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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Great Expectations (The Last Part)

We received a wedding invitation early 2016.

Michael was getting married in the spring. It would be in New York City where he now lived. He grew up in Oklahoma, spent most of his life there. Once he graduated high school, he moved to NYC. He has lived in the city ever since.

The invitation was flattering. But of course, all sorts of thoughts followed. Is this just a kindly gesture? Would it be inappropriate to go? Or weird? This went on for weeks. Heather, however, really wanted to be there, so after a short correspondence, she booked a flight.

Initially, I wasn't able to go. But, as luck would have it, plans unexpectedly changed at the last minute. We flew out on a Saturday morning. 

We'd never been to New York. It was a little intimidating. The unknown usually is. All we knew about New York is what we'd seen on television. In my experience, if your preparation for a new situation involves movies, you're effed. Fortunately, we knew someone besides Michael that lived there.

We didn't know much about his fiance. We wanted to know more so we did what most people would do. We stalked Facebook. Five minutes later and we were about to click off when I noticed a line in italics. 1 mutual friend. 

Remember the secret family password weirdness? Here it comes again.

Five minutes ago we didn't know Michael's fiance and now we have a mutual friend? Naturally, you'd think it was Michael but we're not linked on Facebook. The one mutual friend was someone that had lived in New York City for the past 26 years. His name is Jamie.

And we went to high school with him.

Heather and I grew up in a small town tucked between Illinois cornfields. Heather and Jamie were friends through middle school until he moved away. His career took him to New York City in his mid-twenties and he'd lived there ever since. And he knew Michael's fiance. He moved there 26 years ago. When Michael was born. 

Six degree of Kevin Bacon can't touch this.

Heather and Jamie.

We arrived before noon on Saturday and spent the afternoon with Jamie on the Lower East Side. It kept us occupied. We were out of our element, in a new city, not sure what the evening would bring. Would they be happy to see us? Nervous? Is this weird? Now we weren't so sure.

We asked the hotel what was the best way to catch a cab. He said walk outside and raise your arm. Was it really that easy? Yeah. Yeah, it was. Turns out, cabs really are everywhere. We arrived at the venue, early evening. The sun was hours from setting, the spring air cool and crisp.

Had it really been 26 years? Is this really how the story ends--the crises that began so long ago, when we were young and lost and scared, a distant memory? Will we wake up on the floor and realize it was all just a dream? Because these things don't end this way.

There aren't happy endings like this.

We followed the eclectic crowd up an iron staircase and for a moment, we were all alone. It was 26 years earlier, just a couple of nervous kids in a really big world, unsure which way to turn, what was around the corner. But in the next moment, we saw Cathy. Tears. Hugs.

It was real again.

We caught up with Wayne and Cathy, and a now grown-up and married Kelsie; we met extended family, recalled the day we met at the Italian Village. They were from the Midwest so it didn't take long to speak the same language. Had it really been 26 years? 

The ceremony took place on the rooftop. Wayne and Cathy ushered Michael out. As dusk drew near, they took their vows in a short ceremony among friends and family. It would be another hour before we met Michael.

The reception took place downstairs. We found a table in the corner. It was small and convenient, one where we could stand up and hold our drinks. An inconspicuous place. It wasn't until later that we realized it was perfect. The family graciously invited us to the table but we declined. From our little corner, we watched an extravagant New York crowd mix with Midwesterners--a clash of style and values, interests and eras. But a crowd united in love.

The reunion with Michael was what you would imagine. Outstanding. Grateful.

Perched in our corner, we watched the night unfold. We were not removed, not distant or antisocial. We spent time with all the family and friends. It was the perfect balance of being there.
The fathers gave touching speeches. And when cake was cut and, one by one, friends toasted the newlyweds, Heather and I made our exit. We thanked them for being the family anyone would wish for. They had exceeded all our hopes. The script of this moment was surreal and oddly perfect.

The night was relatively young, but we'd done everything we'd come to do in New York. We ate a slice of pizza in a very small hotel room and fell asleep.

Heather, Micheal, and Cathy

So why tell this story?

The world needs to hear it is a tad presumptuous. The world doesn't need anything. And this certainly isn't the end of anything. But for some reason, it certainly felt like it. Twenty-six years ago, we would not have been so bold as to write a tale like this.

