A few weeks ago, I visited my mom.
While I was attempting to have a quiet moment, my restless 7-year-old son was filled with a million questions. I should have expected that. Cemeteries tend to have that affect on little boys.
One of the few heartbreaks in Beau’s young life has been losing his grandmother before he ever really got a chance to know her. When she died back in 2013, she was at the end of a long and painful battle with COPD and she really did not have the strength to be the kind of grandmother she wanted to be. In 1991 when her first grandchild was born, my daughter Christine, it was much different. Mom was able to be quite a blessing for her for many years.
With Beau’s maternal grandmother, who we affectionately call MeMa, the little guy (and his cousin Virginia) hit the jackpot. She is all kinds of fun and all kinds of cool, and he loves her to pieces. And with her, he is truly blessed.
But of course, that is a family tradition. Beau’s own mom sets the gold standard. Her patience, warmth, intuition and understanding are simply amazing to see in action. I love to watch her help him with his homework, every bit the teacher, while every bit his mom. It is one of my favorite parts of the day. Simply put, the Good Lord put her on the planet to raise this boy. I know for a fact that she is appreciated for the significant role she has played in the lives of her many English students over her years as a high school teacher, but Bobbie’s place in the universe as Beau’s most important teacher is pure destiny.
Destiny and fate have played very significant roles in my life as a parent, and Beau’s very existence is a medical miracle. His mom tackled the in-vitro fertilization process like a STAR student preparing for the SAT. She read, studied and digested hundreds of thousands of words published on the topic, some written by experts in the field, others, by hopeful moms-to-be who had been part of the process.
In 2008 the science was complicated and expensive, but eventually and inevitably, it was no match for Beau’s mom. In March of 2009 our son was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
So suffice to say, I have a few amazing mothers in my life, and I am blessed and thankful for all of them.
One of those mothers has been on my mind in recent weeks, a mother I have not seen or spoken with in many, many years. She is the woman who gave birth to my daughter, Christine, 26 years ago this week, to be exact. It was one of the headlines of the day that renewed my resolve to share our unique experience.
Among the many political debates and shout-downs the new administration has brought us, there is renewed interest in the concept of public funding for abortions. Planned Parenthood has specifically been targeted by conservatives, and even though the issue at hand is funding, many liberals seemed convinced that President Trump and his Republican-controlled Congress aim to criminalize abortion completely.
I don’t buy that, and I see no evidence of legislation or any political momentum to even attempt such a thing.
But perhaps in these days when Washington conservatives have more power in hand than since 2006, we could bring about real change and hope for those faced with unwanted pregnancies. Perhaps it is time to consider publicly funding adoptions, or at the very least, streamlining the process greatly.
I know a young couple right now that has started the adoption process, and it is as expensive and complicated as ever. Not quite as much as the aforementioned in-vitro process, but for many that is sadly not an option.
Planned Parenthood’s website says a first trimester abortion costs around $1,500. I wonder what their response would be if they could be paid that much money for every single successful adoption they helped create by referring young women in need to the proper social agencies that handle such things? If given the opportunity to profit from an adoption the same way they do from an abortion, it would be fascinating to see what would happen.
In 1990, Planned Parenthood was running at full speed in their Broad Street location, and abortion was a far greater priority to them than adoption. Thank God in Heaven, a mother named Jennifer never considered them a “solution” for her unplanned, unborn child. Instead, she considered me.
I wrote Jennifer a letter in this space a few years ago, and it is as important to share it now as it ever was to remind women of their options when it comes to unwanted pregnancies.
They have a choice, no doubt, and one choice is vastly superior to the other.
Where do I begin to thank you for the greatest gift one human can give another?
It was your call. It could have all been over in 20 minutes. A “D&C” as it is called by some medical professionals… an abortion in the more common use of the phrase.
20 minutes… over and out.
You chose to take another route. You made the decision 26 years and seven months ago. You saw it through.
Thank you, wherever you are. Your choice gave me my daughter.
You sacrificed nine months of physical comfort, suffered countless nauseous mornings, survived fitful nights tortured by conscience and guilt, and faced every conceivable regret a soul can bear. You did it for me and her mother, you did it for her little brothers and sister, you did it for all of us who love her, and we thank you from the bottom of our heart.
I held her in my arms 60 seconds after she left your body, and in my heart, I have not let go of her once. She was perfect from the start, and makes me proud to this very moment.
Her first word was “Daddy”… her favorite sound was her mom’s voice. Her first cat was Jackson, her first dogs, Sweetness and Penny. She watched spooky movies with me and played in the kitchen with her Ma. She shopped with Mama Bev and learned about the computer from Pa. She loves sports like her Aunt Judy, and music like her Uncle Bubba. She is an important part of a loving, extended family, and it is all because of you.
Twenty-six years later, she is a beautiful young woman with her entire life ahead of her, embarking on a career in public service that has made us all so very proud.
I wanted a smart, talented, athletic daughter, so it was clear I was going to have to adopt one. I got all that with Christine, and a whole lot more.
Like me, she is not much of a morning person. I got to see that up close every day as I used to drive her to school. She is a much better student than I was in most subjects, but just like me, she often loses sight of the finish line. Like her mom, she is a natural with small children, and she spent several years working as a beloved babysitter and cherished nanny.
Like every Rhodes on the planet, she pitches fits over lost football games and “fumbled” elections.
The next time someone does a “nature vs. nurture” study, they should consider January 2006 when our family team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, almost handed the Indianapolis Colts a playoff game on a platter. Not to rehash the game, but in the ultimate tense final moments, with a house full of family living and dying with every play, Christine and her Daddy Bob both disappeared out the backdoor, too angry and heartbroken to see anymore. When the Colts’ kicker was wide right on the game-tying kick, the two of them reacted with the same amazed look of relief, disgust and celebration. Granddaughter and granddaddy… two of a kind in the Black and Gold, whooping it up in the backyard, entertaining neighbors in ever direction.
All was right in the world a few weeks later when we gathered again, in our customized jerseys, to cheer our team on to a Super Bowl victory. Just like I had last done with my dad and grandfather 30 years earlier.
Memories now sharing a place in my heart with Christine’s first birthday party, her first roller coaster ride, her first concert, her first Christmas, her first day of school, and her high school graduation.
I stood beside her as she looked down on New York City for the first time from the Empire State Building, the first time she skied down a mountain, and the night she whispered and giggled in the corner of a crowded meeting room (much to the chagrin of a waiting Secret Service detail) with President Bush.
Christine has already had an incredible life, and the great part is she is just getting started.
When her mom and I were told we couldn’t have children of our own we had no way of knowing what your wonderful choice was going to ultimately give us. It was your constitutional right to go the other way, and there was no one and nothing to guide you but your own heart, your own soul and your own faith.
You did the right thing, and we thank you for it every day of our lives. In 1991 there were 1,556,500 women who made the other choice.
Twenty-six years ago my first child and only daughter was born, and for the gift you gave me in her, I will remain eternally humbled and grateful.
Forever in Your Debt,