Showing posts with label Our Kids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Our Kids. Show all posts

Sunday, June 7, 2015

04AN022E-001




"Travis have you talked to your wife?" 
"Yes." 
"Was she upset?" 
"She was, very." 
"Well I'm going to need you to call her back. You'll never guess what happened." 

***

This story has been a long time in coming, and after spending a week away from technology and clearing my head, I felt like I was finally ready to tell it.

Then, this morning, as I was walking across the church parking lot, bathed in the voices of worshippers headed to their cars, I heard a voice cut through it all.

"DADDY!"

There must have been ten kids hollering for their fathers, but I recognized that voice. I turned, and he was smiling at me, head full of curly red hair bouncing as he struggled to get away from mom and run my direction. That cemented the decision to write.

This is a story about 04AN022E-001.

Of course, you might know him as Drake.

***

Hopefully, if you're reading this blog, you're all caught up on our family situation at the Sloat house. If you aren't, I'll give you the short version, and then you can click here and see all the stories. 

My wife and I have adopted three children. These children all share the same biological mother. We adopted the first two, Aven and Akeeli, earlier, then got a phone call about Drake, the youngest. We finalized on him earlier in the year, and changed his first name to Greyson, although we still call him Drake. 

Many of you read the blog I wrote when Drake was born. Of course I didn't know his name, I just knew that my two children suddenly had a brother, and my wife and I were faced with the decision of "What to tell the kids." How do you let them know they have a brother they'll never meet? 

We did the best we could. Our children grasp things fairly quickly, possibly as a result of so much change in their lives. They've never had the luxury of having many abstract thoughts, reality struck them much too harshly, much too early on. They accepted this brother without much emotional involvement, kind of an "out of sight, out of mind" philosophy. A philosophy that didn't come easily to Alicia and I. 

Then of course we got the call. 

Drake had been taken by the state, and he'd be coming to see us. Foster care, possible adoption. I hate the term foster care, but no matter, the kids were finally going to get to see their younger brother. 

Then we got the email. 

"We've found a kinship placement, he won't be coming to see you." 

There are certain words, when strung together in a certain order, change your life forever. Being notified of the death of a child or loved one, a relationship ending, or sitting in a doctor's office as he uses the word "terminal." Certain words in a certain order can proclaim worse fates than death. 

So we cried. 

A few months later, we got a call. 

"The kinship placement didn't work out. Can you meet us to pick him up?" 

So we cried. And we drove. 

I will never forget that drive home. I will never forget strapping that curly-headed monster into his car seat, I will never forget Aven and Akeeli calling him "bubba," and I will never forget when Drake pointed at me as we were driving down the road and said, "Dad!" 

And thus our lives were changed. 


***

We got still yet another call. 

"Travis, the biological mom won't terminate her parental rights. We know you have a way with words, can you write her a letter letting her know Drake is in good hands?" 

I have written stories about murders, tragedies, and love. I have written a commencement speech. I have written cover letters and resumes, and I have written numerous blogs to convey important points to my readers. 

None have ever come close to the importance of the letter I wrote to her. 

After reading the letter, she decided to terminate, but was fearful of the biological father's more stubborn attitude about relinquishing. He is in prison, but had said he would not terminate. She didn't want Drake to go back to him, and we understood her fear. 

And so we waited. 

***

We got still yet another call. 

"Alicia, the biological father is refusing to terminate. He has court on this date, and we're going to try to get the judge to terminate then, but technically he can have some time to try and accomplish the things required to get Drake back. He has said that he will not give up his rights." 

So we cried. And we prayed. And we enjoyed our time with Drake, dancing on the razor's edge of hope, hanging on to the truth proclaimed in God's Word that all things work together for the good of those who trust Him, and that if God is for us, no one can be against us. 

Finally the court date came. 

Alicia and I waited nervously by our phones, and kept refreshing our email inboxes, waiting for the news, dreading the appearance of certain words and the order they might be put in.

Finally the email came. Through tears, Alicia told me that the biological father had refused to terminate, and the judge had not granted the state's request to terminate. Through tears, I told her that things would be okay, there's no way any judge in the world would give a child back to a man in prison for the crimes he was in for. 

Alicia said she was going to call the social worker for clarification on a few things. Things did not get any better after that call, which prompted me to call the social worker and ask a few questions of my own.

"How can they consider handing him back to that man after what he's done?"

"Well, it's a jury trial, and they might convince the jury that he's a great person except for that one night when he made one bad decision, or they might say that a child this young needs his biological father since the mother gave him up." 

"I just don't see how anyone would ever see it that way." 

"Stranger things have happened. We'll see how it goes." 

