In the spring of 2000, I sat in a physician’s office and thumbed through several magazines when I noticed a copy of MAPS MUSINGS. I read a listing of parents and their children and the date the child was placed with their “forever” families. In an instant, I was taken back several years to a time when I was on active duty as a Logistics Officer in the Navy. During my 12 years of active military service, I visited many countries and helped build playgrounds, repair roofs, and provide food to local orphanages. I knew long ago that one day, I would like to adopt a child. I remember always having an affinity for Cambodia and its amazing history. Could it be that now was my time to adopt a child?
I contacted Karen at MAPS who put me in touch with Carol at the MAPS office in Florida. I told her I was a single man who was interested in adopting a child from Cambodia. Carol immediately sent me a manila envelope of information including an application. “Am I ready for this?,” I thought. “Can I really do it? I’ve been wanting to adopt a child since my early days in the Navy. Now is the time!”
While I thumbed through the paperwork, I realized how much work was involved. Then I thought about the child who was waiting for me, possibly sick, in an orphanage in Cambodia. It became a race against time for me. I could not allow my son to wait longer than was absolutely necessary. Even though I had no idea who he was, I knew he was there.
I was in daily contact with Carol in Tampa. Within a couple of weeks, I was having my home study done. I received my checklist and once again I was off to the races. I had my physical, my background checks, my employer records, everything done. My INS paperwork was completed in record time. My dossier was complete in less than a month. Suddenly, I had a referral with a photo of my son. When I saw “Pisey’s” face, I knew he was mine. His face was beautiful. Although he was nearly two years old, he was so small. Did he know that Daddy was trying his hardest to get there to bring him home?
I called Carol and Karen over and over again. I always asked the same question, “Any word on my travel date?” As every parent who adopts a child knows, the wait is the hardest part of the entire process. Every night before I went to sleep, I stepped outside and looked into the sky and wished my little boy a good night: “Daddy will be there soon and you will never be alone again.” I took a photo of myself and placed it in a plastic photo protector and then fashioned it into a necklace. I asked MAPS if they would give it to my little Pisey so he would know me when I arrived to bring him home.
To help with the wait, I took my friends’ advice and auditioned for a musical show and got the lead role as Prof. Harold Hill. The two months of rehearsals had started. Right before the first night of technical rehearsals, I got a phone call from Karen at MAPS. “Jerry, it’s time,” she said. “We don’t know how much longer the Cambodian program is going to be open, so you have to travel now.” She told me I would be in Cambodia for approximately four days. I was so excited that I couldn’t speak. I called my friends and asked them if they wanted to take a trip – in two days!! They said, “Absolutely. Let’s go.”
Then I looked at my watch and realized I had rehearsal that night! I went to my director and told her the news. After she recovered her composure and her breath, she reminded me that I had no understudy and that every performance was already sold out. The show was going to open in 10 days. I told her that if she got the rest of the cast ready, I would be back from Cambodia with my son in time for the show. I would not let her down. Our entire cast of 35 actors and actresses maintained the faith. My colleagues and my cast mates even threw an impromptu baby shower for me.
Armed with a diaper bag, enough Cheerios for an army, and a Pooh bear, we were off. I was on a trek to Cambodia with two of my friends. It was almost five months to the week that I made that first phone call.
We flew from Fort Myers, Florida to Phnom Penh with an overnight in Bangkok. Youn, pronounced “Jon,” met us at the airport. He was our driver for the next few days, but would be a young man I would visit in Cambodia again. “We will go to the orphanage now,” he told us.
As we made our way down the bumpy dirt road toward the orphanage gate, I felt my heart pounding. This was the moment I waited a lifetime for. I was trying to memorize every emotion, every feeling. Youn honked the horn and a man slowly opened the gate at the Chom Chao Orphanage. My eyes darted everywhere. Then I saw two ladies standing at the door of the main building. One of the women was holding a tiny little boy. He was wearing a baseball outfit and green tennis shoes. Was that my son?
They smiled and walked toward me. As they got closer, I saw my photo hanging from a small leather necklace around his neck. I reached out my arms and Jordan Pisey Windle was mine. I held him against my chest, and though I knew this two-year old little “angel baby” was wondering who I was, I knew I was in love with him forever. We stood in the middle of the Chom Chao orphanage as I made a promise to him that he would never be hungry, he would never be alone again.
I was concerned because I couldn’t make him smile. I thought to myself, “I don’t want him to be afraid.” Youn spoke to Jordan every day, as did the hotel staff. They comforted him and told him I was his daddy. I remember thinking how desperately I wanted to be able to speak Khmer. On the morning of our third day, as I was preparing for my embassy interview, I dropped one of the papers. Holding Jordan, I bent over to pick up the paper. As I leaned downward, the brightest smile I have ever seen beamed up toward me. Jordan smiled, then he giggled, and finally, he laughed out loud. He has not stopped smiling since.
On the fourth day, we were ready to go home. We boarded the plane in Phnom Penh and headed for Florida. The trip home was more grueling. How did I ever think I would be able to study my “Music Man” lines on the plane? I hadn’t even opened the script in almost a week. The show was going to open in only a day. Exhausted, we arrived some 24 hours later in Florida. We rested the entire day and the following day we went to the theater. The cast was relieved that we made it home safely. Yes, I needed scripts in the wings on either side of the stage, but we pulled it off without a hitch. It was a great show – and I had my son!
For the next year, Jordan and I grew closer and closer. I taught him American Sign Language so he could communicate with me as he was learning English and I spoke to him in both English and Spanish. Jordan’s teacher spoke fluent Spanish and at my request she spoke to him in both Spanish and English. In less than 15 months, Jordan was speaking in all three languages.
After a while, our life was pretty organized. Then the theater called me to see if I was ready to take on another role. I told them I would audition only if I could have Jordan at the theater during rehearsal. It was during that show that I met Jason Edwards, a pianist and composer.
He had been writing songs since he was seven years old and his dream was to produce an album one day. I listened to his songs and was immediately drawn to the magic of his music. Jason taught Jordan to play the piano, and in less than six months, Jordan and Jason were playing duets. (When we have friends or family over, Jordan is anxious to sing, “New York, New York,” and play the piano for them. When he is finished, he hops down from the piano bench and takes his bow.)
Jordan is an amazing four-year-old. Although we have only been a family for a little more than two years, most people think he is my biological son. His personality is so perfectly matched with mine. We have the best times together. We are father and son. We are best friends. I hear time and again how adoptive families cannot believe how perfectly they are matched. There is only one answer for that and it cannot be found here on earth.
A few weeks ago, Jason came to me and asked me to listen to something he had been working on for the past year. It was a compilation of his work. The CD of his piano music was complete and was ready to be produced. He asked me what I thought about him titling the CD “For the Children” and donating a portion of the proceeds to MAPS to help feed and shelter hungry children around the world. He said that knowing Jordan inspired him, and he hoped that others who listened to his music would also be inspired.
Jason’s album is a beautiful collection of works that have spanned his entire life. His gift to the world in his music and his gift to the children of the world in his support of MAPS is a fulfillment of a dream and the promise of hope. Jason designed the CD cover with a photo of Jordan and Jason’s niece, Braden. The CD itself has an image of Jordan in Cambodian silks with his hands together as he is offering the Cambodian greeting gesture.
If you would like to purchase a copy of Jason’s CD, “For the Children”, you can get more information at www.jasonedwardsmusic.com or call 1-877-92 C SHARP (1-877-927-4277). A portion of every CD sold will be donated to MAPS and placed in a special fund to help feed and shelter waiting children around the world.