The Ones That Matter, The Times That Count, by Chris Vinzant

My life has been a seemingly endless road of change. Some of the changes were small, others were large. Some were for the better and others were for the worse. Through all the ups and downs though, there have always been two constants in my life: my mother, Amy, and my father, Mike.

I first met Mike and Amy in November of 1992. I was in the sixth grade at Sunnyslope Elementary School, where Amy was a social worker. At that time, I was living with my Aunt Cynthia where I had been for almost six months. Shortly after celebrating my twelfth birthday, my aunt decided she could no longer support me. She turned me over to Camelback Hospital for evaluation where I was examined and it was determined that my health, both physically and mentally, was too good to stay there.

I was transferred from Camelback Hospital to a shelter in the lowest income area of Phoenix, Arizona. I lived there with a handful of other unfortunate children who were just surviving in the same horrible conditions.

Sandy, my social worker and a colleague of Amy’s told her of my situation. Amy wanted to do something to help me and decided to spend some ‘one on one’ time with me. During my free time in school, I would go to her office and she would have food or candy waiting for me. Amy also arranged for me to spend time with her husband, Mike, and her father, Larry. The guys took me to a Phoenix Cardinals football game and Larry tried his best to spoil me. It was the greatest day of my life!

At that point, I had no idea what Amy and Mike were pondering. I would soon learn that my life was headed for a huge change, for the better. I remember my social worker, Sandy, pulling me out of class one day and leading me to her office.

“I have something to ask you,” she said. I listened as she continued, “I told Amy and Mike about the shelter you are living in and they want you to come live with them. Do you want that?” My response took less than half a second. “Yes!” I responded with excitement.

Sandy, who always looked out for me, added, “Amy is going to pick you up after school today and take you to the shelter to get your belongings. Then you’ll go live with her for a while.”

I could barely contain myself as I walked out of the shelter that afternoon. I will always remember the huge smile on my face. Even though my time in the shelter had only lasted three weeks, it seemed an eternity. Those were the worst three weeks of my life.

It was arranged that I would stay with Amy and Mike for a couple of weeks while we waited for a foster home to open up. The wait turned into a year and then into two. The second year, Amy and Mike decided to become licensed foster parents so that I would have a place to call “home”. I am certain I have caused many challenges and difficulties for my parents throughout the years, but they have always handled each challenge with dignity and love.

One memory will always be a pivotal one. I skipped school one day, in order to travel to Tucson and visit the Marine Corps Recruiting Station. I decided to join the Marines. Upon my return home, it was time to tell my parents about my plans. My mother was surprisingly happy as she felt a little discipline would be beneficial. My father, however, was hesitant. I could tell this was not the path he expected me to take, but he never told me it was the wrong decision. The last thing I wanted was to let him down.

When I graduated from Boot Camp, my family was there to greet me. I was ecstatic to have accomplished such a feat. My father, Mike, came up to me and shook my hand saying, “Congratulations, you did it!”

I have been the child of Amy and Mike’s for nine years and they have helped me out more than I ever knew parents could. It is my intention to live in a way that demonstrates to them how well they did.

~Chris Vinzant, United States Marine Corps, Iraq

 

This story is an excerpt from the book, Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heartwhich was named a “Top 5 Inspirational Book” by Dolce Vita Magazine. Real and raw, the book explores the many experiences and emotions of adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, foster youth, and foster parents.

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