I hung up, crying, and called Alicia. 

I told her everything, told her God was still in control, and I hung up the phone. 

About ten seconds later it rang again. It was the social worker. 

"Travis have you talked to your wife?" 
"Yes." 
"Was she upset?" 
"She was, very." 
"Well I'm going to need you to call her back. You'll never guess what happened." 
"What happened?" 
"He was walking out of the courtroom, stopped, turned around and looked at us and said he was ready to relinquish. Said he wanted one more visit, but he'd sign him over immediately." 

I hung up, crying, and called Alicia.

I would not even begin to guess the amount of phone calls made since the telephone was invented. But I can say with complete authority that none of them has ever made anyone happier than that phone call at that time.

We finalized on March 30. As the social worker was having us sign all the paperwork, I saw a number across the top: 04AN022E-001. Drake's number.

I snapped a picture. "One day I'll blog about this."

Oh and the visit? It never happened. He decided he didn't want to see him after all.

***

It's not all been roses and amazing phone calls since that day. In fact, about an hour ago, I had to spank him for not laying down and taking a nap. Right now, as I'm proofreading this blog, we just discovered he's had a relapse on his potty training and has pooped his pants. He can be insufferable.  

He is hard-headed, has a will of iron, and can be as immovable as only red-headed children can. 

He is handsome, has a million-dollar smile that makes you feel like the best dad in the world when he gives it to you, and can turn a simple word like "Daddy!" into something that can take my spirit from the lowest depths to the highest peaks. 

He just turned three. He looks so much like me that people constantly tell me, "You can't deny that one." I look at Alicia, and we just laugh. He's officially spent more of his life with us than anywhere else. He's a holy terror to his older brother, and a real-life baby doll to his older sister. He loves Mickey Mouse, nachos, and milk at bedtime. He has nightmares that are painful to witness at 3 a.m. He drives me crazy because he won't eat when he's supposed to, and he doesn't always like to tell me goodnight, which cuts me deeper than anything, and I just pretend it doesn't. 

He's my son. He's a Sloat. 

***

One day, I'll get to meet Jesus. 

I have a lot of questions for Him. 

But I think the one I'll ask first, the one that will be on the tip of my tongue before I even get to the throne, will be what made that man change his mind on the way out of the courtroom that day. 

I believe in miracles. I also believe in science. I know there's a chemical in the brain that made him change his mind, and I know that God is in charge of that chemical and every other aspect of our lives. But I've got to know. I've got to know how He did it. 

In the meantime, I'm satisfied with the fact that God took an impossible situation, named it 04AN022E-001, and entrusted him to our care for the next fifteen years. I'll do my best, and when things seems impossible again, I'll remember that God is big, and we are His. 

The boy who lived.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Finally.

Good Lord I'm a dork. 
 I've wondered about the title of this blog for four years. As it turns out, I didn't even have to think of it. This morning, while I was getting a glass of water from the refrigerator, my son walked in and said, "Yay! Daddy's graduating today!" 

My daughter looked up at me, smiled, and said, "Finally." 

***

Thursday night was bad. 

I kept having dreams where I died. I'd drift off to sleep, and wake up gasping, having just crashed an airplane, fallen off a cliff, or having been pushed in front of a bus. 

I cried Friday morning when I was watching the news before class. Someone paid off someone else's layaway, and I got all weepy. 

So of course I texted my wife and told her what was going on, and she was very succinct with her reply: "You need to calm down." 

I didn't believe I would make it. I really didn't. When I started college four years ago, I honestly thought I'd quit again. I mean I'd tried it twice before, and I left both times. I don't mean I dropped out, I just left. My grade point average was abysmal. 

But I started again. 

And I slugged along. I took some classes I really thought I'd like at first, just to pick up the momentum. I took elementary algebra four times, and I took intermediate algebra four times. I won't tell you how I got through college algebra. 

I fell in love with literature. I decided against a journalism degree, then decided against a computer science degree, and finally settled on English Education. Teaching. Geez. 

I quit my job after my second semester. I burned an enormous bridge at Connors State College, simply because their math department (certain faculty, really) is the biggest bunch of idiots God ever put on earth. 

We got a couple of kids. Then we got another kid. We went through a really rough patch in our marriage, and I genuinely thought it was all over. Then I learned how to ask, "How can I help?" 

I've worked 16-hour days for an entire semester now. I've gained an enormous amount of respect for high-school teachers, and not only them, but the students as well. I fell in love with those kids (totally not in a weird way), and I'm sad I only have one more week with them. 

