On a night almost nineteen years ago I was a young man in need of a job. I was walking in my downtown Salt Lake City neighborhood when the job I needed called me. Quite literally, I was called from the porch by staff at a group home where adults with disabilities lived. How deep my need had sunk is only something I realize when I glance, now, into the rearview mirror of my life. Of course I needed a job for the means to pay rent, bills and buy some groceries. But other needs fulfilled by this job are discernable now as I reflect on the depth of the relationships I would never have had without this job. I was offered the job as direct-care staff, a caregiver, that night. My first shift began the next day. My last shift ended only a month ago. Today I am a first-year, elementary, special education teacher who just survived the first month of the academic year. Becoming a teacher would never have happened without the job that called to me almost nineteen years ago. Not only has this job led me to a new, related career path. This job led me to some of my most valued and meaningful friendships: Friendships with residents at the home and with their families, friendships with coworkers, and, the most important friendship in my life—all of these friendships started at this job. The most important friendship began when I interviewed, and subsequently hired, the woman who would one day become my wife.
I met Preslie seven years after that night so long ago. I had become a co-program director of the group home. I revel at the turns my life has taken. Who knows? What-ifs can be an endless, fruitless exercise. But I do have my whats. What happened is this…
I did meet Preslie. We worked together and became friends. Because I was her boss, I never felt comfortable pursuing her or revealing my feelings for her. She was the bold one. We had known each other for three years. At times I thought there was mutual attraction but I would dismiss these notions as a fool’s dream. In so many ways I am a fool; but, it was a dream that became real. She brought a thank-you gift—éclairs and a card—to my home one day. I had helped cover a shift of hers when she had been ill. We talked for some time and then she left. I couldn’t help but think she was trying to signal to me her interest. I couldn’t stop thinking she was giving me a chance to let her know how I felt. I was kicking myself for letting this chance go by—now was the time, away from work—I went after her. I stopped her on my driveway and asked if she wanted to go see a movie or get some food. She did. We did both. This was our first date and it hasn’t stopped. We dated for three years. On August the 8th, 2008 we married. One of the residents from the group home where we worked had become my best friend over the years. His name is Terry and he was my best man. He witnessed our union and, I think, still blesses it.
Preslie and I waited a year before trying to start our family. The year gave us time as newlyweds and allowed her to finish her bachelor’s degree in special education. Preslie is a wonderful teacher. She works tirelessly to support and educate children who one day might live in a group home, like Terry, his housemates and so many others who need support in their lives. Preslie decided upon her career because of her work in the group home. I completed my bachelor’s degree in English a year later. Terry died just before Thanksgiving of that same year. It was 2010. He was seventy-two. His family honored me by asking me to speak at his funeral. It was a surreal experience: trying to share what a dear friendship Terry and I had, trying to express my admiration for the man, all while not having processed his death. I wish Terry was still alive. In so many ways I wish I still worked at the group home. I wish I could have introduced my first child to Terry, but I can’t. I do, however, take solace in the fact that Terry lived in his home, amongst people who loved him and to an age that no one expected. Terry’s health had declined over the years. Heart failure finally got him. This always struck me as ironic; because, even in death, his heart has never failed. Terry loved life, loved people, loved his friends and loved his family. I say his heart never failed because I still feel his love. I still love him. Ours is a friendship that will never die.
The years since Terry’s death have been difficult for Preslie and me. Our love for one another has seen us through a seeming parade of disappointments. Our attempts at starting a family have not been realized. At first it just seemed like we needed only to be patient. We tried to stay optimistic and trust life’s turns. But--after years of miscarriages, doctor’s appointments and hospital visits—hope erodes. I’ve watched Preslie be consumed by the cycle of hope and disappointment. I’ve been consumed myself. It’s hard when, in our day to day life, simple exchanges become internal collapses. For instance, the countless times that Preslie has told me she has news about something, or, needs to tell me something—well, a flicker of hope, of life, sparks up inside. Could this be the moment? Are we pregnant?!? No, it’s something about a friend, a family member, one of her students or one of our dogs or cats. All of which are important somethings. But, when you’ve been trying to start a family for as long as we have there is only one bit of news you really want to hear.
Then, even worse, the news comes: We’re pregnant! You feel like all the goddesses and gods are smiling upon you. It’s for real. But it’s all too real when weeks later the joy and blessedness you felt bleeds away to darkness and loss.
Frustration gnaws at your resolve and at your faith when doctors can’t say exactly why, but lead you down a path of tests, procedures and medicine that might help—have helped some—but in the end, don’t help us.
One of the most difficult things I ever had to do was tell Preslie we had to stop trying to have a baby. I witnessed the cycle of hope and disappointment killing her. I didn’t want to stop, I had to. As difficult as it was, I knew, it was the right thing to do. Doing what’s right isn’t always easy. It took time for our love, our marriage, to withstand the blow I levied when I told Preslie we had to stop trying to have a baby. Thankfully, Preslie gave us--gave me--that time. Preslie returned us to the hope I had removed. She presented the idea that we could adopt. I always knew it was a possibility. I have an older brother who was adopted. But, I also knew it was expensive. Just how expensive it actually is to adopt a baby—this I did not know. It turns out the expense is more than we can bear. For a mere $40,000, give or take several thousands of dollars depending on the state in which the baby is born, decent people with means can adopt a baby. We are decent people. The means elude us.
But who knows? We are not giving up. We have been buoyed by the support of family, friends and even strangers. We will continue to have faith and couple this faith with work toward our baby--a child, who is meant for us. We’ve been through too many ups and downs, so many strange twists and received so much love and support. Our journey has been and will be difficult, but it is also blessed. One day I will glance back in the rearview mirror of our lives together and I will see that this journey was the right way, perhaps the only way, and most certainly a treasured way—the way that brought our baby to us.