Chapt 7 1972-1978 Columbus, Ohio
As I began to record this entry for the period of our lives between 1972 and 1978, it seems like it was just yesterday! Yet, now at our ages of almost 84 and 85, I recognize that things have certainly changed since we were ages 38 (Elva) and 39 (Keith)!
During this period of 1972 through 1978, FAMILY was our most important priority! In 1972 Scott was 14, Terry was 11, Todd was 10 and Kelly was 4. Jenny Banner (our first foster daughter) was now established in her adoptive home; and, Delbert, our second foster child, was cute as can be at a preschool age but he had a serious speech impediment. When he came to our home for a preliminary visit he was shy and scared, so when he came into the house, he just sat on a chair—quiet, not smiling, not saying a word; he seemed so sad. As he and his caseworker came through the front door to enter the living room, our cat (Cinder) scurried out of the way and headed toward the stairs to the basement. We had two cats at that time (Puff and Cinder) and of the two, Puff was the dominant one. Cinder, although larger, was shy and retiring and when anyone came to visit that he didn’t know he would run to the basement, crawl up into the rafters and stay there until long after the visitor had left. However, that day Cinder hesitated for some reason. Then, he turned around, walked to the chair where Delbert was sitting and jumped up into his lap and began to purr!! Amazing! That had never happened before. But, it was exactly what Delbert needed and soon they were both brave and happy! That Autumn, Delbert was to start Kindergarten and when we took him to the school to enroll, he met his teacher. Before school actually started, however, that Kindergarten teacher called us to set an appointment for a preliminary meeting with the school Principal. Now this teacher was an icon in the entire school district – well respected with years of experience with kindergarten children—and she was an excellent teacher, so when she had an opinion everyone listened! However, we were very wary because when Jenny (our first foster child) was being interviewed by her for Kindergarten, Jenny’s response to her was to crawl up into my lap, put both arms around my neck, hide her face and refuse to talk or even to look at the teacher. (Later, when I asked Jenny, who normally was outgoing and talkative, why she didn’t want to talk to anyone, she said to me, “That lady is too scary. She looks like a Wolf!”) So, I was not surprised when the same teacher started out our visit at the Principal’s office by saying, “Delbert needs to be tested before I can accept him in my kindergarten class—I need to confirm that his IQ level is adequate for public school. I believe he needs to be placed in Special Education.” When I asked her what made her think that this was true, her response was, “Well, you can just tell. All you have to do is to look at his eyes!” My thought was "No! I don't think so!". What she did not know was that his quiet and backward manner was because he was so frightened -- and Cinder was not there to give him confidence! The testing proved that Delbert was eligible for her class, and his life in the public schools began (but, we did request that he be placed with the other Kindergarten teacher!) Delbert’s speech was so difficult to understand that only Kelly was really able to communicate very well with him, so we also started him with a Speech Therapist. Twice a week, we would make the trip to her private office. Kelly would not begin Kindergarten until the following year, and so the two of us watched Delbert and his speech therapist through a one-way mirror during each session—Kelly and I could see them but they could not see us. Delbert was beginning to read in his kindergarten class and one of his activities with the therapist was to read aloud to her at each session. One day, following a therapy session, Kelly picked up his book and she began to read it out loud! I had wondered why she was so quiet during his sessions: she was listening to the therapist sound out the letters and put the words together to make sentences. Through this process, Kelly had learned to read before she had even started school! Delbert stayed with us about three years. His quiet and insecure manner began to fade but was replaced by episodes of violent temper outbursts. However, as his speech improved, his temper tantrums also lessened; and finally one day his caseworker informed us that they had found an adoptive home for Delbert and that he would also have a younger brother! Again, our emotions were of sadness mixed with happiness that this little boy whom we had grown to love so much would finally be secure in his ‘real home’ and with ‘forever’ parents and a younger brother too who would be his family now. We did not realize that within the year, that family would call us in tears to invite us to come to Delbert’s funeral, as he had died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
Again, it was not long until our next foster child, Charlotte, arrived. She was in 4th grade and was with us for over a year….long enough to go with us on a summer camping trip! Other foster children during those years included 3 infants who were short-term placements (Charlie, Brian and Sharon). And, then Greg, a first grader, arrived. Just before he came, Keith had been elected President of the Franklin County Foster Parents Association. and we both attended the National Foster Parents’ Conference in Hawaii. And, in May 1975, we were honored as ‘Foster Parents of the Year’ by Franklin County Children’s Services. Soon, we received another call from the agency and it was not long before Jim came to live with us too; now we were a family of 8 with 6 children! When Greg left to return home to live with his father, another call from the agency and soon Curtiss arrived—5 years old, hyperactive with out of bounds behavior…but cute as a button! Later, Tracey (a middle school student) came and stayed a short time until she was able to return home again. Another phone call and soon Shirley was assigned to us as a short term, respite care placement. She was a Senior in High School at the time and was experiencing difficulties with her foster parent family, so she stayed with us on weekends and on holidays to give them a break!
In the summer of 1974 (estimated), we travelled back to Kansas as we had every summer to visit our families there. This time, while we were in Kansas, my Mom (Bertha Tice) agreed to come back to Columbus to spend the Winter with us. This was the beginning of a recurring visit for her to our house every Autumn, then returning to Kansas to spend the summer. In January of 1978, my Mother was with us as Kelly celebrated her 10th birthday, Scott was in college, Terry graduated from high school, Todd was still in high school but had earned a certified pilot’s license and was also an Honor Student at Beechcroft High School..... and Tessa at age 4 arrived. During those years we had fostered a total of 12 children which included children from 4 months old to 18 years old. And, although family was our main priority during those years, at the same time, we were active members of the United Methodist Church and taught a Sunday School class, we worked with Boy and Girl Scouts, an Indian Princess group, took the kids to music lessons and sports practice, and Keith continued teaching and conducting research as an Associate Professor in the Medical School at Ohio State University while Elva continued to teach private piano lessons. Yes, our lives were full and complete and little did we realize that the upcoming years would include some of the the hardest experiences that we would ever have to face.
How amazing, your lives had so many wonderful facets. And you gave a loving home to 12 children, who were in need at that time in their lives!