Questions and learning the truth

In the winter of 2015 after finding and reading her baby book, Hope asked “So my father grew up in California?” I told her yes but, we would talk about it another time.  I didn’t learn about or meet my father until I was 12.  I remembered the rejection I felt.  I also remember how I felt when I learned at 18 that I had an older brother I knew nothing about.  She had an older brother she knew nothing about too.  I was sad, I was scared and I questioned how I could explain that Mitchell chose not to be a dad and that it was not her fault.

I contacted Hope’s brother’s mom via social media.  I asked if her son had asked any questions about Mitchell and how she handled them.  She told me that her son had not asked any questions about Mitchell and doesn’t even know he exists.  She said she plans to keep it that way.

Hope’s youngest brother Eric was born in March 2015.

One day I went to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions.  I told the pharmacist I needed to pick up for Kevin Boland and Hope Smith.  From the back seat, Hope said angrily “My last name is NOT Smith!” I explained as I had in the past that we have to use Smith at the pharmacy and doctors’ appointments.  She told me she hated it.  She said all her family is Boland except her and it makes her Feel left out and not a part of the family.

I waited for a day she was a school and called an attorney.  The lawyer told me that default judgments were not allowed in Oklahoma for minor name changes.  Mitchell would have to agree & sign the papers.

Two weeks after Hope started counseling, Kevin and I took her to a theater production and to a restaurant she chose.  Her brothers stayed with their grandparents.  I brought Hope’s baby book and a photo album.  While at the table I handed her baby book to her.  She read Mitchell’s information; his birthday, full name, and where he grew up.  I asked if she knew anyone named Mitchell.  She said “I don’t know anyone named Mitchell.” I pulled three photos from the photo album and laid them on the table in front of her.  One was a photo of him holding her, another was a photo of he and I, and the third was a photo of the three of us.  I explained I was married to Mitchell before she was born.  I told her he is her biological father. I told her he chose not to be a dad and left when she was a tiny baby like Eric.  She asked why he didn’t want to be a dad.  I told her he was the only one who can answer that question and that I would try to get a phone number for him if she wanted to talk to him.  She said she wasn’t ready to talk to him.  I told her I would try to have a phone number when and if she became ready.  Kevin said “You are my daughter no matter what your last name is!  I love you and I wanted to be a dad and I’m not leaving you ever!” Hope told him she loved him too.  She looked across the table and said “You should’ve met daddy before you met Mitchell.” I told her that sometimes I wished I did too.  I explained if I had her with anyone instead of Mitchell she would be completely different.  She wouldn’t look, talk, act or like the same things.  I told her there is a whole awful lot of people that love her and would never want her to be any different than who she is.  I told her that we would have to have Mitchell’s permission to change her last name and she could ask him if she ever chose to talk to him.  She asked if I would ask him.  I told her it would be better if she did because he wasn’t kind to me last time I talked to him.  She asked what he called me.  Kevin told her they were bad words that didn’t need to be repeated.  She turned the page of her baby book.  She read through the names written on her family tree.  Then she said “I have another brother?” I told her she did and laid two photos of him, his mother and older sister in front of her.  I pointed out her brother and said “This is (omitted name).” she told us she wanted to meet him.  I explained that Mitchell left him as a baby too.  I told her he lives in Oklahoma also, but his mom doesn’t want him to know about Mitchell yet.  I told her when she turned 16, he would be 18 and she could try to find him and get to know him then.

I first contacted Mitchell’s nephew try to get contact information for him.  He told me his mother said Mitchell didn’t have a phone and she didn’t know his address.  Next I called child support services.  The lady I talked to was rude.  She told me she couldn’t give me any information.  I asked if she could make my information available to him.  She told me absolutely not.  I did web search after web search for Mitchell Smith.  I finally found child support modification papers from a year earlier, his address was on them.  I googled the address, the result was an adult DVD and toy company.  I called the phone number listed.  No one answered.  I left a message.

