The year was 1948.
The war had ended.
War babies were born. Families were forming. Steps were being taken to find some semblance of normalcy.
One such family, a man, a woman, and a young daughter, moved from Charles City, Iowa, to Tacoma, Washington in search of that normalcy. By the economic standards of that day they were lower middle-class, an ex-soldier with no discernible skills, his wife, his step-daughter, looking for greener pastures in the Pacific Northwest, a new beginning of sorts, a hopeful reboot in a land of towering evergreens.
The man found work in a sand and gravel pit, part-time work, something to pay the bills for awhile, something to keep heads above water, and he worked hard at providing, keeping his young family one step ahead of the bill collectors as he carved out a toehold in a new land.
A Big Decision
The decision was made to adopt a child. The reasons for that decision are lost in time. Most certainly this decision involved added pressures, increased bills, and more challenges for the young family, but the decision was made and they went to Catholic Community Services, in Tacoma, and inquired about foster children.
There were many to choose from at that time, in that place, war babies unwanted, a buyers’ market if you will, so many available, large and small, male and female, black and white, a veritable abundance of riches in the flesh market, and so the young couple sifted their way through the choices, looked at photos, weighed the pros and cons, kicking tires, if you will, looking for the perfect child to compliment their existing family.
And when the decision was made, when the papers were signed, when that bundle in blue was handed to them and legally became a member of their family, they became the proud parents of a legally-blind boy who they named William.
William Dale Holland was his name, the middle name being the first name of the father, nine months old, a veteran of nine previous foster homes, blind as a bat and desperately in need of love.
That was me!
One incredibly lucky kid!
It’s been almost seventy years since that act of unrestricted love, and I still can’t wrap my brain around it. My adopted parents were not rolling in cash. They had no trust fund. They were barely scraping by. Surely they knew there would be financial obstacles facing them in adopting a blind child. Surely they understood the challenges they were about to meet, and yet they chose to ignore all of that and adopt me.
I’m not complaining, mind you, but I am incredulous.
The Winds of Fate
Nine months ago my wife, Bev, encouraged me to join one of those DNA testing companies, Ancestry.com. I agreed to do so, mainly out of curiosity. I thought it would be nice to know about my medical background in case there are some issues I need to know, that sort of thing. My adopted parents are dead now, so I had no concerns with hurting their feelings by seeking out my biological family.
Two months ago I finally had some answers.
There are some facts. There are also many unanswered questions which leave room for conjecture, but based on the facts, that conjecture is probably fairly accurate.
I came from a troubled family.
My biological mother died at the age of 42 from liver disease. Conjecture: severe alcoholism.
One of my biological brothers was in and out of prison, a rather unsuccessful con man.
Another biological brother died at 21 in a motorcycle accident.
Very little is known about my biological father.
More conjecture: biological mother in a disadvantaged family has a child, a blind child, is overwhelmed, realizes she is incapable of feeding another mouth, incapable of nurturing one more child, gives that baby to the adoption agency, maybe drops the kid off at the hospital, hard to say, but what isn’t hard to say is this: I am, and will be, eternally grateful that she did what she did.
It turned out all right for me!
Scratch that last statement: it turned out fantastic for me!
Legally Blind but . . .
So there they were, with a nine-month old child, papers all signed, papers declaring this child, named William, is legally blind, good luck, folks, best wishes to ya, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out of the adoption agency, tuck that little bundle in blue into his crib, look down upon him, see how he moves his head at sounds, following the noise, waving his tiny arms, crying, always crying, the big world only blackness to him, one day, five, one week, two weeks, three weeks and . . .
The legally-blind kid could suddenly see.
What must my parents have thought that morning they went into the bedroom to check on their new son? What was their reaction? Did they know instantly that the kid had sight, or did that realization arrive slowly, one suspicion at a time? I suspect my mother cried. She was always doing that. I also suspect my dad beamed that smile of his, hugged his wife, maybe even threw up his hands and whooped. For sure they scooped me up and raced to see Doc Larkin, who would have been just as dumbfounded when he confirmed that yes, in fact, little Billy Holland could see.
It’s a miracle, my mother would have said, and Dad, not the most of religious of men, would have no answer to those words.
Fast Forward Through Time
They are all gone now. Questions which need answers will forever remain unasked. All that’s left is that little bundle in blue, all grown up now, seeing quite well, thank you very much, seeing more than just the eyes can see, seeing a love that, to this day, is still beyond my comprehension.
I look back now, to those hard times, to that young family, and I am in awe of the decision they made, of the burden they willingly lifted, a leap of faith for sure. They are not here now. I am not able to express to them the incredible gratefulness I have for them. I am not able to express the love I still have for Dale LeRoy Holland, or Evelyn Josephine Holland, and the extended family in the background, grandmas and grandpas, uncles and aunts, sister and cousins and all, all willing to accept that blind kid as their own, all willing to bestow upon him the greatest gift known to man, the gift of unconditional love!
Would They Be Proud?
I think so! Parents are like that, you know. They somehow are able to ignore the disappointments of their children and see to the core of the matter. They brush aside the mistakes and the foibles and the stumbles. They provide that safe place, a place where love is never doubted, a place where safety is always present, and my parents did that each and every day of my life.
So here I am now, a man, a survivor, and all that is good in me can be traced back to that day, so long ago, when a young couple said “to hell with it” and did the unimaginable, opening their arms and saying “Welcome home, Billy.”
2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)