Stan Voit: Happy 32nd anniversary to my son
(This column was first published in 1987 and has run every year at this time since then.)
A person my age can look back on a life of missed opportunities, wasted chances. Would-be fortunes have been lost. A lot of “if onlys...” I’ve had my share. But I’ve had blessings.
In 1980 I was single, doing well professionally but unfulfilled, with no one to share my life. I knew that Alabama was one of the few states to allow single people to adopt children. After much thought I made that my goal.
It took many months and the help of some influential friends. The rule may be on the books, but those in charge didn’t particularly like it. They needed some nudging, some prodding. I had passed my home study and was prominent in my community.
I wanted an older child and they are often hard to place. I wanted a boy at least 6 years old — school-aged — and I had to believe that children that age were out there in foster homes all over the state.
Couples want babies, but there were few of those around to be adopted. Older children were more difficult to place. They are set in their ways, with inherent and often troublesome problems with which to deal. I had faith that the perfect match was somewhere in the state waiting for me.
I was sure that when the state social workers made up their minds to find me a child, the match would be a good one.
The call came in August 1981. The social worker at the local Alabama Department of Human Resources needed to see me. A child had been found. I went to the office the next day.
His name was Kit. He was 6 and had been in a foster home for two years. After an apparently difficult first four years he was catching up on all the habits and customs and manners most 6-year-olds already knew. I studied his picture — he had a charming smile, a mop of sandy hair. I read his bio sheet.
I liked him instantly.
But these things are risky. We hadn’t met each other. What if he had habits I didn’t like? What if he didn’t like me? We would find all of that out in two weeks when both of us would meet in Montgomery. We would spend part of the day sizing each other up like boxers in the opening round, making judgments which would affect our lives together.
It was Friday, Aug. 27, 1981. He had been up since 4 a.m. for the long drive to Montgomery from Gadsden. We met briefly, then went to McDonald’s, then to a mall where I bought him an Auburn T-shirt.
He was painfully shy — or was it nerves? When we rejoined the state worker I had several options. He could return to his foster home and we could meet again. He could come with me for the weekend. He could load up his belongings and move with me to his new home. Or I could walk away.
The decision was easy. He had two cardboard boxes of stuff, an entire life crammed into the back of a social worker’s station wagon. We loaded it into my car and set off for his new home.
Along the way he asked about his new grandparents. He had studied a scrapbook of photos I had put together showing his new home, new school, new family, neighbors, my store. The social worker had told me in private that the photo of my parents had most affected and excited him. He had never known grandparents.
And so new father and new son started our life together. Aside from a few visits from a social worker, we never heard from the state again. A year later I signed the papers making it official.
Kit was a nickname, but that day I gave him a new legal name: Kit Stanley Voit.
He and I have fussed and argued over the years, but he seldom disappoints me. We’ve shared the usual life experiences. I’ve taken him to the emergency room with a hand cut suffered while I was playfully chasing him around the house. I watched him get his first pair of eyeglasses. He survived a spanking he got for not eating his school lunch on a day he got out of school before lunch.
I’ve seen him through baseball, summer camp and pain. He won’t eat tomatoes, but he loves macaroni and cheese. I’ve seen his interests go from toy soldiers to hunting to Nintendo to drums. He’s had his heart crushed by thoughtless girls, and I proudly drove him on his first date. He won’t clean up his room unless threatened, but he keeps his guns and drums shiny.
He’s a great swimmer, a terrific marksman, an above-average student.
I am more proud of him every day. I cannot possibly love anyone more than I love him.
Our lives are more intertwined, yet more and more he needs me less and less. He’s growing up so fast, and soon he’ll leave the nest, having had more opportunities, more breaks, than anyone could have imagined for him before that August in 1981. He’s blossoming despite what those who once said they loved him had done to him. He’s a survivor, and he’ll do well.
Happy anniversary, Kit.
— Stan Voit is editor of The Mountain Press. His column appears each Sunday. He can be reached at 428-0748, ext. 217, or e-mail to email@example.com. Twitter @stanvoit.