Jeff was waiting for us and we breezed through security and up to our hearing room where Uncle Rich was waiting for us. The judge was eager to talk to Bill and having read the file he realized that Bill was 18 and wanted to make sure that Bill realized the importance of this action, as much as he could. We had been told that Bill was at the intellectual level of about a 13-year-old when he had come to us almost four months ago, but recent tests showed he had risen to the level of a 16-year-old and everyone hoped that within five or six years he would be functioning as well as any 20 something would be, and that he would continue to improve some every year. All this improvement was attributed to the change in his environment and the intellectual stimulus he was now exposed to.
The judge and Bill were privately talking in an adjacent room, the three younger adopted boys having gone through all this with him several times, so he wouldn't be nervous and would know what to expect. It was a very confident Bill that returned with the judge and we knew their talk had gone well when Bill hugged the judge when they separated to go to their seats. The judge asked several questions of both Jeff and I, and he seemed satisfied with our answers and he granted the adoption. Bill had asked the judge to change his name to William Wilson Major, so his name would be just like his three brothers who also had two last names. Bill was so happy it was almost impossible not to smile when you saw the big proud grin on his face, and I'm sure that Jeff and I had similar ones on our faces too.
The next day we had an open house for Bill's adoption party and he kept Chris by his side for most of the day. All the relatives who were in town came out to the farm and they all brought him gift cards, well, a gift card from each of the families represented, but then the new granddads arrived and boy, they arrived in style. They drove up in their farm Jeep, an older Patriot that I had learned to drive in and it had been totally restored to pristine condition. I think that at least seven of my 9 brothers had taken their driving tests in that and after parking it in front of the house they gave the keys to Bill, telling him it was their present to him. They had put him on their insurance policy and he was totally covered. They had asked Jeff and me about their gift and we had accepted their offer a month ago, before they had had the vehicle totally gone through and updated and restored to an almost brand-new condition.
The next day was Sunday and Jeff and Bill went for a ride around town and soon Jeff had Bill back at the house and Chris went for a ride with them and a half hour later they came back and Chris helped Bill load the new extra child seats across the back seat and the three youngest were then whisked off for a ride with their big brother at the wheel. Upon their return all four youngsters went to the barn with Bill to help him finish his interrupted chores and Jeff came in and told me that Bill might be one of the safest drivers he had ever encountered and when his six months of probationary restrictions were lifted, he would have no reservations about him driving the boys around. High praise coming from the police chief, and the proud papa.
Everything settled down and about three weeks later we were planning our Thanksgiving holiday. We had an early snow shower the Monday before the Thursday holiday and although it wasn't a lot of snow, only about 3 inches, it was cold enough to stay around for a while. The forecast was for 30 degrees or less for the rest of the week and when school was out on Wednesday the four younger boys were excited because it had only been a half day and they didn't have riding or swimming lessons in the afternoons for the rest of the week. Their plan was to go to the barn and help Bill as soon as their school bus dropped them off. Bill was in on their plans and saved a few easy things for them all to do before the big computer game fiesta they had planned for the rest of the afternoon before Jeff and I returned from work.
The barn chores all completed and the animals all content Bill suggested they take Roscoe and Suriya up to the house and have a small snack before playing their games on his computer. On the way back to the house Chris offered to go on up the lane to gather the paper and the mail, since Bill hadn't had a chance to do that yet. When Chris veered off from the group to do this the younger ones wanted Bill to tell them where Chris was going alone. Once Bill told them, the younger ones wanted to go too, so Bill about-faced and led his little troop to follow behind Chris, figuring they'd probably catch up with him just after he had gathered the newspaper and the mail from their roadside boxes.
