’
I’m driving home in a sleek gray Citation and when exiting the parking lot, I glance in the rear view mirror. Another postcard to momma moment. There’s angelic looking Carly staring blissfully ahead not yet the slightest bit aware of the indescribable joy her mom and dad are feeling in front of her. Little does she realize what lies ahead.
Pulling into the driveway, we notice a large, colorful banner that reads…
‘Welcome Home CARLY!’
Entering the house, Carly must have been shocked by the number of people waiting to greet her. Neighbors, tennis friends, mazel tov Debbie, and Mandy born just a few months earlier.
I remember volunteering to film the occasion in part to obscure the tears flowing from my eyes.
After lunch, the well wishers leave and another moment in time occurs.
Carly is fading quickly into nap city and Sally places her in my arms. Like a seasoned veteran (rookie), I rest her head on my shoulder and words I’ve never spoken in thirty nine years pop into my mind.
‘It Could Be Worse.’
Later it was abbreviated to ICBW and the full meaning is that it could be worse…but it could never, ever be better than this.
In retrospect, it would have beneficial for someone to remind us of how quickly the ‘younger years’ would pass. Perhaps we would have stored up even more magical memories than we have.
I close my eyes now and vividly replay the Marco Polo games at Emil and Dottie’s place at Gleneagles in Del Ray Beach, Florida. After dinner, we’d wait until nine p.m. and Carly and I would embark on our nightly frog hunting adventure on a bicycle made for one…she was so skinny that it worked.
One year, before Carly was ten, her mom had to take a special trip to care for Dottie for ten days. We were proud to have kept a little secret that Carly had contracted chicken pox the day after mom left.
Closing my eyes once more, we’re back in Denver hosting a genuine Western hoedown on our driveway. Neighborhood kids all dressed up like mini cowgirls and boys having a dance contest to Dan Fogelberg’s ‘Down The Road’ and other great tunes from his terrific bluegrass album.
We savored the hayride with Al and Lucy and their kids and the divine taste of those s’mores lingers to this day.
I remember countless times surprising Carly Jeanne (my mom’s name) by sneaking up on her with a face smothered in shaving cream. It only scared her the first time and then it was like…’well, there’s my goofy dad again.’
In 1997, we hiked the beautiful trail to Ouzel Falls near Wild Basin Lodge near Allenspark, Colorado. Thirty two years earlier when I was a teenager, we had vacationed for a week there.
One summer, we visited Busch Gardens in Tampa. A sudden deluge erupted and Carly had to be hoisted to my shoulders as the water suddenly rose above my ankles.
Once in the summer of 1991, I checked Carly out of the nursery at the tennis club.
It was oven hot that day and we went outside to watch her mom play some women’s doubles. When it was time to leave, I lifted our daughter onto my shoulders and rose much to quickly to my feet. Carly’s infant head smashed into the metal frame of the gazebo above and she wailed like a Banshee.
In the early days, my wife valued her sleep so I typically would get up in the middle of the night to settle Carly down if she was restless. I would put her head on my shoulders (ICBW) and walk in circles softly singing ‘You are my sunshine’ to her. She could tell you to this day that that song still makes her emotional. One night, when was less than two years of age, she began laughing on one of these after midnight walks. The strangest thing though…her laugh was like a 14 year old freshman in high school.
A nightly ritual took place for years to get the 4-7 year old to fall sleep. She’d hop into bed and say…’ready?’
I’d enter the darkened room and lie down beside her bed. She loved to hear the tale about Millie The Crawdad and her newfound friends Hector, Delores, and Sam. They had met one day at the creek…seems the kids were out exploring and happened upon Millie in a small beach chair soaking up some rays. Theirs was a special friendship with Millie going to school one day for show and tell and trips to ball games and Elitch Gardens amusement park. Delores had gifted Millie with a suitably sized bicycle and they frequently traveled to Bickley’s pharmacy to enjoy cherry phosphates and chocolate Coca Cola’s.
We relished the summer softball trips all over the state. Eyes closed again and I can see the first inning home run in Steamboat that landed thirty feet beyond the left center field fence. The ball looked like it was launched from a cannon and as Carly trotted around the bases…it seemed like those watching collectively whispered to each other…’you cannot be serious.’
I recall the crushing defeat in Ft. Collins that had the potential to ruin a softball weekend. The story of our daughter’s spirit can be found at the end of this book.
We always enjoyed the July 4th. pancake breakfast at the pool and looked forward to the great family times with swim team. Hot as hell but great times for sure.
Carly won’t appreciate this memory but once when she very young, I inadvertently shut the car door on her finger. The old cowboy can never remember being as frantic as in those moments.
When Carly was 11, my wife’s cousin and husband invited Carly to come to California for a week. We were really proud of her for taking on this adventure. She became incredibly homesick after a couple of days and called home in tears nightly.
We had fun with Carly as videographer when I mimicked Rafa Nadal’s outlandish serving routine. Another time, she filmed a music video and I played an aged man with an old mask and a baseball bat for a cane. Bruce Hornsby’s classic ‘The Way it Is’ starts very slowly as the creaky old man ambles into the den. As the tempo quickens, he throws off the mask, flippantly discards the cane and begins juggling like a twenty year old to the rhythm of the song. What a hoot!
I fondly remember the early years birthday parties at Chucky Cheese and the gymnastics party at the rec center.
In the beginning, I thought our daughter might become an astronaut one day. She would leap unafraid to my outstretched arms from the fifth step of the staircase. She’d shout for joy in the backyard when I’d fling her to the sky or give her the favorite roller coaster ride in my arms.
One experience never got old throughout the years. Every birthday morning (November 10th ) Carly would wake up and walk downstairs with the bannisters decorated with balloons…she knew it was coming but the specialness lived on.
When winter arrived in 2001, Carly developed a liking for snowboarding. She had tried the Eskimo group with buses to Winter Park but didn’t seem to care for them.
I offered to drive her to Eldora and she’d stay on the slopes till 2:00 p.m. by herself having a ball. I think now about our similarities…I go fishing all day and nearly each time alone and by herself with her snowboard. I wonder at this moment what Carly would feel standing atop a slippery slope once more after so long an absence from an adventure she loved so much. Knowing her, she’d cruise down the slope as if she’d never missed a day.