Mitchell called me the next day.  I quickly told him Hope knew about him and that I was saving his number when and if she wanted to call.  I texted him immediately after and asked if he texted and could receive photos.  He said he could.  I sent him a couple recent photos of her.  He said she was so beautiful.  Later he started sending hateful text messages.  He accused me of taking her away from him.  I kept my composure.  I told him that wasn’t true and I never wanted him out of her life.  I always believed we could have co-parented her effectively even being divorced if he wanted to be in her life.  I told him I’d had the same permanent address for over 20 years.  The same address he used for our divorce.  I reminded him that Hope had not received a single card, letter, photo, or gift from him in over 8 years.  He asked if I had any photos of him with Hope.  I texted every photo I had of him and his family members with her, even the ones I was in.  He went on and on about how beautiful she was.

A few days later I was taking Hope to counseling.  She asked what kind of grocery stores Mitchell and I went to when he was around.  Then she said “Mom, I wish you move and Mitchell would be nice to each other.” I knew right then and there what I had to do.  He and I needed to have a phone conversation.  It was time to take responsibility for each of our parts of our mass.  We needed to genuinely make peace so we could get along for Hope.  I told him that we needed to talk; he made excuses for a week.

Kevin and I talked.  I told him what Hope had said in the car and that I needed to talk to Mitchell where she couldn’t hear.  We scheduled for Kevin to take Hope to the zoo.  Mitchell and I ended up on the phone for several hours that day.  I began the conversation telling him that Hope wanted us to be nice to one another.  We all wanted what is best for Hope.  I explained to him that what is important to Hope should be important to us too.  He said he agreed.  His voice began to crack as he told me he loved me, and that he had never fallen out of love with me.  Let’s face it, you can’t just have a child with someone and not care about them.  He helped me make my mother’s death wish a reality and he cared for her to last month of her life.  I told him I loved him too.  I continued.  I told him I wanted to get to know Johnnie and be her friend.  He interrupted saying they had been split up and hadn’t lived together in nearly a year.  I said fine, I want to know and be friends with anyone that you get serious with in the future.  He asked if he could have our family back.  I told him I am married and I’m not going anywhere.  I spent a lot of that conversation crying, so did he.  For the first time in eight years he was allowing me to share specific quotes and situations that hurt me.  He was acknowledging and apologizing for each situation.  He was gentle, patient, and sensitive with me.  He denied any infidelity within our marriage.  I don’t know if he was being honest about that.  He thought I cheated on him when I went to the class for my job.  He asked if I would allow a DNA test.  I said “I was always faithful to you!  I have been faithful to every man I’ve ever been with.  If you want a DNA test, let’s go!  When she comes back yours you will pay for it, if she comes back not yours I will pay for it.  Better get your money together.” He dropped it and said he believes that she is his.  He told me he was wrong, he quit on her once and never will again.  He went on to say if something ever happened to me, he would have her.  He explained that he wasn’t trying to be hateful; he just wanted me to know she would be taken care of and he would take responsibility in the event that something happened to me.  I don’t plan to die anytime soon but, no one knows the day before they die.  The thought of Hope being taken away from everything and everyone she has ever known, shredded my heart.  I told Mitchell that.  He told me he wouldn’t want to take her away from everything she’s ever known, but wouldn’t have a choice of he was established in California.  He explained he was currently renting a room, making very little money and barely making ends meet.  I asked why he didn’t come back to Oklahoma where his sister and kids were.  He said he would love to; it was his home for over 20 years.  While he and I were on the phone Johnnie sent me a long text message telling me “Fuck you and the ground you walk on.” I told him about the text and that I wasn’t going to respond to her. I didn’t understand why she was being so ugly to me; I had never done anything to her.  Mitchell told me she still helped with his vehicle payment and laundry.  He said it would cause all kinds of problems if I responded and he couldn’t make it without her help.  He said she even didn’t care when he lived in his vehicle for week.  She sounded like a real bitch.  He told me she was only mad because she felt threatened by me.  I was 23 years younger than her, I had him first, I had a child with him, and he told her the entire eight years they were together that he still loved me.  Those were the reasons he gave as to why she didn’t like me.  He reminisced a lot during our conversation.  He reminded me of the details of our wedding and other good memories we shared.  It made me feel good knowing we were getting along, talking like adults, and laughing.  The man I was talking to was the man I met at the casino almost 11 years ago, the same man that first stole my heart.  I was happy to have my friend back.  He became inappropriate near the end of our phone conversation.  He asked me to send naked photos of myself to his phone.  I told him no.  He then said he was going to text naked photos of himself to me.  I told him I didn’t want naked photos of him and not to send them to me.  I told him I would send a photo of myself fully clothed since he hadn’t seen me in eight years.  I told him goodbye and we hung up.  I texted Mitchell a recent photo of Beth and I.  I went over to Beth’s house to tell her about the conversation and visit with her.  While I was there Mitchell called my phone.  I answered with him on speakerphone.  He went on and on about how beautiful I am and how special I am.  I thanked him.  He then stated his dying wish was to have another child and that it had to be with me.  He wanted Hope to have a sibling with the same two parents like my sons have.  I told him that was not happening ever!  I asked Mitchell to tell his sister Sharon that I loved and missed her.  He told me she hated me.

