Friday, October 30, 2020

Jojo + Papa = BFF {by my dad for Down syndomre Awareness Month}


My first real association with child who had Down syndrome was at the Sportsplex gym. A young, single mom with a son who was about 9 years old named Cary came to the gym at the same time I did. I began to pay attention to Cary and that’s all it took for him to be my friend. He would watch for me at the gym and when he saw me, he would come running and take my hand as if it were understood that “I’m with you”. A glance at the smile on the mom’s face each time indicated approval and appreciation. Carey would follow me around in the gym and “help” me with my workout and he was always sad when it was time to leave. The only time I remember seeing Cary any place other than the gym was at Walmart. When he saw me a from a significant distance across the room he yelled at the top of his voice, ran to me, gave me a hug and took my hand as usual. Even though we hadn’t spent a significant amount of time together, I was sure that he was my friend…my buddy.

I knew for many years that my daughter Jenny wanted to adopt someday, but when she came to my wife Emily and me and explained that God had put it on her heart to adopt a child with Down syndrome, I was apprehensive.  She had already spoken to Aidan and Ella Mae and they were all in as was my wife, but I was concerned. Being in the financial business, one of my main concerns was how she would support another child, especially one with special needs. I was concerned for Aidan and Ella Mae as well because Jenny is a single mom. Since we all lived together at the time, she was determined to have us all “on board” before she moved forward in faith, but it took a while, and a significant amount of stubbornness from Ella Mae (she gets it honest from my sweet mama) to finally get my yes.

Emily and I were waiting at the airport when they brought Josiah (Jojo) home. I didn’t know what to expect or what my role would be. I even wondered if she would let me hold him. She walked through the airport straight to me. She said “here” and handed me that precious baby. At that moment, I knew that my life had changed—I knew that I was the Papa of someone special—a different kind of special than my first two grandchildren.

Over the next five years or so, Jenny, with the help of my wife, Emily, fostered twelve children. Most of them had special needs and/or were medically fragile. I was blessed to be able to help a little. I got lots of hugs in payment.

One day she received a call from Children’s Hospital and was asked to make a visit to consider fostering a baby with incredibly significant medical challenges and he also had Down syndrome. He would require intense medical care and medication for life. His mom could not take care of him. When Jenny arrived at the hospital a team of doctors and nurses were waiting. They asked Jenny if she would possibly, perhaps, maybe somehow consider fostering “Baby Zee” who had spent all 7month of his life at the hospital. At that point, the outlook for Baby Zee was very dim, with no one to take care of him and no good options for a place to live where he could get essential medical care. Who, in their right mind, would take on such a challenging commitment? Jenny and Emily, with the mind of Christ, trained to care for him medically while he was in foster care and eventually Jenny adopted him. The adoption judge said, “he is your child as if he were born into your family”. That statement was correct. Zee has a good place to live, is loved and well taken care of. He is just happy to be alive every day.



God doesn’t make mistakes when babies are born with Down syndrome. They are born into HIS family the same as everyone else. He created them special…and He created others special to be ministers to care for them. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phil 2:3-4.

Jojo and Zee are indeed special to me and I love them very much. I am so thankful to be their Papa and to have the opportunity to serve them. As it turns out, Jojo is not only my grandchild, but we have also become best friends. He is all mine on the weekends (to give Jenny a break) and we have the best time together. Once Zee grows and heals some more I’m sure he will join us on our adventures! I can’t imagine my life without these boys, and I am so thankful that a little 6 year old Ella Mae didn’t give up until she got my “yes”. "For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:36