Finish What You Started

I want to tell you about a young man I once knew. His story takes place many years ago in November of 1986. His name isn’t important, but I have always referred to him as ‘Din’. That was his nickname on the streets where we grew up. It was a short derivative of the song “Din Daa Daa” by George Kranz. On one brisk Fall November morning ‘Din’ woke from his own bed.  Nothing strange about that except this was something he hadn’t done in 33 days. You see, he and Pollyanna, the young lady he had fallen madly in love with and just couldn’t stand to be apart from, had been living together at her parents house that whole time.  Well, just the day before her parents found out they hadn’t been going to school at all during that time and they promptly threw ‘Din’ out of their house. But, as he was getting ready to go back to High School on this specific morning, what he didn’t realize was, like Polly’s parents, the school would also throw him out that day.

This chain of events started when ‘Din’ graduated from Middle School to High School in 1984.  For him, this was starting all over. Bottom of the pile. Low man on the roster. A feeling many children experience.  New place. New faces. New surroundings. During this change, he didn’t know what group would accept him. So he tried to fit in anywhere and everywhere.  ‘Din’ tried all the different cliques. The “druggies”, the “jocks”, the “nerds”. Eventually he settled into a new group that formed – the “Breakdancers”.

Back in the 1980’s the average suburban neighborhoods were being consumed by the new Rap culture.  ‘Din’ grew up the youngest of five children in one such neighborhood. He was raised Christian.  Two parents, dinner at 6:00 p.m, and Church on the weekends. A good part of the whole American dream. 

According to several of his friends I interviewed for this story, he was smart.  Book smart and street smart.  When he was in 6th Grade he was able to perform 9th Grade level mathematical equations but had never been taught how to do them.  His street knowledge was better than average too. Once when confronted by 9 other children on the streets of Detroit, while he was delivering flyers for Amico’s Pizza, the local pizza place, he almost got his butt kicked.  He noticed the kids following him from a house where he had just delivered a flyer.  Inside the house someone had yelled at him to get off of their porch. He put the flyer in the door and left immediately. 

They followed him down the street quietly behind him. He heard the whispers and glanced around to see all of them standing there, but before they could jump him, and without speaking any words, he pulled out a pair of nunchucks hidden in his bag of flyers and began working them.  He swung them around his neck, back and forth in front of himself. Flipping them up and around frantically so all one could hear was the sound of them breaking the wind. After he was finished, he turned around and simply walked away without saying a word. One of the kids yelled to him, “Next time you come to Detroit, don’t bring those!”  

Even growing up in a fairly good environment ‘Din’ still made choices that would take him to bad places.  His breakdancer friends were a wild group of kids. Much like the Hippies of the 1960’s they had their own wants and desires.  Some of which were gang related, based on how the Rap culture was represented. True, the genre participated, but was in no way to blame for the finite event that would unfold at school in the morning that Fall day in 1986.

Now, the Breakdancers were a tight group of friends who hung out all the time.  From 1984 through 1986 they had developed an equal amount of influence on each others lives.  Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. In the 1980’s there were plenty of places for teenagers to spend time.  They had the mall, local recreation centers, and clubs designed for young adults. Unfortunately getting into trouble of various kinds was something this group appeared to have a proclivity for.  And many times they preferred trouble to recreational activities.

In total, two incidents happened.  Both in 1986. One during the spring and the other during the summer.  Each event involved stolen articles. Now what actually happened isn’t important because, in ‘Din’s’ words, he was “innocent, for the most part.”  The actual records say different though; and that’s what matters. In short, ‘Din’ was caught and put on two years probation, with provisions. The first: he had to live at his parents’ house.  The second: he had to stay in and finish high school.

Now having been in trouble, ‘Din’s’ perception was that everyone looked at him differently.  Mainly those in positions of authority like his parents and teachers. It was because of this inner feeling that his attitude toward everything changed.  He became bored with school and stopped going to church. All he wanted to do was hang-out with his friends and party.

Even after school started up for his Senior year, ‘Din’s’ group of friends continued to do a lot of partying.  They caused an immense amount of trouble at school too. This drew the attention of the Assistant Principal, who, too ‘Din’, appeared to hate him for all of the trouble caused, and possibly a few other reasons that were actually justified like drinking at school and destroying school property.  

Now outside of school the one thing the Breakdancers loved to do, was dance.  They would go to local clubs and burn off their destructive energy.  One club in particular was the Grande Ballroom in Westland. This is where ‘Din’ and Pollyanna met, not long after the two incidents.

