Several people have asked me to share more about our adoption story. Since February is the month when we celebrate his Gotcha Day (the anniversary of when he moved into my home), I thought this would be an ideal time to share that story, especially since Paris figures it into how we became a family.
Editor’s note: I have Tigger’s permission to share the personal parts of his own story.
In 2004, I moved to Texas to do my chaplain residency at Scott & White. It was the first time in my life I had really done something just for myself. While there I ended up making a significant change in my life and activity level and began my endorphin addiction.
Once I graduated from the program, I moved outside of Denver, Colorado where I began a job as a hospice chaplain. Colorado is a perfect place for outdoor activities, and I continued working toward my goal of running my 1st marathon.
I also made a friend who was a single dad of a young man he had adopted when the lad was a teenager. We discussed how easy it is in Colorado for a single gay parent to adopt, and I began seriously considering it.
However, as I began traveling and continued running, I decided to wait longer before adopting. I felt like I needed more time to live life for myself, something I had only recently begun to do. I was only in my late 30s, so I still had time. I knew I needed to do these other things first.
During my marathon training, I discovered Paris Marathon was coming up in the spring. While I had always wanted to be in Paris on my birthday, I couldn’t resist the temptation to both go to Paris AND run its marathon. The combination was just too cool.
Paris was my first overseas trip (I had been to Central and South America only), and my first time being in Europe. I walked around amazed at everything. Being raised in the States, I was in constant awe at buildings that were hundreds of years older than my home country.
I explored Paris like a mad man. I made myself dizzy running up the narrow, circular, smooth stairs leading to the top of Sacre Couer. By the time I made it to the Louvre, I was so done on museums, I walked through the halls containing the paintings of the Italian masters at a quick pace, my head swiveling from side to side, barely glancing at the masterpieces.
On my last night in Paris, I decided to treat myself to a special dinner. Having run the Seine and walked past it so many times over the week, I was not interested in a river cruise dinner and instead opted to head back up the Eiffel Tower to have dinner in the restaurant Altitude 91.
It was a fantastic dinner. Honestly, the best of my life. I started with a fruit and cheese plate, followed by a dinner of kite prepared in a beurre blanc sauce, topped off with an amazing chocolate souffle for dessert.
After my exquisite meal, I sat looking out over nighttime Paris skyline while sipping a kir royale. I was suddenly overcome by the most intense feeling of joy at life I had ever experienced up to that point. A tear broke free from my eye, and as it ran down my cheek a thought came to me so strongly it was almost like a voice—You’ve done what you needed to do. You’re ready to adopt now.
I came home the next day and phoned the adoption recruiter. The mandatory 8-week training class was actually starting that very night.
“Oh darn! I wish I had known, I would’ve signed up,” I said.
“You still can. Just call and leave a voicemail that you’re coming.”
And so I began my classes. Less than 4 months later, my first child moved into my home. After a year, I felt like someone was missing from our family, and at the end of 2007 I began the search for my second child.
In order to increase exposure for “harder to place” children, there are some websites that prospective parents can visit to learn more about waiting children. For those of us in Colorado, the best two are AdoptUSKids.org and The Adoption Exchange. (We’re actually a featured family for AdoptUsKids.org.)
It was through The Adoption Exchange, that I discovered Tigger. He was considered a special needs adoption because he was both over 5 years of age (he was 6), and they were trying to place him with his next older brother, H (a sibling group is automatically considered a special needs adoption). I sent off an inquiry and within a couple of months we had the green light to become a family.
I had prepared photo albums for the boys to give them information about their new family. In describing their new dad, I had photos of my adventurous side (running ultra marathons, kayaking with alligators), which, of course, included travel. In that section, I had some photos of Paris and labeled it as “Dad’s favorite city.” When his caseworker visited with him to let him know he would soon be meeting his new family, he was given the photo album.
I still remember the first day I met Tigger. He was this cute, blonde ball of nervous energy. I met him at his foster home. He would run in, say several indecipherable words and run off again.
Because of severe emotional neglect from his biological family, he had a significant speech impediment. When he first came into care he was 4 and couldn’t speak. They thought he had autism. Once he was getting attention and love, he started making rapid progression, so they knew this was not the case. Even though he had some speech therapy at school, I could still barely understand half of what he said, though.
During his first overnight stay with me, he would discover that I would take care of him when he awoke at 2 AM with a stomach virus and was vomiting. I remember being awoken by the noise followed by the most pitiful-sounding utterance of “Daaaadddddd?” I had ever heard.
They moved in with me in February 2008. Unfortunately, the brothers had never lived together before so the social worker was unaware that they shared a trauma bond (basically, when they are together, the other brother relives trauma that was experienced the last time they were together). H ended up having a psychotic break within a week and was hospitalized. It was so severe that the decision was made to not pursue placing the brothers together anymore.
I secured a private speech therapist for Tigger, and his speech started rapidly improving. He continued to be a sweet, caring kid with a remarkable ability for compassion that was somewhat unusual for someone his age. Especially considering the neglect he had suffered during his important developing years.
By November, we were in the court building during National Adoption Day being declared a forever family (which we celebrate as Forever Day every year). Less than 2 weeks later, we were doing our first big road trip. Tigger’s life had changed drastically, but neither one of us could anticipate what other changes were about to unfold within the next two years.
Going to Paris the second time with my son was an incredible feeling. Tigger had remembered those photos and my affinity for the City of Lights and had been wanting to go to Paris ever since he saw the photo album for the first time. Prior to his 5th anniversary of moving in with me, we set foot in my favorite city.
“Where would you like to go first?” I asked the next morning.
“The skyscraper.” Some further questioning revealed he was referring to the Eiffel Tower, which had been a prominent photo in his album.
We headed for the famous landmark, and while we rode the elevator in the impressive structure, I told Tigger about my experience almost 7 years prior, the night I realized I was ready to become a father. I finished relating the story as we stood just meters away from the same spot where that special moment had occurred.
As he stood looking over his dad’s favorite city through a telescope, I fought back tears. I was standing on the Eiffel Tower again.
With my son.
We had come full circle, and once again I was filled with incredible bliss.