Later I told hope that I talked to him and we were kind to each other and we were friends again.  She said she wanted to call him.  I allowed her.  He was kind to her and only said positive things about Kevin and I.

I thought about Johnnie a lot.  After all the things Mitchell said to me, I tried to put myself in her shoes.  I imagined how hurt I would feel if my husband said those things to another woman.  I couldn’t be with a man who felt so passionately about another woman.  I felt bad for Johnnie.

Kevin and I talked a lot.  We agreed that we only wanted what is best for Hope overall.  Hope was telling us she wanted to see Mitchell.  Mitchell was telling us he wanted to know and be a part of Hope’s life.  He told me he was getting older and was afraid he may die one day without ever getting to hug her.  Kevin, Mitchell, and I talked.  As much as my family would oppose it, we decided he was coming back to Oklahoma.  Without Mitchell, Hope would not exist.  My family hates him terribly because of the way he done Hope and I.  On one hand I am grateful they love us so much, on the other hand Kevin and I felt that everyone deserves a second chance, even Mitchell.  He’s the only other person in this world Hope is half of.  Having been rejected and left by my own father, I believed if Mitchell and Hope wanted to know each other they should be allowed.  Kevin and I decided not to tell Hope in case things changed.  We didn’t think to ask Mitchell not to tell her.  Sure enough Mitchell told hope during the next phone call.  Hope was excited!

A few days later Mitchell texted and asked me to call without Hope around.  I called him.  He told me that when he told Johnnie he was going back to Oklahoma that she said she wanted to work their marriage out.  His choices were to stay where he was already established, with a job he loved and make his marriage work or be near his children he hadn’t seen in 8 and 10 years.  He was choosing to stay.  I told him he could tell Hope himself, and that she wouldn’t understand.  I also told him I would never choose a man over my children.  He told Hope.  She was sad and disappointed.  I was angry at Mitchell and Johnnie.  For the first time in Hope’s life I couldn’t protect her from the hurt he caused her.  I strongly disliked Johnnie.  The timing seemed very convenient of her ultimatum.  She had no regard for my child.  I told Mitchell, Beth, and Kevin that Johnnie had an ass whooping coming the first time I saw her without Hope around.  I didn’t care if she and Mitchell work together or not.  I was willing to go to jail.  You do not mess with my child’s feelings.  That woman had no idea the mama bear she had awakened.  You do not touch my cub that I have poured out blood, sweat and tears for, her entire life.  Not an intelligent idea.  Mitchell and Hope continued with phone calls.  Mitchell told Hope that he and Johnnie would come visit her soon.  Hope asked me when soon was. I told her that Mitchell was the only one who could answer that question.  She asked if she could texted him.  I texted him and said that hope asked to text him and I am giving her the phone.  She texted him asking when soon is.  He said he did have a timeframe for that.  She said “is it going to be weeks, days, months or years!” he didn’t ask Hope to give the phone to me before he sent the next text.  The text was directed towards me.  Hope read it out loud.  He stated she was too young to have these types of adult conversations, and it was my responsibility to explain his situation to her.  I texted him back.  I told him Hope and her feelings were my priority and that he could explain his situation to her himself.  Phone calls continued between Mitchell and Hope.  Mitchell’s wife sent me an e-mail a week later.  She accused me of being inappropriate with Mitchell through text messages dripping with lust.  She said she was concerned for my children and Kevin.  She and Mitchell split because he threatened to kill her and her family.  She also said my actions were hurtful to her.  All of the references she made to my character and things I had done couldn’t be further from the truth.  I texted her at the same number she texted me from weeks earlier.  I told her that just as there are two sides to her story with Mitchell, there are two sides to mine and I believe it was time for us to have a phone conversation.  She called me and we talked for hours.  She wasn’t the monster I believe she was.  I wasn’t the monster she believed I was.  Mitchell had lied to her their entire relationship and marriage.  She was just another victim of his hurtful words and games.  She and I can relate to each other in a way no one else can.  I love her.  She has become one of my closest friends.  She never wanted to work the marriage out with Mitchell.  He simply would not leave her alone.  I couldn’t pick up better stepmom for Hope if I tried.  Mitchell did an amazing job picking her.  She is always thought about and cared for Hope and her brother.  Mitchell spent a lot of energy making myself and his son’s mom out to be terrible women.  Johnnie and I will be friends for life.  Mitchell says Johnnie and I are drama.  He doesn’t want us talking.  Hope has asked him if he would allow a last name change.  He told her no.  He said her name would change when she got married.  She was very upset that he would not allow a name change.  She began acting out and being violent with her brothers.  She told me one day she wanted to call and tell Mitchell how she felt.  She tried to call his phone number four or five times.  The call wouldn’t go through.  I texted him, telling can she had called four or five times in the call wouldn’t go through.  I asked him to call her at his convenience.  He called within 3 minutes.  Hope told him she felt mad and sad.  He asked to speak to me.  Well I had him on speakerphone, she told me I needed to stop putting things in her head and the reason she couldn’t call was because he had my number blocked.  Hope heard everything he said to me.  She felt hurt that he didn’t believe her feelings and she was upset because he told her she could call anytime and he had the number blocked. He and Hope talk, and I pray that she will someday see the beautiful person that lives deep inside of Mitchell. He hides that person so well.  Only time will tell.

