One Great Foster Family

A person reading my entry “One Child’s Horror” earlier today wrote and asked a number questions about the foster family I stayed with for over 4 1/2 years. Her questions has led me to this entry.

This blog entry is dedicated to Mom and Dad Monshor, who provided me the only positive, loving experience of my early childhood. Although they were not allowed to adopt me legally, they did so within their hearts, as I adopted them within mine!

From the day of my birth until shortly past my eleventh birthday, I was moved to eleven foster homes and four institutions. One of the foster homes I was fortunate to be moved to three times and spend a total of 6-1/2 years at, was the home of Mom and Dad Monshor.

I began this entry calling Ernest and Mildred Monshor, Mom and Dad. They will always be Mom and Dad to me. Although they were never allowed to adopt me and I was removed from their home three times, they are the only people I have ever considered my parents. I loved them as a child, I love them even more now as an adult and I will love them until I take my final breath.

I first came to the Monshor home days after my second birthday, remaining there six months before being moved.

After four brief months with another family, I was returned to the Monshor home where I would remain for two years. I was removed a second time in 1954 and moved to three different foster homes in the next 1-1/2 years. In 1956, I was returned to the Monshor home and would remain there for the next four plus years.

My second and third times with the Monshor family were the most stable times in my short life to that point.
They were also the most loving times. I know I was not considered just another foster child. I was treated and loved as one of their own. At the time Mom and Dad had a grown son (Raymond, aka Sonny), an adopted son (Dennis) and two adopted daughters (Susan and Genevieve). Over the years, they had also taken in over thirty foster children for various lengths of time. No matter how long you were with them, you were considered and treated as a member of their family.

There are many fond memories of my childhood years with Mom and Dad.

As a small tike, I was sickly, having whooping cough more than once. The doctors feared I might die from it. There were many nights when the coughing would begin, Mom would get up from her bed to carry me in her arms over her shoulder, gently patting my back until the coughing stopped. This could occur more than once a night.

It was Mom and Dad who recognized I had a problem with my left eye (lazy eye) and saw to it that steps were taken to try and correct it. I underwent five surgeries and therapy. Unfortunately it was to no avail.

Mom sat with me the night before I was to have my tonsils removed, comforting me as I was a scared five year old, and seeing to it that there was ice cream and a smile for me when I came out of surgery.

On Sundays, the kids would all be sent to church. When we came home, we went to the downstairs kitchen to gather around the large rectangular table.There was Dad stirring his infamous big pot of spaghetti sauce, ready to feed the troops. It was so, so good! Dad was a cook in the US Army during World War II and was an excellent cook.

Their adopted son Dennis died in 1954 at age 14 due to an enlarged heart. Though I have no recollections, Mom and Dad told me later of the closeness Dennis and I had, and how protective he always was of me.

I was confirmed in the Catholic Church early in 1960 by Cardinal Deardon of Detroit. I did not tell anyone prior to the ceremony the name I had chosen to take for my confirmation name. Afterwards I told Mom and Dad I took the name Dennis to remember him and to honor them. I still remember Dad’s broad smile and Mom being Mom, all teary-eyed.

Their son Raymond (aka Sonny) proposed to Marge at Christmas 1953. I didn’t understand what he was doing, so I asked. When I found out, I remember telling him, “No, you can’t have her…she’s my gal!” I loved his fiance and whenever she came over, I ran to her and clung to her. She was very special.

During the last four years of a somewhat stable home enviornment, I started school. I attended kindergarten through third grades at St. Gabriel. Mom would sit with us kids after dinner around the table and help us complete our homework assignments. Baths, bedtime prayers and bed soon followed.

Many nights, Mom would come to my bed to tuck me in and to sing me to sleep. Her favorite was a revised song containing the words of “When I was just a little boy, I asked my mother, what would I be, here’s what she said to me.” I still find myself humming that song today when I am feeling really down in the dumps…it usually brings me out of it and puts a smile on my face.

Then there were trips in Dad’s 1957 Studebaker. It was black and hot in the summer. It was before the days of air conditioned cars. How I enjoyed those rides with hot air blowing in my face…NOT!

Mom so tenderly planted and cared for her garden. Each spring the back yard would come alive with color.

I was removed from Mom and Dad’s home a second time a month before Christmas in 1954. I have no memory of Christmas 1954 or 1955.

I do remember Christmas 1956 however, as I was back home. The Saturday before Christmas, Susan, Genevieve and I were sent over to St. Gabriel School for a Christmas program. When we left the house, it was devoid of anything Christmas. What a difference when we returned a few short hours later.

Outside Dad had strung Christmas lights…the big old fashioned ones.

Inside, the tree had been decked in it’s Christmas finest. On the fireplace hung five stockings. Inscribed on each was, Mom, Dad, Daughter, Daughter and Son.

I remember asking Mom, “Who is the Son stocking for?…Sonny?” Mom said, “No, that is for YOU!”