As they neared the pond, they could see Chris getting out the newspaper on the other side of the gate and Bill and the young boys stopped to gaze out over the meadow on the side of the pond and look for ice on the top of the pond. The meadow looked untouched, the snow atop it untouched by any visible footprints, but the pond had not frozen over yet so no ice skating as his dads had said they could do once the pond was frozen over solid, still the view from the lane was pretty and Bill pulled out his cell phone to snap a few pretty scenes for his dads. Just then a big old car backed its way into the lane, stopping at the gate to Bills left and without even thinking about it he snapped a picture of this too, but switched to video mode when the car didn't turn off and a fat woman got out of the driver's door and started for Chris who was now gathering the mail from the mailbox by the side of the road. He told the three younger boys to stay right where they were, along the side of the lane and with his camera set on video he began to move around the gate and toward where the woman was now dragging a very upset Chris by the collar of his winter coat back to the car she had left running in front of the gate. He had the presence of mind to pocket his precious new phone before barging right up behind the woman and tripping her, grabbing Chris in his arms before he too fell into the slushy snow at the very end of the lane. He bundled Chris around the side of the gate and fished out his cell as the three little ones rushed to Chris and Bill hit the speed dial for the cell in Jeff's pocket.
He hurriedly told Jeff what had happened, and Jeff encouraged him to get the kids back to the house or the barn as quickly as possible and he'd see them soon. He hung up then and sent another car to his address, one that was already in the neighborhood, as he and another officer got in his chief's cruiser and sped with siren blazing to our lane. Of course, the patrol car got there first, blocking the old sedan in and the fat woman had slid herself on the snow and slush back over to the car, but couldn't hoist herself back to her feet to be able to get back in the car yet.
The patrolman radioed in that he had the suspect and her vehicle blocked in, and went to assist the large woman to her feet, and promptly handcuffed her, placing her in the back seat of his patrol car. He began photographing the scene, being very thorough in getting as much of the disturbed area as possible, and the interior of the car as well as the total exterior. By then of course, Jeff had arrived and told the officer with him to put on his gloves and move the car off to the verge on the side of the road, once the photos in situ were taken. Once that maneuver was accomplished, he drove forward, and the gate swung open allowing Jeff to race forward in his cruiser to check on his boys and make sure Chris was alright, leaving his officers to take care of the attempted abduction scene and the woman now in custody.
Jeff entered the house, having to use his key, since Bill had locked them all in when they had run home, something that we usually never did during the daytime. Bill was dishing up some milk and cookies for all the younger boys who were at the table, the three youngest ones in their booster chairs on the long bench on the far side of the table and Chris was on his chair right across the table from them, his damp coat now off, but still pale and shivering, dried tears streaked on his cheeks. Jeff knelt down next to his chair and gently kissed his cheek, and when Chris turned to see who it was who had startled him out of his funk, and saw Jeff kneeling there he started crying all over again, but this time he had one of his dads to hold him and hug him and whisper to him that everything was going to all right, that he was here with his brothers and that he was loved and always would be, here at his home.
Jeff suggested some hot chocolate instead of milk for all the boys, since everyone had experienced a scare, and everyone perked up at that, even Chris. Jeff helped Bill get the beverages ready and then one of the officers radioed him that they had somewhat of a confession from the woman and they were going to return to the station to formally arrest her. He told them he'd see them all there in about another half hour and he then joined all the boys for a few cookies and hot chocolate, getting Chris to retell him everything that had happened. As Chris related the sequence of events Bill was fiddling with his phone and as Chris finished Bill offered his phone to Jeff, telling him he could watch it all unfold on the video he had shot as things progressed.
Jeff watched it and asked Bill if he could continue to watch over the boys for a while, until I could get home from work. Bill told him that they were all a bit shook up, but he thought a ride on the ponies would help them all. Jeff agreed and then sent the video to his own phone for downloading into the computer at his desk later. He gave all the boys hugs and kisses before he left to return to the station, but he gave his newest son a big hug and told Bill how proud he was of him for being so brave and for saving Chris from any further harm, he told Bill he was a hero in his eyes, and he was sure his dad Tom would also feel the same, as soon as he, Jeff, had the courage to tell me all about the afternoon's activities at home, and he had to do that on the way back to the station. He was sure that I'd be home lickety split as soon as I had been told. I'm told Bill chuckled when Jeff told him that, they both knew me so well.
Jeff had my Dad Chris be with me when he came to the practice not 15 minutes later and I cried for what Chris had to go through at the hands of that horrible woman, who by watching the video Bill had shot I was able to identify as Chris's former foster mother, who was out on bail. My dad told me to go home and be with the boys and Jeff gave me a big hug and a kiss when dad went to see his last patient of the day. Once I had pulled myself together Jeff left to press more charges against that woman and I cleared my desk for the long weekend and drove home, anxious to be with my boys.