Life keeps moving

Update 5/16/17

Hope hasn’t slowed down an ounce.
2 months (September 2015) after this story was published, the time came to cease contact with Mitchell. Hope was most upset about him invalidating her feelings when she asked to have her last name changed and then heard him tell me to quit putting things in her head. Hope’s grades and behavior began to suffer greatly. Mitchell was making promises he wouldn’t keep. She’d leave him voicemail after voicemail and he’d rarely return her calls. He used the excuse that the time he went to work and the time she arrived home from school conflicted. The few times he talked to her he’d promise her video calls on the weekends and then never follow through. After talking to him several times about the issues that his inconsistency was causing, and then him continuing to be just as inconsistent the time came. As her parent SHE is my number one priority, her health and safety are of the utmost importance. The bottom line is you cannot MAKE someone be who you believed they could be, when that’s not who they are. That’s a painful reality. I do not regret the time I allowed Hope to spend getting to know him, she figured out exactly who he is without being told. If she chooses to revisit communicating with him when she’s at an appropriate age, Kevin and I will be supportive of that. If she chooses not to, we will be supportive of that too.

At the time I let Mitchell know there would be no further phone communication, I reminded him of the same email address I’ve had for over a decade and our home address. I told him he could email to check on her or use our home address if he ever wanted to send anything for her.

Another birthday came and went with no card, letter, gift or email.

Mid December 2015, Mitchell calls me out of the blue stating he was staying the night in our town, on the way to Wisconsin where he was moving with his fiancé Vada and he’d like to see Hope. I found this VERY odd considering he hadn’t communicated with me at all since I told him there would be no more phone contact months earlier. Kevin and I made the executive decision not to allow a visit. When we told Hope what was going on, she stated she did not want to see him. She then became very paranoid knowing he was near and said “I’m afraid he will hurt you or daddy to get to me”. We reassured her that she was safe and so were we.
Mitchell used the next two days to harass me by text. He told me the people they were staying with were very well known in our town and agree that I am in the wrong. The next day he stated he knew where to find me/us. Upon reading the text messages, Hope’s doctor urged me to make a police report. The officer left a voicemail on Mitchell’s phone stating harassment charges would be filed if he continued to harass me on the phone and that he was welcome to check the welfare of Hope using email or US Mail to contact me. I did not receive any more phone calls or text messages.