To ‘Din’, Pollyanna was an Aztec goddess.  She stood 5 feet 4 inches tall and had a perfect athletically slender build.  She had the most amazing raven curly hair cresting over her extremely beautiful face.  Her eyes were the lightest brown with a small fleck of green in them. Her skin was as soft as silk with the most angelic golden hue to it.  On a scale of 1 to 10, she was probably only an 8; although, not in ‘Din’s’ eyes. To him everything about her was as melodic and beautiful to behold as any Mozart composure.  She was the most perfect girl in the world.

And, outside of that she could move her body! This girl could dance, which was huge back in those days! 

‘Din’ and Pollyanna became exclusive and they spent an unprecedented amount of time together.  They were inseparable. Pollyanna had a car so they drove everywhere and did everything they could think of, or afford, to do. They were doing what every kid their age was supposed to be doing.  They went on dates, hung out at parties, and went to dance clubs. There were no issues until…well, let’s just say they began to spend too much time together and had trouble keeping their hands off of each other.

Overall, they were just two kids who had fallen in lust with each other.  But, yes, they loved each other too. The problem was, the only things they thought about were dancing and having sex.  Those two things became problematic.

It wasn’t that they didn’t like school.  School was where their friends were. That was ‘Din’s’ main reason to continue going.  It was ‘Din’s’ lack of enthusiasm with school that created issues. The teachers handed out their assignments.  He did them and handed them back the next day. On occasion he would work weeks ahead and wait until they finally caught up.  School became more of a social function to him and less of an educational one.

Eventually ‘Din’ just stopped doing his school work.  Part of this was due to boredom and another part because of his attitude change from the events of the summer of 1986.  He began to feel trapped.  He only wanted to invest his time in Pollyanna.  All they thought about was each other. So, together, they stopped going to school.  For 33 days straight they stayed at her parents’ home and did other things.  That is, until Pollyanna’s parents found out.  

Now, it wasn’t as if they just threw him out of their house and forbid them from seeing each other. No, they kicked ‘Din’ out of their daughters life.  Or to be more correct, they actually kicked her out of his.  Polly’s parents sent her to live with her grandmother in Texas.  There she would finish her High School career. He had no choice but to go on without her. Obviously he didn’t know it, but it would be decades before they would ever see each other again. 

In 1986, ‘Din’ slept in the basement of his parents’ house, in a room his dad built for him.  His bedroom was always dark and a little cold, much like his heart would quickly become after being separated from Pollyanna.  There was a light above his bed but he never turned it on. He would let his eyes slowly adjust to the tiny sliver of light he allowed to come through the window that looked out into the rest of the basement, which he covered with a blanket.  Thinking this Fall day would be like any other school day he previously experienced he eventually got up. He showered. He got dressed. And he headed off to his first day back to school where he would, once again, see his friends.

Stewart Hardcastle was the Assistant Principal.  Because of the previous trouble ‘Din’ was involved in he didn’t appear to want him in his school.  When he saw ‘Din’ coming up to the school doors he got up from his desk and raced to stop him from coming into the school altogether.  A conversation along these lines ensued: “Where do you think you’re going Mr. ‘Din’?” the Assistant Principal requested. “I’m going to class.” ‘Din’ replied.  “You haven’t attended this school for more than 30 days and are no longer welcome here.” ‘Din’ immediately took the offensive and started yelling at the Mr. Hardcastle.  ‘Din’ told him that he didn’t “need this school” and it would be “a cold day in hell” if he “ever came back to this dump”. A few other words were exchanged between them but eventually they both turned and walked away.

No girlfriend.  No school. Now no friends.  ‘Din’s’ senior year was over before midterms even started.  This boy thought he was bored when he was able to still go to school.  Well, take school away and all that he was left with was a lot of disappointment.  From every angle. Parent’s, teachers, and himself. Now he had nothing but time to think about everything that went wrong and how he got to this point in his life.

For nine months he sat around pondering what type of future a person without a High School diploma has.  Fortunately, he allowed his parents to influence him. A few of his friends that he still hung out with brought him around to see things the right way too.  During that time he spent out of school, he grew to understand what he was missing out on. He also figured out what he would miss out on had he continued down the path he was on.  During this time away from school his friends, like me and of course, his family helped make him understand that he needed school. 

Before Fall 1987 came, ‘Din’ registered for classes, again, at the same High School.  He had even began going back to church.  

I don’t have the specifics on the exact day, but on a drizzly Fall day in September 1987 ‘Din’ started back for the first day of his second Senior year.  On this approach to the school doors the Assistant Principal was, again, ready to greet him. This time, just inside the main lobby.  