As soon as I walked in, I was surrounded by all the boys trying to tell me all that had happened down at the end of the lane and I sat with them all in the family room, holding Chris as the others all had to finish telling me about their brush with danger. Chris then went to Bill and apologized for not thanking him for saving him from being kidnapped and Bill just hugged him and told him that no one messes with his little brothers. I knew for sure then that Jeff and I had made the correct decision when we had told Helen and Uncle Rich that we had wanted to adopt Chris too. That had been at Halloween.
By the next day all was almost forgotten, Chris had plenty of doses of brotherly love the night before and Jeff and I made it a point to give him some special attention, both him and our hero Bill. On Thanksgiving we had a big get together to go to at the Dads' house and Chris and Bill got a lot of attention from all the attendees there. I saw Helen sitting in the formal living room, having a serious discussion with Chris, but both returned to the huge family room and the rest of us with big smiles on their faces. When Chris saw Jeff and I standing off to the side, just observing, he walked over to us and we both put our arms around his shoulders as he stood between us. I caught his eye and he whispered up to me that everyone was so nice to everyone else here, it was like a family should be. I kissed his forehead and told him that was exactly what I felt, growing up here with all my brothers. I told him that I hoped Jeff and I made everyone in our own home feel the same and he told me that everyone sure did, and if he had a choice, he'd vote to spend the rest of his life with all of us, and Jeff leaned down and told him we were working on it. Chris nodded and told us that Aunt Helen had told him that, but it sure made him feel good to hear his own dads say it too.
Things started to settle down for everyone, especially our red-headed boy, and Chris was soon being an older brother again, and Jeff and I both noticed he was using phrases that Bill used with the little ones and that he was even combing his hair like Bill did. Bill had become more than a big brother to Chris, he was emulating his hero and there was certainly nothing wrong with that, Bill was greatly admired by all of us. When school restarted on the Monday after Thanksgiving, Chris got a lot of attention from his fellow students and teachers alike, since his "cousins" spread the word that he had almost been kidnapped and they had seen the video from Bill's cell phone at the big Thanksgiving get together.
Chris kept his cool and told everyone how his big brother had come to his rescue and prevented the woman from taking him away. Soon Chris and his "cousins" had made Bill the well-deserved hero for stepping in and preventing Chris's abduction and even those who had never met Bill were admirers, and before the week was out Bill told us that even when he went out to get the mail or the newspaper people driving by on the street honked and waved at him and people like the retired school teacher who fished at the pond would stop and say Hi to him and chat with him.
It was during the following week that Jeff received a phone call from the retired school teacher who used our pond to "feed the fish". Mr. Harris told Jeff that after talking a few times during the week with Bill he thought that Bill would benefit from some low-key tutoring. He thought that Bill's education had been the standard used at the time for those educationally challenged and that now that Bill had been able to be assimilated into a loving home that gave him a good solid foundation and he felt he was contributing to the family in many ways and that his mind was working much more efficiently and was capable of processing more input now and he was volunteering to tutor Bill for a few hours every afternoon during the school week, he felt helping Bill would also help himself.
Jeff and I discussed this that night after all the boys had gone up to bed and we agreed that anything that could benefit Bill would be worth a try, so we asked Bill, the next morning, what he thought about Mr. Harris and Bill said he was a real smart man and very nice to talk to, he was like an older friend he liked to see almost every day when he went to get the mail and the newspaper. I asked him if he'd do us a favor and spend some more time with Mr. Harris in the afternoons. We told him that Mr. Harris was retired now and that he needed someone to teach things to make him feel needed, much like we needed him to take care of the animals in our barn. Bill thought that was a good idea, and that maybe he would also learn something from the retired school teacher.
