Not Camping Out

The following post is an attempt to give you a window into our world and some of the events that have transpired since our previous adoption efforts ended in failure. — Ron


Them’s the Breaks

Lily trying on her most pitiful face for comedic effect beside the crushed van.

Lily trying on her most pitiful face for comedic effect beside the crushed van.

During the last third of 2018, Lily broke her wrist while playing in the back yard with her cousins. Exactly a week later, a tree fell on my van and totaled it. Then our neighbor’s tall, heavy wooden fence collapsed into our yard (thankfully no one was hurt). Worse than any of these inconveniences was the news that our almost-complete adoption of three boys from Poland had been denied without an explanation or appeal.

We got the news just before a planned beach vacation in Florida, which cushioned the blow a little. We viewed beautiful sunsets and sunrises, played in the sand and surf, and ate some amazing seafood. And we grieved. And we prayed.

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We began pursuing adoption again. This meant additional paperwork, jumping through more bureaucratic hoops, updating our home study, and undergoing psychological evaluations for the both of us. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves being presented with another sibling group — four young boys this time. We said yes again. While I’m writing this, our dossier is currently in the country of Colombia awaiting state approval and official matching.

So far, this adoption process has been moving smoothly.

Everything else? Not so much.


sick with regret

I have a knack for finding strange and interesting things. In February, I found a small argillite totem pole. The top featured an ominous black bird with outstretched wings. At the bottom crouched a weird little figure seemingly eating a frog. It was exactly the kind of bizarre antique souvenir that I love. And the price was right — $1. I bought it and took it home. “That thing looks cursed,” said Alison. “I’ll put it on my desk at the office tomorrow,” I said. I wouldn’t get the chance.

Three of our kids got sick with the flu. Not to be outdone, I managed to get both types A and B and — to top it off — bronchitis. For weeks, I lost myself in a haze of fever dreams, coughing and shivering and sweating and (Alison later told me) babbling incoherently.

My life’s regrets loomed large in my mind: times I had spoken when I should have remained quiet; times I had remained quiet when I should have spoken; relationships I should have maintained and those I should not have; my wrong actions, my wrong attitudes, my wrong words.

It rained and rained and rained and rained. Our roof sprung a leak, and in my compromised state there was nothing I could do about it. I vaguely remember my father popping into the room and saying something like, “I’m worried about you, boy.” I’m sure I looked rough. I’d lost about 17 pounds. Dad hired a roofer to fix the leak.

When I think of heaven
Deliver me in a black-winged bird
I think of dying
— Rain King, The Counting Crows
Birds for days.

Birds for days.

Flu is for the Birds

When thousands upon thousands of black birds descended for days, I genuinely thought I might die. An omen. They had come to carry me away. Maybe that bird thing really is cursed. Alison laughed at me when I stumbled out the back door and tossed the black bird totem out into the yard.

“I was kidding about that being cursed,” she said.

“Not taking any chances,” I said.

I lapsed back into sickness and a whirl of fevered thoughts. My fevered brain at long last fixed on a promise I had made to my oldest son: I had told him I would take him camping. I couldn’t shake the idea.

Easy Access

I hadn’t been camping in a few decades, but I decided to introduce Elijah and Samuel to the manly arts of eating meat cooked on sticks and sleeping in a glorified sack. For good measure, I invited my friend Chris and his son. In a codeine cough syrup haze, I booked a campsite the first weekend in March at a state park about 45 minutes from home. We’d spend two low key nights gathered around a fire in an easy-to-access site right beside a parking lot. It’d be relaxed — maybe even therapeutic after weeks of illness. At least that’s what I thought.

As it turned out, I’d booked a campsite a mile into the woods over unforgiving terrain.

Overburdened with stuff.

Overburdened with stuff.

TOO MUCH stuff

I had kicked the flu only a few days prior to our trip, but I was determined. We arrived late and I had to track down an elderly chap staying in a motor home so that we could get a temporary paper notice to leave at the trailhead. He explained that we’d have to go back and register with the visitor’s center the next morning.

All five of us powered down the trail packing 1,000 pounds of our stuff deep into the wilderness as the sky grew black. A 10-man tent, two full ice chests, firewood, backpacks, sleeping bags, lanterns, etc. Some of it was crammed into one of those cheap expandable wagons. It kept falling over again and again, spilling everything. The mud and rocks and roots were brutal. We had to make two trips just to pack everything in. It was ridiculous; it was overkill. I can’t explain the testosterone-fueled focus that drives a man’s commitment to that level of absurdity.

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Crushed

The next morning we began a trek out to see waterfalls — the three boys ahead, and Chris behind at some distance. Ahead of our group, I noticed a fallen tree had blocked the trail ahead and the top was hanging over a precipice.

My cellphone rang. It was the park’s visitor’s center asking me to come register because I had arrived late. “We’re hiking out right now,” I said. “We’ll be right there.” A sharp scream sliced the air.

Samuel’s left leg was pinned under the log near the edge of the cliff, the weight of it slowly pressing him into the muddy ground and dragging him towards the edge. Elijah was straining and clawing at it, but he couldn’t budge it. I ran to him, heart thumping, adrenaline pumping, picked up the tree and tossed it.

The boys had been trying to move the log off the path, but Samuel had gotten pinned by it. Now free of the tree, he was screaming and writhing in agony. We managed to get his shoe and sock off and have a look at the damage. It was swelling and looked bad. I called Alison to come meet us at the park office to pick him up and take him to the hospital.

In the meantime, Chris and I packed him out of the woods. Actually, Chris did most of the carrying. Samuel said I was too “bouncy” and besides that, my left side was killing me. That single uphill mile felt like a dozen.

Samuel gets a splint in the ER.

Samuel gets a splint in the ER.

Super flattering post surgery portrait.

Super flattering post surgery portrait.

We would later learn that Samuel’s ankle had been broken, and that in the process of freeing my boy, I had managed to give myself two hernias.

Samuel’s leg was put in a cast for six weeks and I had surgery to repair my own damage. We were both limping for a good while.

That was the most painful and expensive camping trip I’ve ever been on.

Oh, and I fell down the stairs at work a week after my surgery, but I digress.

What now?

So, yeah. Some bad things have happened, but these events are just a part of our story.

We’re not metaphorically camping out and wallowing in misery.

In fact, we might not literally camp out again.

Not taking any chances.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to work towards our adoption fundraising goal. Thank you so much for your support. Stay tuned for updates!