I have been blessed with so many wonderful friends, but there will always be one that will be at the heart of my heart. Every couple months, or so, we join one another for breakfast at First Watch in Kettering. This has been our routine for a number of years. There is not one breakfast that has not been accompanied by laughter, dreaming, solving the world’s problems, a few tears, a lot of tears, more laughter, harassing servers, and sometimes even annoying those around us.
I first met Bill Hetzer, and his beautiful wife, Kay, when I joined the staff at Normandy United Methodist Church as music director back in 1996. For some reason, but mostly perhaps God willed it to be this way, Bill, Kay, and their sons, Brian and Andy, and I clicked from the very start. Andy, in particular, was very much like his dad and loved sharing devilish pranks and all around goofy behavior. This made us the perfect pair.
Our mutual journey of respect, fun, laughter, deep thoughts, and even more laughter, continued merrily along until Mother’s Day, 1997. Andy’s short journey of 16 years was cut short after an automobile accident. For a number of years after, Bill and I sat in many restaurants through the lunch hour, crying, laughing, crying, laughing…
In July 1998, as we were eating lunch at the golf course in Centerville, I casually mentioned to Bill that I was considering adopting children. Bill laid down his fork, looked at me, and said: “you know, Kay and I were just talking about adopting last night. Neither one of us are finished being parents yet.”
Thus a new shared journey had begun.
The following year, Joey joined the Hetzer family. The following year Chris arrived, followed in succession by my next three. Joey and Chris studied piano lessons with me, Kay worked with my sons on reading, and our families enjoyed mutual fun together at sporting events, music events, or just family times together.
Our sons, like so many other adopted children who swim through the cesspool of adoption issues, emotional entrapments from years with birth families and the system of foster care, struggled. Despite the security, love, and success in their newly adopted homes, the boys fought long and hard against the haunting memories of their earlier life that seemed to chip away at, crack, and even destroy the cement in their foundations.
Another tragic blow merged our lives even more when, two weeks before his 18th birthday, Chris ended his life. The evening before, Chris and I chatted for quite some time, discussing all the positives in his life, and the new vision and goals he had planned for himself.
I don’t think we have ever truly recovered fully from Andy’s death, and Chris’s tragic choice seemed to bury us.
But not completely.
Life moved on with even more breakfasts that seemed to offer temporary relief. Two dads sitting in a booth at their favorite Kettering eatery, laughing, crying, laughing, crying… Not only did we sit there mourning the loss of Andy, and trying to figure out the reasons behind Chris’s choices, Bill was always there to help me sort through the unfortunate choices my sons made that often shredded our family’s fabric.
This morning was just another day in paradise: two dads trying to figure out life. Two dads trying to understand what makes their adopted sons tick. Since we will never truly know the horrors and abuse they endured with their birth families, we will never truly understand, nor comprehend the choices they have made as very young adults.
And maybe we don’t need to know.
This morning Bill and I concluded all that truly matters is: we did our very best as parents. We were up against, often times, insurmountable odds. The bedrock serving as the foundation for our sons was not the bedrock we had laid. Bill, Kay, and I tried our best to repair, heal, build new foundations, love, provide opportunities and securer structure, and simply do our very best. And in all honesty, we succeeded on our end. Our struggling sons hit their plateaus, and often made premature choices in their own life journeys. My sons can re-chart their courses. Chris cannot. While my sons have left me to pick up the scattered pieces of their emotional debris left behind, Chris forever buried us in his debris.
However, Bill and I charged into this morning’s discussion opting for a new perspective.
We adopted a new vision.
We adopted a new journey.
We adopted a new life.
Life is all about choices.
And as a sidenote: Joey, now 21 years old, made the choice to join the United States Army, like his dad, and is now stationed in Germany.
We desperately tried to teach our sons how to make the best choices given our prescribed limits as adoptive parents and taking into hopeful consideration their own limited backgrounds. One day we believe our sons will fully comprehend how to make the very best choices for themselves, and for their families. And if not, Bill Kay and I are confident in the fact that we did our very best.
There will always be those individuals who are insatiably critical, even cruel, when plotting their self righteous campaigns attacking decisions adoptive parents are often forced to make. While the critics stand on the sidelines plotting, adoptive parents struggle tirelessly on the front lines. If the critics truly wanted to help these hurt children, perhaps they should consider adopting from the countless numbers of foster children available. Rather than criticize, tear down, and attempt to destroy those on front lines, they could find more useful measures to help the progress of children finding families. But this is what separates those willing to try from the simple cowards.
Life is good. And the three of us – Bill, Kay and Darin – are determined to march forward, plowing on through life while laughing, crying, rejoicing, being grateful, teaching, being of service to others, living, and above all, loving.
This is the choice we’ve made. And what is more, we do not have regrets.
From DLJH’s iPhone
“Make it a great day!”