By the second week of December, we got a phone call from Uncle Rich, telling us we had finally gotten on the court docket for our adoption hearing regarding our petition to adopt Chris. He said that there had been no opposition to our petition, and we had the blessings of the DCFS and Aunt Helen had personally written the court a letter in our behalf and everything looked good. We told Chris the morning of the hearing, telling him we would be picking him up from school about 2:30 in the afternoon so be prepared to hear his name called out on the school's PA to come to the office, we were going to go see a judge to get him adopted. He was so happy I thought that his teachers might have a problem with him during his morning classes and the one and a half of one he had after his lunch period, but Bill went up with him after breakfast and reminded him that all three of the younger boys had gone through the process and so had he and all four of them wanted him as their fifth brother and where else could he find such great dads. He helped Chris pick out an outfit that would work for both school and court and he talked to him about talking to the judge as soon as the hearing was called to order.
Once dressed Chris came downstairs with Bill and gave Bill a big hug before Bill left for his chores at the barn and Chris spent a little time talking to his little brothers before the time came to go out and wait for their bus. Later in the day, when Jeff and I went in to sign him out for the rest of the day, the staff at the school told us that the whole school had been wishing him luck the whole day and they thought Chris was handling all the attention really well. The announcement came over the PA, requesting Chris to come to the office for his adoption hearing and the clapping and calls of "Good Luck Chris" echoing through the school could be heard even in the first-floor office we were in. Chris arrived with the proudest strut and a big smile on his face. He hugged both Jeff and me and then took our hands to pull us out to the car and we were off.
Our hearing was just a bit longer than Bill's was, because Chris was turning into a little chatterbox and when he and the judge were in the separate room talking the judge asked about the abduction attempt by his former foster mother, and Chris had to give him a second by second account of his ordeal and how proud he was of his older brother Bill for interrupting it and getting him and the three little ones away from her. The judge was suitably impressed and told Chris he was, and Chris told him he was too, he had never had so many people not only wanting to be his friend, but he now had a family that loved him, every single one of them and he hadn't known before how good that felt, but he did now.
There was no question when they returned to the hearing room, Chris was actually holding the judge's hand and they hugged when they parted to go to their respective seats. Chris regained his seat between Jeff and me, grabbing our arms in each of his hands as he waited to hear the official judgment and when the judge pronounced the petition to adopt granted, he let out a big sigh, and hugged us close to him as he thanked the judge. Jeff and I bumped heads as we each leaned down to kiss his head and Chris and the others in the room giggled at that. The judge then informed the room that Chris had asked for his name to be changed to Christopher Wilson Major, so he'd be just like his brothers and have both his father's names attached to his.
We did take photocopies of the name change and our adoption decree to the school so Chris's records could be updated and the principal was kind enough to let Chris read the final announcements of the day. "This is Chris Wilson Major with the final announcements of the day. Number one my adoption went through and I want to thank all of you who were rooting for me, including my new brothers Zach Ted and Tyler down in the first grade and all my cousins and friends in the rest of the school. Oh yeah, there is a basketball game tomorrow night at the high school gym and as usual, it's half price for students with your ID, GO RAMS!! Remember to watch out for the smaller ones on your bus and if they need help give it to them, thank you and have a great weekend and be safe." He was so proud, but the little boy came back to us and he blushed as he got hugs from his two dads and the office staff, the principal asked him if he'd like to do that more often, asking Chris if he'd like to make the morning and afternoon announcements for the rest of the school year and Chris said that would be cool.
We all ate out that night at Angelo's, the Italian restaurant at the big five corner intersection just down the road from the schools and a favorite of many in town, and not just for their pizza, they had some of the best food around, including their Veal Parmesan which was one of my favorites. For dessert, there was a huge sheet cake which was decorated with a big "Welcome to the Family Chris" script with all of our names on it. He was so pleased, but not as pleased as he was when his new granddads made a huge fuss over him on Sunday, at brunch over at their house after church. All his new uncles and aunts and all the cousins, he got the same royal treatment as the three younger boys did and Bill but because of the near miss with the kidnapping, he and Bill were treated very well by all.
The granddads had taken him to their study and when they all returned Chris gave me an envelope and asked me to hold on to that for him please, before rejoining his brothers and cousins in one of the playrooms upstairs. When he was gone Jeff and I looked in the unsealed envelope and to our surprise, there was a deed for a 2-acre plot of land on their housing estate where most of the other relatives lived, just the next lane over. The housing estate was where the original lane ran just past the riding stables that Terry ran with her partners and then took a sweeping curve and ended in a huge plot of land, over two hundred acres, that the dads had added to their holdings and usually gave two-acre plots to graduating students and newlywed couples, sometimes with a house included.