The coordinator with the UCO Endeavor Games contacted me during the winter months and asked if Hope and I would come address a group that fundraises for the Endeavor games in the spring, I agreed. I envisioned a small group of 10-20 attendees since the event was called a luncheon. I found out the day before to expect 100-150 attendees. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. Hope and I went together and conquered it. The speech I prepared didn’t leave a dry eye in the room.

My speech from that day: “In 2006 at the age of 21, I gave birth to a baby girl I named Hope long before I knew she would inspire it. Among other medical issues, she was born missing the tibia bone in her right leg. After doctors gave the official diagnosis “Tibial hemimelia” I began doing what most uneducated adults would do. I typed the words into search engine after search engine. Photos of legs that looked identical to Hope’s returned in the results. I knew in my heart that the diagnosis was right. Of all the articles I read two things stood out to me:
1. The occurrence of her condition was one in every one million births.
2. The word “amputation” was mentioned in every article.
I thought “There’s no way I’m allowing any Dr. to cut off Hope’s leg ”.
Hope’s father left when she was two months old, choosing to never see her again.
From that point forward it became my mission to change the outcome of Hope’s treatment. We visited four additional pediatric orthopedic surgeons in three different states. I prayed, and I wished that every one of them would tell me the one before them was wrong.
None of the doctors told me what I wanted to hear. Instead all of them made the same recommendation… Amputation.
Nothing can prepare a parent to make the decision to remove their child’s body part. I’d never personally known an amputee. I had never seen a prosthetic leg up close. I remember being naïve and asking the Dr. if I would need to buy Hope special shoes. I had no experience.
Hope underwent a through the knee amputation on April 10, 2008 just shy of 18 months old.
Less than 4 hours after surgery Hope was crawling around the crib on her bandaged nub. A nurse told me that I needed to keep her off of it. My aunt and I took turns holding Hope. Let’s be real,  you can only hold a toddler for so long before their crying and screaming is making everyone around them miserable. She was sharing the hospital room with three other girls.
When the Dr. came in to check on Hope, I asked how he suggested I keep her off of the nub. He said “You really can’t. If she starts hurting too much – she’ll stop.” She never stopped!
We returned to the hospital 2 ½ months later to pick up her first prosthetic leg. This is where we met 9 month old Talon and his family. We made an immediate connection. His mom was pushing him in a stroller, both of his legs looked exactly like Hope’s right leg did before surgery. He was there to have both legs amputated. Talon participates in the endeavor games and we look forward to seeing him and his family every year.
Physical therapy was brutal. Hope cried almost nonstop every time. She hated her prosthetic leg! After all, she could crawl faster when she wasn’t wearing the leg. As her parent, I felt discouraged and defeated after every therapy. I wondered if she would ever walk.
At the age of three, after more than a year of physical therapy I was dressing her for the day. As I tied her shoes I said “If you want to go to school one day you’re going to have to learn to walk without your walker”.
She stood up immediately and walked across our living room, with no assistance.
Stares and loud obvious whispers have become normal for us any time we go out in public. Folks often say things like:
“Why is she like that?”
“What happened to that girl?”
“Why does she have a robot leg?”
Adults have always been worse than children.
I registered Hope for her first UCO endeavor games in 2011. She was 4 ½ years old. My first observation upon arriving at the track was that those of us with four natural limbs were in fact, the minority. The second thing I noticed was the absence of rude comments and stares.
As the gun sounded for Hope’s race to begin she stood frozen at the start line, crying. I wanted to run out onto the track, wrap her in a hug and tell her she could do it. I knew that if I walked onto the track she would be disqualified. Instead, I stood on the sidelines cheering for her along with what felt like hundreds of people. Hope walked slowly down the track as she cried.
Then it happened! Halfway down the track, Hope took off like a speeding bullet. The crowd exploded with screams and cheers.
My now husband and I met Hope at the finish line. We were a snotty, blubbering crying mess. Kevin picked Hope up. A lady I had never met hugged me. She said “I remember exactly how I felt when my Hannah crossed the finish line the first time.”
Let me tell you – the only people in this world who know the struggles and what it is like to parent an amputee is another parent of an amputee. I’ve met and made friends with many parents at endeavor.
My favorite race Hope participated in was in 2014. She didn’t even place, didn’t earn a medal. Her leg began to slip off while she was running. Did she stop? Absolutely not. She used her hands to hold her prosthetic leg on and finished the race. That is never giving up!
Truthfully, I get a little emotional every time Hope crosses the finish line.
Hope will be participating in the endeavor games for the fifth time this summer 2016. She will participate in swimming, the 20 m, 60 m, and 100 m track events.
You see, the UCO endeavor games is about so much more than competing and collecting medals for Hope and our family.
I believe, I speak for every athlete when I make that statement.
Hope and I have made friends who relate to us in ways no one else can. The whole culture of the endeavor games is incredible. This is the one weekend of out of the year that Hope feels like she belongs. She is not different. She feels empowered, inspired, proud of and free to be who she is with no condemnation. I am constantly inspired and feel such gratitude that I get to witness these phenomenal athletes do what makes them smile and their souls shine.
Thank you endeavor games staff for working so hard to make these games happen and thank you corporate challenge for all the support you offer to the endeavor games – you’re changing lives with every year the games continue.
If you would like to read Hope’s story in its entirety, you may read it at the website displayed free of charge.(a slide with the web address to her story will be displayed)”