But I'm a storyteller. I like a good ending. And this certainly felt worthy.

Even if it is true.


  1. There is so much courage and love in this story, along with the pain between the lines one can read through this journey. Thank you for sharing it. I don't believe it's presumptuous at all to think the world needs more stories like this. We all need to believe there are good endings even in the most challenging of situations.

    You are some kind of special people. Thanks again.

  2. I will take real-life happy endings over fictional any time, knowing they are the hardest to construct. I read for fictional HEA, but I live for real HEAs. Congratulations and a wonderful sharing. Thank you.

  3. That was magnificent. In the beginning I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm very glad it never did.

  4. Such a great story! Like Michael, I, too, was an accident with an accidental father, so beside the fact that I love your books, this story piqued my interest because of that similarity. I'm about to meet my brother and am so excited! Your story gives me hope! I'm a firm believer that there are no coincidences. Hammer88 wasn't a coincidence and neither was my getting on your email list. :)

  5. Your story is much the same as many stories out there. The difference being you know how to tell the story. Well done!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing yours and Heather's story, Tony. Beautiful; and there are never too many happy endings!!

  7. BEAUTIFUL! I am a little emotional right now. Trying not to cry. I personally know lots of adopted families. Even in my own family, I was 25 yrs,old when I found out my sisters was only half. My father legally adopted her at birth. And why my dad pretty much gave her anything she wanted. Almost tore me and my sister apart. But 23yrs. Later she is my best friend. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful real story. Hugs Leona

  8. Thank you for the wonderful story. I enjoy reading what you write. Keep up the good work!

  9. Thank you for the wonderful story. I enjoy reading what you write. Keep up the good work!

  10. Beautiful Story......As an adoptee, I can truly appreciate your putting Michael first. This made me cry and smile, and it greatly warmed my heart.

  11. I should have NOT put my makeup on before reading this! What a touching, heartfelt story. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of your amazing world with us. Mahalo..

  12. Courageous, touching, loving, wonderful!

  13. I truly appreciate this story. Though I myself am not adopted, I know many people who were and many that still struggle for the answers. I had actually thought about adoption when my son was born but something just would not allow me to do it, so I raised him, a single 17 y/o mother with no plan in sight. He turned out pretty wonderful, better than I could have ever hoped for. The struggles of adoption are more than most can understand and this will hopefully help a lot of them to understand some of it.

  14. So boldly honest. Thanks so much for sharing:)

  15. I loved your story. I am sorry it ended...maybe another twist will be in the making and someday you will add it to rest.

  16. I loved your story. I am sorry it ended...maybe another twist will be in the making and someday you will add it to rest.

  17. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt real story. Lives are even better than novels and often even more surprising. A testimony to both families involved and each member's belief and trust in loving action. I do think the world needs to hear about people who face hard times with thoughtfulness and honest struggle. Choices that unfold across a lifetime in truly touching ways. I feel connected to you and your story because I met and married the love of my life after our crisis in Carbondale, IL. (Both of us grad students in AdJus). Our crisis was cancer but no less a struggle. So thank you again for reminding me of the wonder and blessings that can unfold from even our most difficult choices.

  18. My mother and father divorced when I was 4. Due to circumstances that would take a long time to tell, I did not see my biological father again until I was 36. We set up a time to meet at his home with his wife. (This is where your Hammer comment rang true to me). I parked my Volvo in the street, his Volvo was in the driveway. I did cabinet work on the weekends, he had a cabinet shop in the garage. I was a police officer, he was a code enforcement officer. Coincidence or genetics? Great story. Great growth. Great love. Thanks for sharing.

  19. A wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it with us. I love science fiction and fantasy, but all good stories have to have some sort of 'real' background, even if it's only a real commitment to the absurdity. It's refreshing to read a story that's all real and not made Hollywood and glossed over.

    I have to admit I got pretty excited when I read the words "Southern Illinois University" and "Carbondale" and "Italian Village". I grew up 15 miles from Carbondale and also attended the university. Someday I'll make it back to finish my creative writing degree.

  20. These things happen, they do. They happen so we know it's exactly as it was suppose to be.

  21. Your story is so touching, and needed to be told... so you told it. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful but deeply personal and private story with us.