I remember this story like it was yesterday. Actually I don’t, mostly because it wasn’t yesterday, but I should because my family tells this story quite often, usually at my birthday party. So I really should know this story by heart now but I don’t cause I was like . . . oh eighteen hours old. Yes, HOURS. And when I say family I’m not excluding my Dad’s side of the fam but it’s usually my Mom’s sisters, my aunts, Aunt Colleen, Aunt Erin, and Aunt Val, along with my Mom, and Dad too, that like to tell the story.
See, my folks were young, wanting kids and didn’t think they were capable of having them on their own. Now before I really dig deep into the story I have to throw this disclaimer up of not really remembering it so I might get parts of it wrong but I think it’s gonna be pretty darn close and if I do flub it up I leave it to the aunts to fill in the flubs. So where was I? Folks young, wanted kids, didn’t think they could have any so they wanted to adopt. Not just to have a child of their own but they also wanted to bless a child’s life as much as God had blessed their own life. They lived in Jasper County in Joplin, Missouri at the time and the waiting list was loooooooong. But they were willing to wait. They were working with a close friend of the family who also happened to be an attorney, Jerry Wells. Well they ended up moving to house out by Shoal Creek which put them in Newton County in Joplin, and Newton County’s waiting list wasn’t that long. In fact I think it was six months after they moved that my Dad had received a call from Jerry telling him of a few children available for adoption. This is one of those not remembering things I was telling you about because it could’ve been shorter than six months or longer. Anyway it doesn’t really matter because even though my Dad knew the waiting period was much shorter, and that Jerry was looking at a few children waiting to be born, he didn’t tell my Mom because he didn’t want her to go through anymore disappointments. He wanted to make sure that once he told her they were adopting a child that they were really adopting a child.
It was June 8th, 1972, 060872. My Dad’s oldest sister, my Aunt Maridan, or Dinny Din, as we called her, and still do, she’s an awesome lady by the way, was throwing some shindig at her house that evening so my Mom was at home getting ready for the party whilst my Dad was finishing up work at his car dealership. Jerry called my Dad and told him that he had a little boy whose mother was ready to give him up for adoption to them if they were ready. My Dad said yes. He packed up from work and hightailed it home.
Dan L., my dad, entered the home to encounter a frustrated Melanie, my mom, who was ready for the party and wondering what he had been up too. This, of course, was way before the days of cell phones and emails, you either called someone before you left work or home or you wouldn’t hear from them until they reached their destination. I kind of miss those days. Anyway my Mom asked about Aunt Dinny Din’s party and my Dad said they weren’t going. My Mom asked why and my Dad said because you need to get ready for you son. My Mom flipped, and when I say flipped I mean, well, more than flipped. Here you are going through your day, expecting to go to a party, all to find out you’re not going to the party, in fact you probably aren’t going to be hittin any parties anytime soon because life as you know it is about to change in a most unexpected way. Anytime I thought about how unprepared Rachel, my wife, and I were on expecting Piper, my first born, I would think if my Mom could handle things with an hour notice, at least I think it was an hour, before I would land on their doorstep I knew we could handle Piper whom we had been expecting for nine months.
My Mom did the only thing she could probably think of doing and that was call her family. So my Ga and Bompa, her folks and my soon-to-be Grandparents, her sisters, who I already mentioned, and brother, Martin, flooded over to the house. I’m pretty sure my Great Aunt Pat and Great Uncle Joe, and their kids, Aleda, Veronica, Tony, and Kelly were rollin up there soon too. My family’s large. And loud. And close. And I love it.
Anyway as soon as my Mom’s fam got there she ripped some pages out of a catalog, Sears, I believe, and told Colleen to get everything on those pages. Now I’m not exactly sure when they found the time to go and get those thing and I don’t even know when I showed up all I know is that when the Aunts tell the story they always talk about how I arrived in style. Jerry, and his wife Kay, who is an unbelievable woman, rolled me up in their Mercedes. Side note, I haven’t ridden in a Benz since.