I interrupted the semester with a trip to Washington, D.C. for an amazing reason. I had a wreck my second day of my internship. I got sick for like the second time in my entire life. I yelled at my daughter for making a C when I was struggling to keep up a C in a class myself. 

"You're a Sloat. Sloats don't make Cs. Sloats don't make Bs. Sloats make As." - Brian (and now Travis) Sloat

I ran out of gas halfway through the semester, then got an email from my wife that changed everything. 

And, while we're on the subject, can we just take a moment to enter my wife in the "Best Wife of the 2010s" contest. The woman is amazing. While I've been slugging away at my internship, then working nights at the paper, she's been raising three kids essentially by herself, and, not only that, actually tried to sleep with me a few times too. 

You know I still remember the first day I actually noticed her. I don't remember much, I truly think I'll have dementia in about a week, but I remember noticing Alicia for the first time. I can tell you exactly where I was, and exactly where she was, and almost exactly what she had on. 

God, in His amazing and infinite wisdom, completely changed my life when He let her fall in love with me. She is a rock, and I am fully prepared to spend the rest of my life trying to thank her for these last four years in particular. I love you, Alicia. 

***

I woke up at 7 a.m. 

I rolled out of bed to get in the shower, and Alicia asked me, "What time are you leaving?" I replied, "I need to leave in about 45 minutes." 

"What? You told me it started at 9:30!" 

"Yeah, but I have to be there an hour early." 

She made some sort of noise, and then I honest to goodness didn't see her the rest of the morning. Somehow, she got all three kids ready, herself ready, and ironed my clothes in 45 minutes. Did I mention she's amazing?

Just before we left, I remembered something. In my sock drawer, there's an armband with some initials on it. B.R.S. Brian Ronald Sloat. I had it made for basketball after he died. I grabbed it, and slid it on under my shirt sleeve. It just seemed right dad should be there with me. 

We made it to the event center. We didn't die. 

The separated us at the door, and ushered me around the building where I had a moment of sheer, unadulterated panic when the lady in charge of the cards with our names on them couldn't find mine. It wound up being the only one in the pack stuck to the back of another one, and if that right there doesn't prove to you that The Lord has a sense of humor (a sick one, sometimes), then I don't know what will. 

I met my friends, Krista and Katelynn, who have been with me through this whole thing, and don't seem to find it weird that they have attached themselves to a 32-year-old man who has a penchant for being inappropriate. 

I freaking love you guys. 
We teamed up with Bret, another fellow English major, and we lined up. 

I didn't die. I didn't trip. But I was sweating bullets. 

My mom sent me a text. You see, she got married today in what was the biggest scheduling SNAFU of 2014, and couldn't be at the graduation. I'm okay with that, because I like the guy she married. I think, for the first time in 14 years, I'm cool with finally calling someone my step-dad. 

"Congrats on your graduation today! Sorry I'm not there to see it, just know that I'm SO proud of you! Your dad would say, 'Good job, son.' Love you." 

And now, typing that out, I'm crying for the first time today. I'm honestly surprised it didn't happen sooner. 

My dad would be proud of me, just like the rest of my family is. But I honestly think he'd laugh a little, and smile at me the way he used to, the way I can see so perfectly in my mind right now, and he'd say:

"Finally." 

***

I walked in that gym, and I had my chest out and my head high. I didn't trip, I didn't die. 

I waved to my friends and family. I didn't trip, I didn't die. 

I sat through a commencement speech that I can't even come close to remembering now. I didn't trip, I didn't die. 

I stood up when my row was ready. I didn't trip, I didn't die. 

I walked to the stage. I didn't trip, I didn't die. 

I heard my name: "Travis Gene Sloat." I didn't trip, I didn't die. 

I shook the hands of two people and got my degree holder. I didn't trip, I didn't die. 

I walked out of the gym and into life as a college graduate. I didn't trip, I didn't die. 

***

I found a professor I've really grown attached to and I shook his hand. "Thank you." That's all I could say. 

I found some friends and hugged their necks and shook their hands. They congratulated me, and I thanked them, looking all the while for my family. 

I finally got a text message from Alicia. "We're at the truck." 

You know, I didn't even pause. I just started walking that way. I completely missed Krista and Katelynn, and missed a couple of other professors I wanted to thank, but I didn't care. I just wanted to be with my family. 

We got in the truck, and we went out for a celebratory lunch. Mexican food, because what else? 

I looked at them, gathered around the table. Aven, who was of course distracted by everything; Akeeli, who is just about the cutest little girl on the face of the planet; The youngest, who we're hoping to finally have a chance to adopt in a few short weeks; and, finally, Alicia. 

I smiled and took a drink of my beer, completely satisfied with my life at that point. 

