Fast forward a couple of years. Aimee was a delight, but she wanted a sister and we came to the conclusion she would be better off if she had someone who shared her experience she grow up, and grow old, with. So ... in a stunning display of intelligence, we began another application to adopt from China. By the time we jumped through all the hoops, when we traveled the second time to bring Alyssa into our family, I was 59 years old.
As I was going through my twenties and thirties, just about everyone I knew (including my brother) were having children and going through all one goes through while raising them. I watched and studied their experiences, in the hope someday I would benefit from all that knowledge. I suppose some of what I learned was helpful, but I don't think most of it helped. Once that child is in your custody, and is now your responsibility, everything's different ... and each child is different, making much of what I had studied worthless. These last twenty years have been both immensely gratifying and stupefyingly frightening, depending mostly on what day it is.
Though I can't, and don't want to, change it I only have one regret; that is, I wish I had done this when I was younger. Not for me, but for my girls. They have already lost two families; one when they were separated from their biological parents and one when they were taken from their orphanage's designated foster family. I have long worried they would also lose their adopted father (that would be me) much sooner than any child should have to suffer that fate. It is an element of our relationship, and a source of some guilt, that I have been dealing with all this time. Thankfully, I'm still pretty healthy and, in fact, survived being infected with Covid-19 early this year. However, even if I stick around another twenty years, Aimee will be turning forty and Alyssa approaching 37. I'll be 94.
I have long wanted to write about my experiences as a somewhat elderly first-time parent and what I think I've learned from it, but I hesitated because I didn't want to take a chance of invading my children's privacy. Recently, I asked them what they thought (Aimee is almost 20 and Alyssa is 17 1/2) and they both agreed it was OK. They, of course, will be part of it, but the primary focus is on what it was like to become a first-time, adoptive father so late in life. Still, I'm glad I got their permission and am not certain I would have done it if they didn't agree.
The journey was further complicated by the reality that I had to essentially start over, financially, at 50 years old, after putting all of my meager life savings into an effort to save a small family business that was supporting my mother and little sister. I was not able to save enough money in the ensuing 13 years to both comfortably retire and get my girls through college and/or out on their own.
The money I raise will be used to get the girls driving lessons, a gym membership for my youngest who needs (and wants) the distraction and the discipline badly, and whatever it takes to get them started taking care of themselves. It will also help me both concentrate on getting Alyssa through her last year of High School and give me the peace of mind I need to access the memories, do some interviews (which might involve a bit of fairly local travel) and assemble everything for publication. I need about $1,000/mo to do that, which is what I set my goal at.
All who donate will receive an electronic copy of the memoir when complete, which I expect to take approximately six months. Donations of $25 or more will get a personally signed and annotated copy. Donations of $50 or more will also get a half-hour conversation with the author (that would be me) and, if I can get them to cooperate, either or both of my daughters on your choice of platform (Zoom, Facebook Rooms, whatever Google replaces Hangouts with, etc.)
I was never good as a sole proprietor. I do best when I have someone for whom I have to show up and be responsible to. Knowing that even one person believes I have something useful or enjoyable to offer through telling my story will make it much more likely I will complete this memoir on time and in a manner that I and my family can be proud of. All donations, regardless of size, will help me achieve this goal ... and it will provide my girls with a memory of their dad I hope they will find precious and worthwhile. At almost 74, I don't know how much longer I'll be around for them. In the memoir, I will be touching on the uncertainly and the bit of guilt that comes from bringing a child into one's life at such an advanced age. I'd greatly appreciate any help I can get.
PS - If you'd like to read a couple of samples of my writing, I offer links to two of my hundreds of blog posts. This one is closely related to the memoir I intend on writing, and this one demonstrates how opinionated I can be and in which direction that opinion leads.
- wilbern garrett
- Andrea Webster
- Rick Minyard
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