This would be the second conversation in just under a year these two would have.  I was there and I recall it went something like: “Where do you think you’re going Mr. ‘Din’?” “I’m here to go to school Mr. Hardcastle.”  Hardcastle took a quick step to his left to block ‘Din’s’ continued entrance. ‘Din’ continued walking toward him and said, “It’s my right to be here Mr. Hardcastle.  And you can’t stop me from getting my education!” ‘Din’ began to circle around the Assistant Principal but at the same time Stewart Hardcastle moved back to his right and let him pass.  No other words were exchanged between the two.

For the most part, ‘Din’s’ Senior year was uneventful, which was a good thing.  ‘Din’ helped paint the Christmas Windows in Senior hall. He rode on the Senior float for the Homecoming game.  He even helped on the Entertainment committee with all of the school dances. No drinking. No drugs. No destruction of property.  No fights. No distractions. Just school.   

It appears after what had happened to ‘Din’, the whole Breakdancing group had settled down a bit.  ‘Din’ worked hard to stay focused and finish his senior year. He didn’t play any sports but he still earned a letter.  He lettered in academics. On graduation day, as ‘Din’ walked across the commencement stage, Mr. Hardcastle grabbed his hand, shook it, and said, in the most sincere and earnest way, “I knew you could do it.”  ‘Din’ smiled at him and continued on his path.

No Guarantees!

People talk about how wonderful it is to experience natural childbirth.  How it will change your life. No one really talks about the process of becoming a parent.  How much time and effort is actually involved in the process. And no one speaks about the level of persistence and the amount of time required to actually get pregnant.   For my wife and I, our journey to becoming parents began ten years ago.  

Not unlike other people, we wanted to have children the natural way.  We figured one-part her, one-part me, a little flour, and some sugar; put it in “the oven” for nine plus months and pull out an adorable, perfectly baked, chunky little muffin whose toes you just want to soak in butter and eat with a spoon.  So we tried for several years from the time we went on our honeymoon in 2010. Unfortunately we just couldn’t quite pull off that blue ribbon recipe.  

We discussed our situation with each other and decided to try a more scientific method for having children.  At this time I was 41 and she had, well, less years on this planet than me, and we, obviously, weren’t getting any younger.  My wife bought an ovulation kit and we started the systematic measuring of time between menstrual cycles. Tick-Tock! Not just days but hours as well. Tick-Tock!  There were days when we had to perform multiple times. Had to!  Tick-Tick-Tick-Tock!  We, well she, tracked her cycles down to the second.  Tick-Tock! She knew the exact calculation of days until the best possible time.  Tick-Tock! It’s just that over the short amount of days, (Tick), we began to feel very rushed as time moved forward, (Tock).  

We tried your typical Western medications and some natural methods that were less expensive than seeing a specialist.  But nothing seemed to work. At some point during 2012 my wife scheduled an appointment with Dr. Michael at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Surgery in Bloomfield Hills to get a professional opinion.  This, for me, was embarrassing. Not super-embarrassing, but the kind of feeling you get when you get off the elevator on the wrong floor. Sure, you step out with confidence but then it hits you that you’re on the wrong floor and immediately you begin to feel like you are a few clowns short of a circus, so you casually look back and forth until the doors close, in an attempt to hide the fact that apparently you just don’t know what you’re doing.  I mean, seeing a doctor to do something our bodies should, by nature, know how to do. Who does that? Well – apparently we do. 

First the doctor checked my wife for any “irregularities”.  After multiple tests inflicted upon her, he told us she suffers from PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and was also insulin resistant.  PCOS is where multiple non-cancerous cysts form on a woman’s ovaries. It’s actually quite common. Of course I had never heard of this before.  Due to these complications, we were informed she would have some difficulty getting pregnant and there could be “complications”, which didn’t exactly explain anything.  Seriously, it’s getting pregnant, what is there to it? People do it all the time, and, by accident even. You know, Prom, Tequila, a little wham bam thank you ma’am. Easy right?  So why couldn’t we get pregnant? 

Dr. Michael spoke to us about other, more expensive, methods stating, several times, there were “no guarantees.”  So we continued trying with the fertilization medicines to see if those would work first. One of the methods we tried was where my wife had to give her self injections in her stomach.  For me it was disconcerting to watch her jab that needle into her belly each time; however, with some luck, she became pregnant after several sessions.  

We were elated and immediately told everybody we knew.  We celebrated with our families and boasted about it on Facebook.  This was awesome! We were going to be parents! After all our trying and praying and waiting.  Woo-hoo! We received tons of congratulations through social media, phone calls, and text messages.  Everyone was so nice about our success. It was a great couple of weeks – until her stomach began to ache.

