Finally home

It took six years of fighting, but finally, on May 2, 2024, forever “Homecoming Day,” David was able to come home (for a few days); and this is the way of it.

On Monday April 22, after getting a third parenting evaluation (first was from a psychologist in Indiana, which wasn’t good enough for them, second was from a dishonest provider who made false claims and refused to complete the evaluation)–and driving all the way to Morgantown for it–I filed a renewed motion to bring David home for my graduation (May 4). Like the first evaluation, the written report said I’m a fine parent, intelligent person, even used the word “talkative” (which isn’t like me for most of my life), should be able to bring David back to Indiana, and (in response of ridiculous assertions from wife’s lawyer) would not try to abscond with David to Canada (although we do hope to go there and spend some time with my parents there over the summer). The guardian ad litem filed a favorable response, which no doubt helped, and I received the emailed order on Thursday April 25, astoundingly fast in comparison to the general pace of things. I had specifically requested an emailed order as opposed to the usual postal mail (non-attorneys can’t use the online case system that WV finally set up), which was a good thing as I only got the mailed order Saturday.

Since David fortunately didn’t have school Friday, I picked him up Thursday after school, at his “nana”‘s house where he stays with Honey, with his clothes and a few toys (like a plush Dark Bowser and his Mario bridge and “people”), at about 3:45 p.m. after his bus dropped him off near her work. We headed straight out–up the hill road to the “Coalfields Expressway” (that we’d only ever taken once before to go to a playground in Beckley), and onto I-64. We stopped around 6:30 p.m. to eat at a Wendy’s, which may have become his new favorite restaurant (usually I cook for us at the place I rent), and it was dark by the time we were all the way home at around 10:00 p.m. David didn’t sleep any in the car–he tends to resist naps, but see later–and so he saw the lights of the “triangle house” as we drove in, into probably his first garage, and up the steps and unpacked. We quickly did his nighttime routine–no story because it was so late, which we made up for the next day–and had a good and refreshing sleep.

Friday was our main day together (because Saturday we had graduation and Sunday church and driving to WV). I’d unpacked the toys I traveled with so often in his room, and put in a bed there, even though he still sleeps with a parent (and now wasn’t the time to change that). He loved his room, where we had the road rug and his cars too, and some toys he hadn’t played with in a while–only so many could be carried in the car, and I tried to rotate them. We went outside and rode the tractor (with his ear protectors that I’d been saving for a long time) to the playhouse out back (needed a little vacuuming near the doors), which he loved, especially the small loft. We also went to look at the workshop and he climbed the ladder with me to its loft, too. I’d set up the same (original) Nintendo emulator on my TV as on the Raspberry Pi media player I travel with, and he played a few of his recent favorite games such as Blue Shadow (which also has two player mode) and Bonk’s Adventure, as well as the Mario classics. I cooked a hot breakfast, and I’d laid out my old Charlie Brown placemat for him, which he knows from the movies. In the afternoon, we mowed the back (I’d done the front/sides earlier and saved the back); I asked a couple times if he wanted to get off and sit and watch but he wanted to stay with daddy and finish it, so we did. We toured the upstairs and found the game room (with the “big” original 1980s Fireball Island game, as compared to the smaller recent remake we had). He was so happy to be there and I think it was the best time of his life; it certainly was of mine. We had steak and pea–steak in the sous vide then seared–I wasn’t sure if he’d want his cooked more but he was fine with how I made it.

My mom arrived around 9:00 p.m. that night, with two of her siblings, my Uncle Murray and Aunt Lois; David had just gotten to sleep, but opening the door set off the alarm (I hadn’t intended to leave the door unlocked, figuring they’d text first), so he woke up and he spent a little time with everyone, since he didn’t want to be alone in the bedroom (not a matter of a new place; he doesn’t in “house #2” we rent in WV, either, or with Honey (at “house #4”)). We got everyone settled in and then got back to sleep.