"Finally." 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Riding In Trucks With Girls.


Sometimes an event happens that inspires a blog. Sometimes it's a collection of events, and you never know when inspiration will rise, kicking and clawing its way to the surface of your mind, demanding attention, wanting to be released. In that instance, you have choices. You can choose to stifle the inspiration, and eventually it will consume your thoughts, hindering your creativity, and rendering your writing useless. This blog has been a long time coming. 

***

It doesn't happen often, and certainly not often enough, and perhaps that is what makes it special. Maybe if it happened everyday I wouldn't appreciate it for what it was, just a dad and his daughter, riding somewhere together.

It's not about where we've left from, and it's not about where we're going. It's about all those moments in between.

***

Watching you get in. That's my favorite part. 

My truck sits high off the ground, and you have to almost jump to get in. I'm not always a perfect gentleman, I have to confess. I don't always open the door for you like I should, to teach you that when you're older, you have to fall in love with a boy who does that. I just like watching you as you clamber clumsily into the cab. You aren't very graceful, but I think one day you will be. 



You get buckled up, I get buckled up, and we take off. You're smiling. It never takes long, and the question always comes. 

"Dad, can you turn on the music?" 

I do. I always do. 

You always sing along. It doesn't matter if you know the words or not. You still sing. I will give you an example, using Taylor Swift's "Mine" as an example. 

You don't really know the words, not all of them, and so it sounds something like this: 

"You were in college hmm hmm ahhh haaa mmmhmmm,
Left a hmm mmm ahh haahmm ahhh."

But then the chorus comes, and suddenly, you're on a stage, you're in your element, and your voice rises with the power of the knowledge of the words. 

"DO YOU REMEMBER WE WERE SITTING THERE BY THE WATER!
YOU PUT YOUR ARM AROUND ME, FOR THE FIRST TIME!"

I have another confession, daughter. 

Sometimes I put on songs I know you'll sing to. 

My mind, in its ceaseless recollection of trivial information and recurring moments, flashes back to something very important in my life. 

I sat at home the night before making the drive to pick you and your brother up. I was trying to think of ways to introduce you to our great big family before you actually met them, and I decided to make a picture slideshow on my iPad for you both to watch. 

I placed pictures in order and captioned them, and then I set it all to the music of "Guinevere," by the Eli Young Band. 

On the way home from Watonga, you watched that video a hundred times. At some point, you figured out the words to the song, and you belted them out ceaselessly. Then you serenaded us with Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts," which was the only other song I had on the iPad. 

You were gorgeous. You were amazing. And you still are.

Listening to you sing, that's my favorite part. 

Inevitably, your interest in singing wanes, and you start talking to me. Sometimes the craziest things come out of your mouth. Last night, for example, you counted Christmas trees. Then you started spotting cars that looked like your mom's. 

Sometimes we talk about stuff as normal as how your day was, and then there are times such as the other night when you wanted me to explain to you what nihilism was. After telling you my best guess of a definition, you responded promptly. 

"Well, I believe in Jesus." 

I know you do, darling. And nothing makes me happier. 

You always ask for gum. For the last six months, I've kept a pack in my truck just for you and your brother. 

You smack your gum. Loud. 

Which brings us yet to another confession, dear daughter. If anyone else in my truck smacked their gum as loudly as you, I would pry open their jaws, rip the gum from their mouth, and toss it out the window. But you, you're different. I guess it's cute...for now. 

Talking to you, that's my favorite part. 

You want to hear something crazy? 

My truck has a sensor in the passenger seat that measures weight, and turns the airbag off automatically when someone doesn't weigh enough. A little light in the center of the console indicates when the sensor has been triggered and the airbag is off. 

When we first got you and your brother, that light was always on. 

"Passenger Airbag Off" 

Now? Now that little light flickers when you sit in the seat. Sometimes it's on, sometimes it's off. It's not broken. 

You're getting bigger. You see, that light is an indicator in more ways than one. You're older, bigger, smarter. 

But it also tells me something else. 

One day, you'll stop riding in my truck. Instead, you'll get a car of your own, and maybe you'll start riding in trucks with other boys. It is just as inevitable as you singing, and just as inevitable as all of our wonderful trips together have to come to end when we get to our destination. 

You unbuckle and slide out of the truck awkwardly, hanging on to the door handle for dear life. Your feet land on the ground, and your little blond head disappears into the house. 

Watching you get out, that's the worst part. 

To end this, I think I'll borrow another line from Miss Swift, one that happens to be in the same song as previously mentioned, and a line that I have definitely memorized. 

"You are the best thing, that's ever been mine."