All my maternal side of my family could do was cry, and I cried with them. They tell me that my Mom just held me, in tears, apologizing to me for not being ready for me. For not even having a name for me. So they went to the Bible for my name and chose one from the Old Testament and one from the New. Matthew, which means “gift of God”, and David, which means “beloved, or friend”, they chose David because of King David. So at least I now had a name.
My parents had informed my Dad’s side of the family about what had happened and I guess the party had moved from their house over to my parents. My Aunt Maridan, my Uncle Tony, their kids, Joy, Ann, Marilil, Betsy, and Marty, which those gals are completely awesome. My Aunt Martha, my Dad’s other sister and has one of the most infectious laughs ever, I lover hearing her laugh, my Uncle Lloyd, who is actually one of the most manly men I’ve ever met, and their kids Mary Belle and Becca, Mary Belle, who was just a few years older, and Becca, who is just a few months older than me. My Dad’s folks, My Mamo and Ray-Ray were off touring Europe somewhere so when my folks had called them to tell them what had happened my Mamo didn’t believe it until Uncle Lloyd pinched my heel and made me cry, which if you know Lloyd that sounds just like something he’d do. So Mamo and I sat on the phone, crying, and charging up the loooooong distance phone bill.
And I’m sure the rest of my fam was there too. My Aunt Dee and Uncle Leon, awesome people. When I got older I would always dread seeing Uncle Leon cause I knew he’d shake my hand and break every bone in it and my Aunt Dee I loved seeing, still do, she has a way of making everyone she talks to feel like they’re the most important people in the room, they’re kids, my cousins, Carolee and Ralph, my other Aunt Martha, and Uncle Elroy, my cousin Rob. And I have no idea of how many other friends and family were there. And for almost forty years that was the only side of the story I knew. The side of pure joy. I say almost forty years because in 2008 I struck up a friendship with Jerry and Kay Wells.
Jerry needed some video work done for his 55th high school reunion and my Dad had put me in touch with him. I helped him in the project but through that project I ended up making a friend, and a mentor. About a year later Rachel and I got married and Rachel and Kay hit off like they were to old friends. By the way Kay reacted toward me I could tell she held a special place in her heart for me, I got that sense from Jerry too.
And through the year leading up to Rachel and me marrying I would get bits and pieces of my life pre-Stanley. Then one night, at dinner, with Jerry and Kay we talked a lot about the night in June in 1972. We actually talked about the nights leading up to it. Like Jerry really choosing me because he and Kay said my birth mother was really smart. She lived at home with her mother, was eighteen or nineteen years old, and had gone back to school. Nobody knew anything about my birth dad, there was the suspicion that he was in jail. They talked about how when I was born I was whisked away from my bio Mom and passed off to Jerry, how Kay held me the whole way out to the Stanley’s home. How they lost track of my mom. Also one of the interesting facts I found out was when Piper was almost two I believe, one of her eyes crossed pretty severely, it saddens me and makes me cry every time I think about that face and her eye crossing. Rachel discovered it, she sent me a picture of Piper playing outside and her little eye crossed. She was panicked, I told her to call Gramps, her grandfather, who’s an ophthalmologist in Grove, Oklahoma. He’s an eye doctor, it’s different that an optometrist. Not only is he a well-respected Ophthalmologist but a well-respected doctor in general. My thinking is Gramps would know what’s up with Pipey and what we should do. Rachel sent him the pics and he said she was probably farsighted. He checked her eyes out and she was. She would have to wear glasses, the thick coke bottle kind, which is still hard for me to handle without feeling responsible because Gramps said it was genetic, and since no one on Rachel’s side is farsighted that left it to my family. Gramps said it was probably my mother. I asked Jerry and Kay if they remembered if my bio Mom wore glasses, thick ones, and Jerry looked at me and you could tell his memory was jarred. He said she did. So now I know my wears glasses, thick ones, or she at least wore them. I think about what it must have been like for her and her folks. Did her little eye cross too when she was little? I mean come on ya’ll we all know that can be nice target for jackass kids. By the way Pipey will be able to wear contacts when she’s like ten so that’s good. By the way by the way anybody messes with my little girl I may speak softly but I carry a big fist. Actually I don’t speak softly but I do have a big fist. Two of em, and I’m not afraid to use em.