My wife was working nights at the time.  While she was at work, she began menstruating and she noticed blood spotting, which is possible in the first months of pregnancy.  But, she also felt a sharp pain in her side. She left work around 2:00 a.m. or so, to come home earlier than normal.  Once home, she decided to take a bath. While in the bathtub she was stretching and noticed another really sharp pain in her side.  At this point she almost passed out from the pain. So she got out of the tub and collapsed on the cold tile floor. 

About an hour later she started feeling better and got up to go make something to eat, thinking her blood sugar might have been low.  Finally she came to bed around 3:30 a.m. Still sleeping, I was unaware of anything regarding her situation. When she laid on the bed her shoulder began to hurt.  Fortunately she knew this was a sign of a possible tubal rupture because she either read about it or was told by the doctor that this was a possibility and what some of the symptoms were.  More than likely if it was a tubal rupture, she had internal bleeding. As far as this goes, blood in your veins, good. Blood in your body, not so good.

She woke me up, told me, and I immediately got dressed.  I have to admit that I was scared to death because without knowing all of the ramifications I didn’t know how much time we had.  It took a bit to get her into the car but, without further hesitation, we rushed to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor.  We lived in White Lake so it took some time to get there and I remember the worry I had on the drive. She was in pain and I couldn’t do anything to help her, so I prayed silently to God, to make sure the love of my life would be ok.  I don’t recall exactly what I said, but I do remember being selfish and telling Him that if it was between her and the baby, I didn’t care about the baby. My wife is my world. Enough said.

By the time we arrived at the Emergency Room she was in great pain from the blood going into her body and from the slowly exploding fallopian tube.  To me, her pain would be like having someone push a knife into your abdomen, slowly, over a long period of time and each bump the car had gone over was like a slight twisting of the handle.  She said “it was horrible.” They performed an ultrasound but weren’t able to do anything to help her for several hours. In retrospect I believe they assessed her fairly quickly; however, at the time it wasn’t fast enough.  We did explain to them what we thought the situation was so they responded as fast as they could. They gave her morphine for the pain, but they couldn’t do much else because she had eaten and anesthesia could cause nausea during an operation, which would further complicate the situation.   

They checked her for the pregnancy right when we arrived but found that her “numbers” were already dropping rapidly.  I don’t pretend to know what “numbers” are, but I know based on most scores, higher is better except when it comes to blood pressure or cholesterol readings.  For the rest of the hospital experience I remember only bits and pieces because I was there alone. I know that it had been too early for me to wake family up but I also knew she was in good hands so the fear of losing her was pretty much gone at this point.  Unfortunately, I stayed the rest of the night there by myself. Alone. I had never felt so alone. It’s ironic that in trying to increase the size of our family we could have quite possibly caused it to become smaller. A reality I didn’t want to face, especially alone in the waiting room.  I recall crying to myself in the room and I also recall being angry over the situation and wanting to break something.   

By the time the doctor had come out to see me and explain that they had to remove one of my wife’s fallopian tubes I wasn’t thinking straight.  Before my wife came home that night I had gone to bed around 11 or 12 so I was only on about four hours of sleep and didn’t quite comprehend what that meant for us overall.  Her personal care physician had told her that her tubes were fine. Her PCP performed a test on her involving some type of dye and a balloon. They blew the balloon up inside her uterus and watched the dye flow through the tubes.  The pregnancy, however, did not “flow through the tubes.” This pregnancy happened within the tube. The embryo caused the tube too rupture so they removed both the tube and the baby. There was no option to save the fetus.

The medical community calls it an ectopic pregnancy miscarriage.  All I knew was that my wife was pregnant and now she wasn’t and it would be even harder to get pregnant again, since the female body switches the side it allows pregnancy to happen in every other month.  We finally went home sometime that next day. My wife was a mess and I wasn’t much better. I was always taught that a man holds in their feelings to be strong. That’s how I grew up. But I wasn’t as strong as I needed to be.  Again, enough said.  

We were together in our shared sorrow and misery and we had just jumped over another roadblock on a journey we never would have imagined being on; although, at this moment we didn’t know where this would eventually lead us.  Of course it took more time for us to get over this major setback. We eventually did. Again. For the most part.  

In 2013 we started the insemination process with Dr. Michael.  This was, by far, my most favorite part because of my contribution to this whole thing.  I know you can’t read the sarcasm in that statement, but believe me, it’s there. We had to schedule appointments around my wife’s ovulation schedule again.  So my contribution was supposed to be the fun part of this whole operation; however, I’m not sure if it was as much fun as it should’ve been because I had mixed feelings about the whole process.  