Saturday morning David and I got up around 7:30 a.m., which is typical for him, and tried to be quiet while others were sleeping. I made a big, but “progressive” brunch–coffee, of course, made the whole pot, and a round of sausages, banana pancakes (the secret ingredient is banana–and the Meijer mix), bacon, yogurt, and a second round of pancakes. It was the first time having that many people in the house for a long time–last time might have been having the old small group for dinner. We went outside and viewed the property some, and David rode his bike down the driveway and back (and I took some trash to the front), and then around the oval. While we did that everyone else went to see the playhouse (and then David got to show grandma again).

We left for graduation in Bloomington (it was nice not having to drive) a little after noon, which turned out to just get us to the East Garage and then (walking) to the Indiana University Auditorium for the required 2:15 p.m. for graduates, where I got a name card then got in line, and everyone else headed in for the 3:00 p.m. start (they wouldn’t let mom bring her bag in, so she prayerfully hid it in the bushes, and fortunately it remained; graduates weren’t searched, so we could have had anything under our robes…). There is a recording of the proceedings (I’m at 1:34:56); great speeches, especially Prof. Krishnan’s (who I had for property), which emphasized having compassion and empathy as a lawyer.

David, I am told, was very good the entire time, which must have seemed interminable; he loves to clap, though, so he enjoyed that, and he loved to see me walk up there. Afterwards we didn’t stick around long; I talked to a few friends and professors, and they met David, but we had a 7:30 p.m. reservation at The Grindstone back in Noblesville, which we just made after heading out; Waze routed us around some particularly bad traffic on I-465. Mom and Dad (who wasn’t able to make it this time but sent a lovely letter) treated us to dinner–I had the ribeye, and David, who had had possibly his first steak yesterday (or at least the first he liked) had some and some shared fries and my fruit side. He napped, which he never does, while the food was coming–we were in a nice big semi-circular booth. I opened cards from Mom and Dad, George and Lois, Murray, and Bob and Cathy Cretney had also sent one. A surprise was one from David that Mom helped him write–“I am proud of you Daddy, love David.” They are all now displayed on the old welsh dresser from England.

On Sunday we went to the 8:00 a.m. service at Harvest Bible Chapel (I am not accepting of recent name changes), and then had brunch when we got back. We said goodbye before we headed over, as they had planned to leave while we were at church. David stayed with me in the auditorium during the service; I did get him set up in the Harvest Kids’ system for if he’s there other Sundays and wants to go to class, and I think he will, because while he enjoyed the singing, the sermon was a big long for him, although he was (mostly) very good and quiet, and I tried to explain, especially as it (Nehemiah 9) touched on some of the stories we’d read recently from his Story Bible about Moses, the Exodus from Egypt, the golden calf, and Korah. Was great to have him meet Phil and Sarah, Rob and Joy, Gary, Kevin, two Scotts, and Heather (coming out of the kindergarten classroom, which we went to see, in the second building that I hadn’t been in for ages). He played on the playground, which was pretty decent, then we drove home and I cooked us brunch. He played some more games while I packed up for the week in WV following the drive back, and we left a little after 1:30 p.m., aiming to get us to Honey’s mother’s at 8:30 p.m. with some time included for dinner and a rest break (for me). Dinner was at a Wendy’s in Ohio just outside WV, where he had a plain hamburger and got another dinosaur playdoh toy. It was sad having to drop him off (and no reason he couldn’t have stayed overnight with me, since it began our regular week), but we’ll see each other again at the bus stop after school Monday.

Of course the fight isn’t over. David being home for three days is a start only. He should be able to come home for the summer, when his school is over (beginning of June), and then begin school in Indiana in fall. That’s how reunification must reasonably progress. I’m still traveling every other week to see him at least until school ends. That and caring for him makes finding legal jobs, which are not friendly to remote or even hybrid work, impossible. I am (quite happily) looking for remote software engineering roles again, hoping to find a challenging long-term (“permanent”) role, potentially embedded or high-performance applications. As David has said, “What if we have fifty days?” (as compared to the three to seven we usually get). “Then we will be so happy!”

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