By Erika Lesage
Pat and Bob sat with their son at Azteca in Worcester, Ma. They drove for two hours in order to celebrate November 14th, Jon’s adoption day. He turned 21 back in May, but today marks the anniversary of the day the adoption was finalized. This is a second birthday and it is the only thing that is different for this family.
Patricia and Bob got married at 38 and 48, respectively. They both decided adoption was the best decision to start their new family. Bob had already had three children from a previous marriage. They are older now and only his daughter Pam lives close to them. Patricia had always wanted to be a mother and only knew that she wanted to do things differently than her parents had done.
Lisa Bertschy was adopted by Pat and Bob when she was a small baby. She was born in Guatemala in a closed adoption process. Because of this, it has proven difficult for the family to find her birth mother. She also has an adoption day on June 25th.
When Lisa was six years old, Pat and Bob decided to add to their family. Once again Pat began reading books from Claudia Jewett, Lois Ruskai Melina, and Jill Krametz. They also went to informational sessions put on by adoption agencies. Pat admitted that international adoption was very expensive but said that there were more affordable options, such as national adoption.
Livingbridges is the summer hosting program that introduced Jon to his family. Bob and Pat were looking for a little sister for Lisa and the search was taking longer than expected. The opportunity was almost missed since the Bertschy’s were away on vacation. Pat gives God credit for connecting them to Jon. After they met, Bob decided that they were going to adopt Jon.
By adopting an older child, they had to keep in mind that the child has already been through a lot Jon was 7 years old when he was adopted. He had been in the orphanage for the past five years since his mother had lost custody of him when he was two. He says he doesn’t remember much from before the orphanage and it’s probably for the best.
Jon was older when he found out the reason his birth mom had lost custody. His birth mother was young and his birth father was not around. She had punished him by burning his hand. The only option he had was to go into the orphanage.
“Survival, that’s what it was all about. Nothing was ever yours; if you didn’t stand up for yourself then you wouldn’t be able to make it,” Jon recalled. Jon did seem to have many fond memories of the Institute Of Cabaῆas, the orphanage he lived in. Most of the 400 children were males separated by age. After he got in trouble for fighting too much in his building, he was moved into the older kids building where he had to fight even harder. Their building shared only one skateboard and one bike. Jon remembers, “When my mom first showed me my bike, I rode it around for hours. I didn’t know when I would ever get the chance to use it again; I didn’t know that it would eventually be mine.” Pat remembered that the orphanage was very clean but had so many children that, “it was impersonal.”
It was hard for them to go back and forth to Mexico to sign papers and keep the process going. The final piece was signed on November 14th, 1998. Even though he was theirs, he remained in Mexico until the middle of December.
Jon only knew Spanish. Pat knew French and Latin, but was fluent in only English. It would prove difficult for both of them to connect but they did through stories. His mom said that it he didn’t remember living with a family so it was a lot to learn. He picked up a new language and adjusted well with very little acting out. Most adopted kids act out when they are confused by a new life or new surroundings. Jon remembers some times when he didn’t act in a way he was proud of, but he’s happy his family understood what he was going through.
A lady from the orphanage came to check in on them after a few weeks of Jon’s placement. “Jon was afraid they had come to take him back … we knew he wanted to stay,” Pat said, when asked about their best memory of the beginning of Jon’s life with their family.
On his first Christmas, he took his stocking upstairs and hid it under his bed. He said he had no idea about all the presents or anything else waiting for him. He wanted as much time with the toys as he could get since he thought he would have to return them at the end of the day.
Halloween was a whole new concept to him; Strangers handing you candy for no reason would be confusing to someone who had never been exposed to the holiday before.
The tooth fairy was his biggest discovery. Once he learned he could get paid for loosing teeth, he began to rip out teeth that weren’t even loose yet. Life was certainly different for the young boy, but he would do well with his new surroundings.
When Jon was a sophomore in high school, he and his mother decided to get in touch with his birth mom. His mom got the information from the orphanage and, using a translator, made a plan to visit her. Pat admits that she was scared that Jon would want to stay in Mexico with his birth mother, or that his birth mother would want him back. Even though she was scared, she persisted and Jon reconnected with his birth mother in March of 2008.
Jon’s birth mom hadn’t been notified about Jon’s adoption or even if she would ever see him again. For this reason, she had decided to not tell her other children about their big brother. When Jon met his mother, he also met his two half-brothers and a half-sister. She had three children after she lost Jon, and he had never known. By looking at the pictures, one could say that Jon’s youngest brother washis twin. In each little face you couldn’t help but see all of Jon’s features. He admits he was happy when he first met her. He could finally put a face to the name that he had been missing for so long. He was mad that she had gone on to have three more children, but she hadn’t kept him. In the end he was just happy to have more family. He now had other siblings and another mom. When Jon asked about his birth father, she could only tell him that she had heard he was killed in a car accident and that his parents lived somewhere in Oklahoma and could be found under the last name “Morales”.
Pat felt a mixture of emotions about meeting Jon’s birth mother. She was happy to meet the woman who had given her such a precious gift, but sad since this woman would never know what it was like to love Jon. She was mostly excited to meet all of his uncles, aunts, and cousins.
“If I ever win the lottery, I will move them all up here and my whole family will all live right next door to each other,” she said. He has not been back to see his birth mother since. He would like to take more time to visit them but lacks the time and the money to do so. His half-sister celebrated her Quinceañera this year. Jon had hoped he would be back for this event, but unfortunately he has missed it.
If a child is not adopted when they turn 18, they are released into the world with no money or place to live. When asked where he would probably be if he hadn’t been adopted, he knows for sure that he would have been forced into the cartel. “It’s the only way to stay alive in the world. Your either in it our you’re dead,” Jon said.
Not many people want an older child when considering adoption, so Jon is extremely lucky. For his adoption day last year he received a very expensive pair of headphones. His adoption day is his family’s way of celebrating their life together. He is a remarkable young man with charm and a smile that make him impossible not to love.
Jon now attends Worcester State University. He is currently studying middle school education and math. His dark skin is the only thing that would give away his adoption. They have a tight, close knit family in which they share everything and have meetings to discuss family issues.