Their first meeting was over a Skype call, across a vast ocean and 7,076 miles, to be exact. My mom had already gotten to talk to Mila and I a couple of times, but this day, my stepdad John was there at the computer, to say hello. We had not decided on the grandfather name we were going to use for John, so I told Mila that the man sitting next to Bibi, was John. And Mila, who was barely speaking English at the time, said “John-John”. So that day, in our little family at least, John became John-John.
On my first trip to Congo, we received the unfortunate news that John’s cancer had come out of remission. This was so hard to hear, being far away from home, and unable to really comfort and be comforted. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer a couple of years earlier, and had done amazingly well up to this point. But the tumor was back, and he would be starting a hellish chemo/radiation combo once again.
Once we were home, we were able to properly introduce Mila to her John-John. And with great joy I can say, that like Mila’s favorite candy, even with a hard outer shell, John melted in my little girl’s hand. It was one of the relationships that we were just not sure how it was going to go initially. He never said anything negative to me about our decision to adopt internationally, but there was never too much inquisition on the whole matter either. I assumed that he just wasn’t really on board with the whole idea, or just didn’t really care either way.
My opinion of all that changed the first time they met. He scooped her up in his arms, and I got to see his face light up as he met his granddaughter, and became a grandpa, for the first time.
She loved him, and he loved her. It was good stuff.
As the cancer began to grow, and his health continued to deteriorate, you never knew it when Mila was around.
He would make sure she had whatever she wanted, and would always stealthily teach her to shout, (much to mine and Dylan’s dismay), a good ‘ole “Roll Tide!“. This man was CRAZY about some Alabama football, and (much to his dismay, I’m sure), I went to Auburn. So this ↓ has been the story of my family ever since.
Nine months later, while in Congo again picking up Hudson, I got more tough news that John was placed on hospice and that, in his words, “Carrie needs to get home”. I knew that it would not be long, and I did not want to be halfway around the world when his time came. By God’s grace, we made it out of Congo, got home, and I was able to introduce John to his second grandchild, Hudson, as well.
It was really precious, the last time we saw John, I don’t think he even noticed I was in the room, which was fine. He knew those kids were though. He made sure he said “Hey” to Mila, AND to Hudson! It made me smile. He was so weak, and in and out of sleep every few minutes, but he knew those babies were there, and wanted to be sure he spoke… to both of them.
We lost John on May 17th.
Thank you John, for being my stepdad for the past 20 years. For putting up with 3 rowdy teenagers at one time. For moving into the basement and then adding on to our house, so that we could all have our own rooms. For loving my mother, for loving me, and for providing for our family the way you did. Thank you for loving my children like your own flesh and blood. We will miss you so much, and will never forget all of the good times we’ve had. We love you John-John!