Mom & Dad
My parents moved in with us in May of 2018. It was a big move for them. My mom had lived in New Mexico for most of her life, minus the few years she lived in Spain as a youth. My dad had lived in New Mexico for 40 years or so. Packing up a lifetime of boxes and moving to the cloudy, and at times dreary, pacific northwest was a huge leap of faith for them. We had the necessary adjustment period and had our growing pains, but we have found our groove while creating the multi-generational home centered around our boys that we had all envisioned.
That being said, it wasn't always easy to have them so close as I was healing. In order to heal, I had to open up old wounds and reframe so many feelings and experiences. I had to work through so many natural emotions stemming from my abuse. I still harbored hurt and resentment. While I have truly never blamed anyone for my abuse, I still had to process the feeling of invisibility and low self-worth that stemmed from my time in Artesia. Why didn't they stop this? Did I not matter enough? Did anyone really care about me? I felt as though I didn't matter enough for anyone to see what was going on. While I have written how my parents did share their concerns with coaches and mentors in my life, why were they so quick to let go of these suspicions? As I worked through these negative self beliefs in therapy, it was hard to leave an intense session and come right home to the people that were the focus of this reprocessing.
We have come so far. We have had huge fights and deep discussions, but as my journey continued this year their support and love has helped me reframe all the negative beliefs that developed during my years in Artesia. This journey has been difficult, but also amazing in the space it has created for people to show up for me in ways I never felt I deserved. As I continue down this path, I became grateful for their presence in our home and life. The unexpected consequence of their relocation to our home was the space it created to have us look into each other's eyes and heal together. I am truly blessed and happy to have them with me on my healing journey as well as Derrick and I's parenting journey.
Derrick and I almost didn't make it. I asked for a divorce last summer and we made it all the way through mediation and were just about to file and finalize the end to our marriage when I stopped the process to seek help and support. While our marriage had it's struggles leading up to our separation, I knew in my heart that there was something bigger at play. I knew I needed to seek help before breaking up our family. The separation and the realization and clarity that I needed help is what lead me to therapy. And through therapy I learned about the fight, flight, and freeze reactions to trauma. In a year where my negative self-beliefs and self-hatred started to bubble over, I wanted to run away and try to start over. I quickly realized that running wouldn't solve anything. I had to finally pause and see what was causing the desire to flee. We all know now my abuse and years of hurt and pain were the cause of this reaction.
Derrick is the most amazing man. He is giving, caring, steady, patient, and brimming with kindness. He has done nothing but support me in life. After years of tumultuous relationships in my early and mid-twenties, he showed me what true partnership looks and feels like. If not for him, I could have easily let my trauma lead me down darker roads. Derrick immigrated to the United States from the Philippines to practice medicine. He had an internship in New Jersey, and as part of his visa he had to practice in an underserved area for 3 years before he could apply for citizenship. That is what landed him in Ruidoso, NM working with my uncle. We had only met once when both of us were navigating our own tumultuous relationships. But when we were both single, my uncle (prompted by my mom), gave me his number. The rest is history.
Since we reunited last Fall, he has been an amazing husband. He has been on my healing journey the entire time. He has supported me in every way. When I navigated my distrust of anyone's love and intimacy, he was there. When I processed my feelings of not deserving anyone's support, he remained steadfast. When I processed my feelings of inferiority, he was there to assure me that we were equal partners. Derrick has always been there standing beside me and at times holding me up. Our marriage was worth fighting for and I am so grateful we did because this journey has brought us closer than every before.
Dillon and Jerry
These boys are my life and have my whole heart. Derrick and I decided to become foster parents in November of 2011 and within 1 month we welcomed a sibling group of 3 into our home. I had met Dillon's older brother and sister when I was teaching kindergarten at a school in Albuquerque. When they were being displaced from their current foster home, the school approached Derrick and I about providing them a home. The process moved extremely quickly and before we new it we were navigating the life of foster parents.
I still remember when we met Dillon. He was 2. We went to visit him and his siblings before the big transition, Dillon hid behind a kitchen island and peaked out at us numerous times. Then all at once, he dashed out from behind the island and gave Derrick and I this biggest hug, stealing our hearts forever in that moment. Dillon never gave up on us. When we thought we said goodbye forever just a year and a half after meeting him, he never let go of us. As he continued to navigate the system after a failed adoption attempt by a well meaning family, he let everyone know where he should go. He let them know he belonged with his dads, Jake and Derrick (or as he called me...Jakey). At 4 years old, he really didn't give his social workers any choice about his final placement. He was coming home to us whether anyone liked it or not.
We met Jerry 10 months after meeting his siblings. He was born the month after Dillon and his siblings came into foster care. New Mexico doesn't consider having children in foster care a valid enough reason to take babies into custody at birth, so we had to watch Jerry grow up during weekly visitations during that first year. Then on a Fall afternoon, after 11 referrals, Jerry showed up at our house, filthy, drinking kool-aid out of his baby bottle. I had taken that year off, so I became the stay-at-home dad to a 15 month old. He was traumatized so I spent the first month with him strapped to my chest or right by my side. I fell asleep most nights on the floor next to his crib until he would finally drift off to sleep. He hated being alone. In those moments, we formed a bond that wouldn't break. We never knew if Jerry would come home to us. He was on his own journey through foster care and his biological parents had tried harder with him than they had with his siblings. There were times when we thought he might be returned to his biological family. But just as quickly as he showed up in our home at 15 months, he was on a plane with me coming back to our family by the age of 4.
We lived a lifetime in that year and a half as foster parents. There were so many highs and many lows as we witnessed the effects of neglect and trauma on children as well as the failings of a system that is damaging to both foster kids and parents. That is a story for another time. We had to say goodbye to our foster children, but Dillon and Jerry both found their way back to us, at different times, and our family was finally complete.
Witnessing their strength and resilience changed my life. They do and will have many challenges in their lives, but Derrick and I both know their strength will carry them through. They have made Derrick and I better men and while everyone will say that we were a blessing and gift to them, the truth is completely the opposite. They are blessing to us in every way possible.
Being an adoptive parent you live in the world between nature and nurture, always wondering what comes from their innate beings and personalities that they were born with and what they take in from the world we create around them. There are these beautiful moments when I see us in our boys, where I am completely assured that even though they weren’t born ours, that they are going to be our amazing mark on this world. And they will carry on the good (and at times bad 😉) parts of us as they grow up.
When I broke away from my abuser, came out as a gay man, and eventually met Derrick, I never imagined that I would be able to become a dad. I never imagined that I would be able to legally wed Derrick on a beach in Honolulu with my dad and mom as officiants. So today as I write this post, I am filled with gratitude. And this gratitude finally includes the healing that stems from my journey the past year and how I can finally be present in the amazing life I have created for myself.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone. Thanks for reading and for you continued support of the project, this blog, and for me.