General Non-Fiction posted August 27, 2023 Chapters:  ...25 26 -27- 28... 

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Tom attempts to get ahead of the storm for adoption date

A chapter in the book Angels Unaware

The Perfect Storm

by forestport12

Tom grows up in a broken home and witnessed his mother almost getting beaten to death. As a teen, he was on a quest to find God. Later, he finds the love of his life and started a family.
It was the late 1980's, and the adoption proceedings were in full swing. I visited someone in the city for a sit down of why I wanted to adopt Malissa. Then there was a home meeting where the head of the agency visited the family. By summer, I landed a good full-time job. I wouldn't have to work several jobs to make ends meet anymore. I hadn't given up on the ministry, as I figured it would happen when the time was right.

Before the adoption became final, it meant that we had to leave upstate NY for New Hampshire. It was summer and the kids would have a fresh start. It made the trip and transition smooth, as we got used to a New England culture. No sooner had we got settled into our apartment than a court date had been set for December. No problem, I thought. I know how to handle myself in winter driving, having been raised in the snowbelt where inches are often measured by feet.

Wait a minute, there was a potential problem. We bought a used ford wagon from a friend. It had issues with the carburetor and would often spudder and want to stall. After my father got one good look and whiff at the blue smoke coming from the tailpipe. He declared, "The person you bought this from is not your friend."

I still wasn't worried. What were the chances that there would be a storm for the record books from the East coast to Syracuse, NY? As it turned out, only days before our scheduled trip to the courthouse to seal the adoption a low pressure was building in the Atlantic and there was also a forecast of snow coming off the warm waters of Lake Ontario toward Syracuse. It turned out to be what can be described as the perfect storm! Two low pressure systems were on a collision course!

The window of our opportunity to get out of town and get on the thruway was closing fast. Just hours before we left there was talk that authorities may have to close the thruway, our only sure path to making back home for the adoption.

We packed our bags, loaded our son and daughter in the back of the Ford wagon, and then Mary and I looked at each other and said a prayer. I fired up the wagon affectionately called, Betsy. I'm not sure if my wife saw a calm determined look on my face, or a crazed one, willing to risk life and limb. It was probably somewhere in between. I watched the first few flakes fall and melt harmlessly on the windshield, and then off we went into the unseen dangers.

We took the bypass around Boston and edged on to thruway 90. The car hadn't backfired once. We sang some tunes and told myself, "I got this." My boy and girl were tucked safely into their seats. A few hours in and the snowflakes thickened and fell with a fury to the point where the wipers couldn't keep up. I leaned over the dashboard, as visibility was next to nothing.

As we charged up our first mountain on the highway, the car backfired! It sounded like a cannon shot. The car sputtered and jerked with each mountain. At times we couldn't be sure of where the road was except for the faint lines leftover from another brave car or truck.

I tried to hide my nervousness and pushed it down somewhere inside where it pressed against my heart. I looked at my wife who looked at me to see if my confidence had slipped. In that fateful moment I heard Malissa, at seven years old call out to me. "Daddy, you don't have to do this on the count of me. You can turn around. It's okay."

With low visibility, a car threatening to stall, it was in that a powerful sense of courage trumped everything around us. I shot back over my shoulder. "No honey, this is your moment, your time. I love you, and we're not turning around! We're going to make it for that court date."

Shortly after having made that statement, the car started cooperating again. Fortunately, the authorities didn't close the thruway, or I'm sure we would not have made it for the court date the next morning. Things were slow and the snow kept falling, but we had made it through Albany New York, and were on our way toward Syracuse. Betsy, our temperamental Ford sputtered a few more times, but she held steady on the highway.

By the time we got about an hour and half from Syracuse, we were exhausted. I could feel my arms cramping from all the hours of tension. We thought, maybe we should get a motel room in Herkimer, NY. I almost regretted it from the start, as we almost got stuck just past the tolls from having to stop.

We found a motel, but the walls were paper thin. Without a chance of getting a good night sleep, we decided to push on to my father's house. We loaded up into the blizzard winds and falling snow. I fired up Betsy with another prayer. There was no turning back!

As we got to the entrance of the thruway the car got stuck. I gave my wife the wheel and used my old powerlifting muscles to shove and push the car out of the snow rut. We shimmied our way back on to the highway. I remarked to my wife, "You know, I've heard people say, "'There's a fine line between foolishness and faith."'

I drove in a coffee caffeinated frenzy into the early dark morning hours until we were close to my father's house in the country. Just as we were almost there, you could look up and see a clearing in the night sky. It was better than a rainbow covenant. It was like God's message of mercy could be seen by angels.

I slipped into my father's unplowed driveway, knowing I'd have to dig us out, but I didn't care. We'd made it home. We got inside the house and collapsed into my fathers other bedrooms with a tremendous sense of peace. The adoption would be a done deal the next day.

In the morning, the sun came out, almost blinding our eyes from the reflection of all the fresh fallen snow. I dug the Ford wagon out from the driveway. Plows had cleared the roads, creating a winter wonderland toward the port city of Oswego.

As it turned out, Oswego bore the brunt of Lake effect snow. As we passed through the city to the courthouse, cars were buried, and snowbanks flanked us like arctic guardians into another world. It must have seemed even more impressive to my daughter whose eyes grew wider as we approached the courthouse. She looked up and looked around, as if she had been given the keys to a magical city on ice.

The steps to the courthouse had been salted and thankfully open for business. Hand and hand we stepped through the giant doors. From what I recalled, there was a moment when I stepped outside from the judges chamber. I waited in anticipation, as Malissa, soon to be my legal daughter needed to be the one to agree that she wanted her name changed.

The judge must have been impressed with what the little girl had to say, especially considering what we went through. As I sat outside for her personal talk with the judge, I could only imagine the story she weaved, as only a seven-year-old could. When the doors flew open, mother and daughter rushed toward me with the signed document by the judge while I held our son on a bench nearby. "It's done," my wife declared. "She's legally yours, mine, and ours!"

I swept Malissa into my arms and gave her a peck on the cheek. We headed home, as the sun melted away the cold.

A few months later our family had the opportunity to move back to upstate NY. There was an opening for a cleaning manager in Syracuse at Niagara Mohawk, the power company. We settled into an apartment, happy to be close to family and friendships recently forged. Our kids became firmly rooted and grounded.

Some three years later, my daughter and her classmates in 5th grade were tasked to write a letter about a special day in their life. Some wrote about Christmas and certain gifts or trips when they felt special. My daughter wrote about how special she felt the time we faced a fierce winter storm in order to make it to the courthouse for her adoption.

The teacher was so moved by her letter, she eagerly enlisted other teachers to hear it read. As some teachers stood and listened near the doorway, they choked back tears.

When I heard about the letter Malissa wrote, I hadn't understood the impact and impression I must have made on our daughter. To be honest, I was surprised that her impressions of that night resided deep in her tender heart.

One singular truth I learned: Love can move mountains.

Tom, the narrator
Mary, his wife
Malissa, the daughter
Nathan, the son

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