Anyway, it’s been so interesting, this day of my birth, after finding out the other side of the story after knowing one side for so long. I relish in the thoughts of the joy that I’ve brought the Stanley family but now I also think about that lonely nineteen year old woman with thick glasses all by herself, delivering a child, and not getting to see him. I often wonder if this is sad day for her, if she often wonders about me, if she wonders about what could’ve been, if I have any other brothers, or maybe sisters, that would be cool, cause if you know my fam you know that they whole can’t have kids thing didn’t work out for Dan and Mel, they ended up having three more boys after me so sisters would be kind of cool. I just wonder a lot about the bio side of my family, and my bio mom, she had to be strong to do what she did, I wonder if she wonders if she should have kept me, if she wanted to keep. Regardless, bio Mom, I’m okay. I pray for you often. I love you. I thank you for your decision. The Stanleys are a great family. God could not have blessed me with a better one.
I did search for her for while after Pipey’s eye but the search turned up empty. I love this story, maybe because it is my story but just the thought of all that happening around the arrival of child fills my heart with joy. Not just because it happened to me but it’s what I wished would happen for all children. The celebration of life entering your life. I think the birth of all kids should be a reason for joy. Not just the birth but the whole pregnancy. It might’ve been hard for my bio Mom knowing that she would be giving that life up and that she was experiencing pregnancy in the best of circumstances but she gave one of the greatest gifts ever to a family that, at the time, weren’t sure when they would get that blessing. I love thinking about all of this especially when my faith falters. To think God put that plan in motion, I don’t understand all of it, I don’t even understand a small portion of it, but to think about what all had to be orchestrated, behind the scenes, for someone like me. Being adopted into a family that has loved me so much, having an earthly father that has become one of the most awesome men I know, a mother that loves, sometimes, too intensely, three bros that make me laugh constantly, cousins that are insanely awesome and fun, aunts and uncles that would give you the shirts off their backs, not that I would really want my aunts to do that, probably should’ve written down another analogy, and then to think about marrying into the Mastin/Nicklas clan and that my daughter would have problems with her eyes and the patriarch of the Nicklas clan would be one of the best ophthalmologists around. I met my wife because of my Dad. God is good. Thank you Lord for my family and my friends.
Side note, if I didn’t mention you as a family or friend, Uncle Bill and Aunt Linda, there’s two, I humbly apologize. There’s a lot. I’m also not going to edit this thing. It was the spur of the moment writing so any missspellings or grammatical, errors: sorry. I just wanted to get this bad boy up and tell a story that hopefully brings someone peace, or hope, or joy, or all three. Peace, and thanks for stopping by.
PS – I’m also thinking about doing something big and crazy for 5/22/16, the five year anniversary of the tornado. It has to do with extending an invitation to one of the biggest bands in the world to come here and play a gig on that day. A gig that we would be free admission. Something that would help us celebrate and heal. Not a celebration of the tornado, but those that survived, the heroes that were born that night, how far we’ve come since then, give thanks to those that helped us, those that live here and those that live elsewhere. If you think it’s a good idea let me know. If you think it’s a bad idea let me know. Cause in order to pull it off I believe I’ll need the community behind me to do it, I’ll have to have the community behind to do it because it will be the community that does it. I’d just like to try and give something back to this town and it’s people and entertaining is the only thing I really know how to do. That’s all on this for now. If I get enough responses to move forward then be on the lookout folks. Anyway, love you all.