How would you feel going into your doctor’s office, which was always filled with either the women who worked there or female patients, knowing what you had to do there?  I was literally paying a doctor so that I could come into his office and masturbate in one of his rooms. This was something I could actually do in there for free, if I wanted to get arrested.  Well, as far as I was concerned, EVERYONE knew what I was about to do. I was going to choke the chicken, flog the dog, bash the bishop, whack the pud, do the dirty deed, you know, go on a date with Rosey Palmer and her five sisters in a little 6 by 8 room.  Seriously, as are those statements, this was also slightly disturbing.

Insemination and in vitro fertilization were, for me, the same process.  I would go into the office and do “my thing”. The difference between each was in the doctor’s processes and the cost to us.  Insemination was just my sample shot into my wife with a turkey baster. That’s how it was explained to me. The process for my sperm was that they had to “wash” it and then check it for viability.  In my head I reverted to a two year old and made a few disgusting jokes, to my wife, for how the washing process was done (swish, swish, swish…don’t swallow). I thought they were funny but she didn’t seem to appreciate my humor; however, at $4000.00 a pop for the insemination process, I needed some angry humor to get through this first phase.  I found out later this part was actually way more intense than I could have ever imagined. Not as crazy as the in vitro steps were though. Unfortunately the two insemination processes we went through didn’t work so we moved on to the next, more expensive, phase.

The in vitro fertilization process was the most invasive.  They gave my wife the means to have a bunch of eggs produced during her ovulation cycle.  We could only afford to do this two times. The cost for each cycle was just over $10,000.  We had explained to the doctor that we needed to take out a loan since we blew our savings on the first processes we went through and the other “incidentals” that came up with them, not to mention we had just purchased a new house the year before taking the last of the money we had saved.  In short, we were broke. From this point, almost literally, all of our eggs were in one basket. The first time she produced 36 eggs and the second time just 11. They took the eggs and the washed sperm and put them together to create multiple embryos. A genetic sampling process happens which will decide who the survivors are and of those survivors who will be used.  

All of this really defies the laws of nature and this seems to go against how God intended things to be.  Seriously, nothing about this process says “this is normal.” Again, not one bit of this was guaranteed to work.  The first time we only had two or three survivors out of 36. After insertion, my wife took a pregnancy test which read positive, but this time we decided to keep it to ourselves.  We didn’t want to inform anyone because we didn’t know what would happen and wanted to be sure, unlike last time. Five weeks in she had a miscarriage.  

We were devastated, but we had one more opportunity.  With the tubal pregnancy she was pregnant for six weeks so this, much more expensive process, didn’t last as long and in my simple mind I thought if you pay more you should get more.  However, it appeared that our overall “numbers” were trending in a downward fashion again. When we were ready we went back for our last time. I went in and did “my thing,” but this time her part was different.  

The doctor requested to see both of us during my wife’s visit.  I had already felt this wasn’t a good thing and my wife had her reservations as well.  He greeted us with as much enthusiasm as he typically did. We entered his extremely large office and sat at a small round table as he began explaining to us that none of the sperm, or eggs, survived the processes this time.  My wife was already in tears and I became upset because she was upset.  

With our backs physically to the wall at the little round table he explained how the process had failed and how we have our “issues” but, and this is the part that almost made me jump over the table and feed him his stethoscope through his sphincter, we “…should come back and keep trying.”  He must have said it three or four times. “You need to try again and don’t stop trying.” I could feel my ears turn red yet at the same time my throat was closing up. I could feel the tears welling which made me even more angry.  

Sure, in his world $10,000 isn’t a lot of money.  But for us, this was it. We had already explained this to him in our initial consultation months before!  He should have remembered! I wanted to kill him! My wife was crying, and again, I needed something to break!  We just spent you $28,000. We didn’t have any more money to spend on this “no guarantees” quack doctoring! And he made it quite clear.  There were “no guarantees”. I put my arm around my sobbing wife and exited his office. We drove home in complete silence. This was going to be harder to recover from than anything we had already been through in the past.

Eventually we did go through an inner healing process to get past this major setback.  We have each other to get us through the tough times. We decided to look at our other options so we looked into the invasive and confusing adoption process and eventually settled on foster care.  On February 10, 2017 we became foster parents to an adorable little 7 month old baby girl. She just celebrated her third birthday this past July and her smile brightens our lives each and every day.  And that is guaranteed!