This morning, in the historic McIntosh County courthouse, our home county where about 2500 people live, Nathan officially adopted Hunter as his son. I’ve held my emotions in check and not until now as I sat at my computer to remember this day have all my emotions come blubbering out on the keyboard. For our family’s sake, I want to share a bit about the day and back story.
Court only happens about once a month in our rural area and we waited a couple of hours before we entered the court room for our private hearing this morning. There sat the court reporter, clerk of court, district judge in the front and our county sheriff in the back. It was casual but yet I felt the load of the past 19 years of life as we walked in with our attorney. It was 19 years ago that I was a senior in high school with big plans and track scholarship opportunities ahead in my future.
By the time Christmas rolled around of that year I found myself with morning sickness and knew my plans could be changing. I’ve shared about that journey before on my blog and certainly speak of it often at events. Hunter made me a mother on August 20, 1997. He was the best decision of my young 18 years of life. He lived with my parents during my freshman year of college and then full-time with me. (Until he leaves me for college next year and let’s avoid that topic today. Gulp.)
Hunter starting praying for a “dad that lives with us” in first grade. He had a biological father but longed for a full-time relationship. Ten years ago, Nathan began answering Hunter’s prayer.
Step-parenting is not easy. We will not sugar coat it. Nathan moved into our home when he and I married. Hunter had just turned nine years old and started third grade. His life was interrupted despite his prayer being answered. Nathan and Hunter worked on their relationship together. I learned to stay out of it. They needed their own time and activities to do together.
We became a tight-knit family which was needed as Hunter walked through difficult challenges he could not control and changes in relationships. In fifth grade, he requested his last name be changed to “Pinke” and he kept my maiden name as a part of his middle name. He said to Nathan and me, “I’m a Pinke now.” And he was. Nathan and my in-laws have never treated Hunter any different than his sisters, Elizabeth and Anika. We are all one family unit, no matter what was documented legally.
Half of his life later, he sat next to me at the beginning of the hearing today and said, “Mom, this is pretty cool.” If you have a teenage boy, you understand that is a comprehensive, meaningful sentence for him. I knew how he felt.
Indeed it is pretty cool. Hunter testified today about how Nathan and he have a bond, a father/son relationship and his desire to be legally adopted by Nathan “because he’s already my dad.” I couldn’t see Nathan’s face as Hunter testified but based on Hunter’s smile I knew he was looking at Nathan’s tears.
I fidgeted and looked at my hands, taking deep breaths, holding back my tears. I could literally feel God’s presence right in the courtroom. It was a big moment. Nathan also testified and shared his desire to adopt Hunter and the depth of their relationship, specifically answering questions of how he supports Hunter. Again, moments we will cherish forever.
The entire hearing took ten minutes. The judge thanked us and said he often sees the opposite of what we were doing today. His closing words were, “Thank you for your act of love today. And Hunter, I hope you focus on engineering more than football in college.”
As we walked out, the court reporter said, “And good luck in basketball!” I love rural people and courthouses. This is a beautiful one.I had my big camera with me and my phone turned off. Not until we got out of the courtroom and down the stairs could I get myself to stop shaking for a phone picture taken by our attorney for this hearing.
Our long-time attorney, Patti could not be there today due to a conflict of another hearing. She’s loyally advised me for many years and I wanted her to see this moment along with my family and friends who have supported and loved us through this long journey. Thank you is not enough to say to each of you but it is all I have. We are filled with gratitude. Thank you.
Another attorney from Patti’s firm was present and I joked she was in elementary school when I gave birth to Hunter and that is true! We were thankful for her being prepared and organized today which gave us all a calm demeanor.
We celebrated at the local cafe where Hunter and Nathan felt it was appropriate to both order the “South Border Mustang Burger”, adding bacon to their burgers. Hunter said, “After all that is what we are, together.” We are South Border Mustangs, the name of our local school sports co-op where we have attended hundreds of games together and where our family business and family are rooted.
Each of us have different family stories. Everyone has twists, turns, mountains and valleys. One thing I have learned in living and walking through ours is God has a greater plan than you can see. I could not have planned this moment or day. It’s greater than me. It’s greater than Nathan. It’s greater than Hunter. It is perfectly written though for our family.
Today is a day we will never forget and always cherish, our family’s own adoption day. I love you Hunter James. I love you Nathan. You two belong together. Thank you for showing me what our adoption story is. Thank you, Lord, for giving me purpose and a story greater than I could ever plan, predict or write. I am forever grateful.