Stepping off the plane, Jessica said she was nervous and excited. She couldn’t wait to find out what her biological parents looked like.
Jessica walked out with her 2-year-old daughter perched on her hip. Her other children remained in Florida.
Roger and Marcie rushed forward. When the 2-year-old raised her arms, Roger grabbed her.
Marcie and Jessica embraced. Crying, they kissed and hugged again.
“It was just like everything was coming together, you know?” Marcie said. “This story that had lain dormant, this unfinished chapter of our lives was just all happening. It’s unbelievable.”
She said Jessica looked like the “perfect combination of me and Roger.”
“I knew you’d find me,” Jessica told them. “I never gave up. I knew you’d find me.”
That first night, back at the house, they said it felt like they weren’t strangers. Jessica stretched out on the sofa and laid her head in Marcie’s lap like a child. She cupped Marcie’s face in her hands and said, “You’re my mother. You really are my mother.” Sitting on the floor, Roger wrapped his hands around the bottom of his daughter’s legs.
Marcie said her mind flashed to the past, to what could have been.
“This was the way it was supposed to happen,” she thought.
Jessica and her three children moved in with Roger and Marcie a couple months later.
Their idyllic beginning succumbed to the harshness of a reality that her parents never anticipated.
Roger and Marcie learned their daughter’s adoption had not been a happy one. Jessica also suffered seizures as a child and a stroke in her late 20s. She never graduated from high school. She struggled with alcohol and drugs. She gave birth to five children by five fathers, surrendering two of her kids to adoption.
When Roger and Marcie connected with her, Jessica and her adoptive mother, who was dying of cancer, were living on welfare in Florida. Her adoptive father had died in 2006.
“Because I surrendered, I felt a sense of responsibility,” Marcie said. “I felt this was not right.”
They tried to blend the families together. But Marcie said Jessica’s wild lifestyle made it difficult.
“Oh my God,” Marcie recalled. “It was a frigging disaster.”
Over the next few years, Jessica moved in and out of Roger and Marcie’s home. She couldn’t hold down a job. She’d drink and party, leaving her children at the house.
Roger and Marcie felt guilty, so they kept letting it happen. It took a toll on their marriage. Finally, they told her it wasn’t working.
“Not every family is rainbows and sunshines, you know,” Jessica said. “You have your bumps. You have your hurdles. And that’s how you learn everything.”
The next four years were turbulent for Jessica and her daughters. Her adoptive mother died of cancer in 2012. She and her three children moved from place to place. At one point, Jessica lived in a homeless shelter.
Eventually, one daughter moved to Pennsylvania to be with her father. Jessica and her other two daughters returned to Indiana.
They lived with Roger and Marcie for about four months, until Jessica started renting a small home. She also secured a job at Amazon.
Roger and Marcie divorced in 2014, but Marcie said they remain together. They also found a relationship with Jessica that works.
One day, when Roger and Jessica were together at Walmart, Jessica asked why he hadn’t kept her all those years ago. Roger said he couldn’t give her an answer at the time. But her question sparked an idea. He decided it wasn’t too late for them to legally be a family.
He told Marcie they should adopt their daughter back. Adult adoptions are fairly rare, but allowed under Indiana law. Marcie said she was excited to give Jessica a sense of belonging.
“It’s never too late,” Marcie said.
On Thursday, all three signed the paperwork to initiate Jessica’s adoption. Afterward, Jessica patted her father’s right arm.
“So that’s pretty cool, huh?” she said. “What do you think?”
“It was one of the best times of my life,” Roger replied.
At 72 years old, he would finally be a father.
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