Chris told us that night that the granddads had told him that they had set aside lots for all his brothers, but that this plot was off to the side and had a stand of sugar maples in one corner and when they had seen them in their Fall foliage, in their vibrant red colors, they told him the trees reminded them of him, and that was why he had been given his land early. He also told us he had asked them if Bill had one yet and if not, could they give him one next to his. He said they asked why, and Chris told them that he always would feel safer with Bill next to him, and his granddads told him that was a really good reason, but they said not to say anything to Bill, the granddads said it was to be a surprise for Bill sometime in the future.
Bill had been kept in the dark about this but when his nineteenth birthday came up in January my dads' made it a point to come out to the barn and gave him their present, and the poor guy thanked them, but told them he could never leave the farm, it was his home with his family, and he tried to return their generous gift. Dad Chris sat with him and explained that there was no intention on their part of him moving out and building his own house on his own two acres, but the land was worth some money, about ninety thousand dollars and they wanted him to have it and he could always sell it back to them in the future, or to another family member, if he ever needed some serious money. Bill then thanked them for the "big boy" gift and told them he hoped they were not disappointed in him, because he liked them a whole lot and he had never had grandpas before and he didn't know if he had explained himself right. They told them he had done a wonderful job of explaining himself and they hoped he'd hold onto the land if for nothing else than to have it to sell if he ever needed money. Bill then said they must be the best granddads ever and they all hugged. When Bill told us about their gift a little later we told him then that his brother Chris had already been given his acres, but had wanted Bill's land to be right next to his, just as the granddads had done, so if anytime in the future he and Chris wanted to have a nice big place for themselves or if they wanted a place with a neighbor they felt close to, then they each had that possibility to look forward to. Jeff told him to think about it as having land in the bank.
Over the next several months Mr. Harris began "working" with Bill in the afternoons. He would go up to the barn and they would talk and sometimes Mr. Harris would give Bill a book to read or a page full of equations he'd ask Bill to come up with the answers to. It was all very informal, and Bill hadn't caught on that he was back in school yet, but the day came when he did, and he confronted Mr. Harris about it, but not in a combative way.
Mr. Harris was asking Bill about the last book he had left for Bill to read when Bill started to reverse the situation, and began to ask Mr. Harris even more pointed questions until Mr. Harris finally caught on and they both laughed as they hugged and Mr. Harris proclaimed him ready for anything, maybe even college, or a junior college if he wanted to start off slowly.
Zach, Tyler, and Ted were by now ending their year as third graders and anxious to move on ahead a year after their summer vacation, and Chris, although near the top of his seventh-grade class and a smart bugger, was more excited about the new growth of hair around various parts of his body, than he was about moving up to the top class of his intermediate school.
Jeff and I had started our third decade and we were very happy with our family of five young men and our menagerie of ponies, horses and dogs and cats that shared our serene farm. By and large everything in our home was good, if not wonderful, but the funniest thing was Jeff had gone back to the T-shirt shop a few Christmases ago when the three youngest had finally grown out of their Peek A Boo t-shirts. They were their favorite sleepwear shirts and as they grew, the shirts didn't, and Jeff thought he'd purchase several in all sizes and to declare bedtime for the youngsters, we all started wearing them. Soon they became the bedtime wear of all of us and the youngsters thought that was just great. Jeff and I got pretty adept at playing our own version of Peek A Boo in bed at night.
I found this story started on my computer one morning and realized I had gotten up in the middle of the night and instead of a few written notes, as is the usual happening when a story comes to me in my dreams, there was a half of the first chapter all written out. I've enjoyed trying to find the images included and writing about a few more of my cases from my time as a court advocate for children in the system, but Jeff and Tom's family need some time by themselves for now, let's just hope they all keep their cell phones with them, charged, at all times, it could make for interesting viewing at some point in the future. Art
Loved this one as much as all the others.
Keep them coming, please!
Those two terrible words. Please more of this wonderful story.