During the summer/spring 2016
Hope played softball with her school for special Olympics where they earned 1st place, she played wheelchair basketball (bronze), ran the 20m (gold), 60m (gold), and 100m (silver) at the Endeavor Games and then her and I went to the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team Kids camp in Washington, DC and had the best time! That was truly one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to and I will go back!
On a hot day in July we walked into an archery shop in our town. Fire ignited inside of Hope like I had never seen before. She fell in love! We allowed her to try shooting and she got a bullseye within the first 15 minutes! She is actively practicing and plans to compete in Archery in the future.

In the fall (2016), our family took a trip to San Diego, CA. We stopped in New Mexico and met “Peach”, the founder of Peach’s Neet Feet (www.peachsneetfeet.com). She and her family are some of the most beautiful souls we’ve ever met. Hope was immediately connected with her and stuck like glue. While in California, Hope participated in events hosted by the Challenged Athletes Foundation, we spent time with friends on the beach, and we even surprised the kids with a trip to Disneyland.

Another birthday came and went with no letter, or card.

Hope received an American Girl doll for her birthday from close family friends. Not just any doll but, one with a prosthetic leg on her right leg- just like Hope! The video showing her priceless reaction can be viewed here:  https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10211529486219806&id=1443900030

In the winter 2017, I woke up to acomment on that video that has since disappeared. Vada used Mitchell’s facebook account to comment on that sweet video of Hope opening up her doll. Vada stated there was no way Hope was his child, that a DNA test would be “coming my way” and that I have “a lot to pay back”. I commented back stating I was okay with that, and that she and Mitchell are both welcome to communicate with me privately via messenger, email, or US Mail. I spoke with her adult daughter via messenger, I asked her to relay that the comment publicly was unnecessary. I learned Vada also left her children at a young age. Parents leaving their children will always seem like a great tragedy to me.  Nearly four months later, I am still waiting for instruction and notification of the DNA test.

Johnnie and I have only become closer. She is such a positive light in Hope’s life. Isaac and Eric think they have a stepmom too, although Kevin and I have never even separated. We don’t see any reason to correct it. She loves them and the three of them love her, that’s the most important thing. I am looking forward to the day that she can come visit or we can visit her.

Hope is gearing up for the Endeavor Games where she’ll be running the 100m and 200m this year, and she’s training in Archery weekly. We have a busy summer ahead with a minor surgery planned in mid June, and a brand new prosthetic in mid July. She’ll also be taking a hunter’s safety course soon, and then she’ll be able to compete with an organization in Archery. In the next year or so, she’ll be getting braces to straighten her teeth and jaw. She was predisposed to need them. I wore braces for several years, and Mitchell’s teeth aren’t in the best of shape either.

So there you have it. An update on our beautiful girl. I’m still so proud to be her mother. My only wish is that she wouldn’t grow up so fast. She’s nearly a preteen and is acting more and more like a teenager daily. As of right now she says when she grows up she’s going to be a family doctor AND a teacher AND a 911 dispatcher. I asked when she’d have time to do three careers and she said “Easy! I’ll be a teacher during the day and a doctor at night!”. I guess she hasn’t figured out when she’ll have time to dispatch between the other two. She’s growing up at an alarming rate. If anyone figures out the secret to keeping them little longer, please share it with me!