My heart still feels the love and warmth of that statement. I don’t remember what I got that Christmas, but the most important thing I received was LOVE. I have no childhood memories of other Christmases…this one was/is special.

In the early fall of the year Mom pulled out the canning jars, then spent hours cooking and canning beans, tomatoes, beets and peaches, to name a few. She also made batches of applesauce and an out of this world apple butter.
At the same time, Dad would be making his chili sauce of tomatoes, onions, red/green papers…like today’s salsa. Dad was making it long before it became popular.

I can still almost smell the alluring aroma of Mom’s apple pies. They were both great cooks.

Back then, parents were parents. In the pantry, on a hook, was Dad’s old Army strap. Neither Mom or Dad were bashful in using it if I did something to deserve it. The only damage it did was cause a temporarily bruised ego and a little reddening of the behind. I admit I earned the strap on a few occasions. It did me far more good than it ever did me harm.

From 1956-1960 my life had a degree of stability though I could be snapped up and removed to another home at any time. It was during these years I remember thinking for the first time; “Why was I not a member of any one family?” “Why didn’t anyone want me?” “Why didn’t anyone love me enough to make me their son?” “Why did I keep getting moved from home to home?”

Oh, so many fond memories. I have shared but a few here. If only this could be my permanent home, my family.

The stability of four years came to sudden end in May, 1960, when I was abruptly removed from the Monshor’s home.

I remember that fateful day of May 17, 1960, like it was yesterday. We had celebrated Susan’s sixteenth birthday two days previously. I scampered through the alley from school heading home.

Upon entry into the backyard, I saw Mom. She was crying. She came to me and held me. I looked up and could see inside the enclosed back porch, what had to be a social worker. Without a word being said, I knew then why Mom was crying. I was again going to be taken from the only ones I ever called Mom and Dad.

I broke down crying as Mom held me tightly. I tried as best as a ten year old could to reassure Mom. I told her, “It’s okay Mom, I’ll be all right. No matter where they send me, you’ll always be Mom.”

With that, I dried my eyes, went inside to “paper bag” my worldly possessions not knowing what would be in store for me. I knew I had to be brave for Mom! I packed a just a few possessions in the bag and went out to the living room. There was Mom standing by the social worker still crying. She asked where were all my other things? I told her she might care for another little boy and I would want him to have them.

I, one more time, hugged Mom and told her I loved her and to tell Dad the same. With that, before starting to cry again, I told the social worker I was ready. I ended up being the last foster child Mom and Dad would care for.

As the social worker and I made our way to the front door I could still hear Mom crying. I had to keep walking. Throughout all this the social worker said nothing. Little did I know, I would never again be returned to Mom and Dad’s home.

However, Catholic Charites didn’t know I was already a very determined young boy and that they could not break the bond that had been established. Six and a half years of my ten years of life had been spent with the Monshors. They had cared for me and loved me, my feelings toward them could not and would not be changed.

The removal from their home did not end my relationship with the Mom and Dad.

I was sent to another foster home where I was to stay for nine months…it was a house of horrors.

In April 1961 I was sent to Boys Town, Nebraska where I would remain for the next seven and a half years.

During those years I remained in close contact with the Monshors. I considered them to be my family no matter what anyone said.

Upon my graduation from Boys Town in 1968, I was released as a ward of the court. I was considered an adult and able to do as I wished. I continued to write and visit Mom and Dad. Yes, though I had not lived with them for eight years, they still were Mom and Dad to me.

I wrote them during my college years and as I went out in the world to make it on my own. I visited them whenever I could make my way to Detroit.

How well I remember my last visit when I saw Dad. He was sitting in the kitchen as the visit ended. I got down on my knees to give him a big hug and tell him that I loved him. He didn’t seem to want to let go. When he finally did, I looked up at him and for the first time I can remember, saw tears in his eyes.

Dad was not a very demonstrative man. That day he seemed to be telling me that he knew this would be the last time we would see each other. It was his way of saying good-bye and also that he loved me. I took him back in my arms to hug him once again, and to let him know I understood what he was saying and to repeat that I loved him. We both ended up in tears.

On October 15, 1975, Ernest Monshor (Dad) died at age 66.

Just eight short years later on April 24, 1983 Mildred Monshor (Mom) also passed away at age 71.

Mom and Dad never told me during their lives that they attempted to adopt me as their son. I would learn of this only after Mom’s death, during the search for my birth parents.

If they could have told me, it would have eased the pain of my youth thinking that I was a child not wanted. I believe they, in their own protective way, thought they were again shielding me from hurt and don’t hold their not telling me against them.

Mom and Dad had attempted to adopt me in early 1960. They were denied with no reason given. It was just weeks after that I was removed from their home.

A couple years after Mom’s passing I decided to write Sonny Monshor. I wanted to share some memories of Mom and Dad with him and also hoped to obtain some pictures of them and myself during my childhood years.

I had not heard from Sonny at this point for over a quarter of a century. I did not receive a reply to my letter to Sonny and thought that this would be the end of my story and relationship with the Monshors. I would be left alone in this world and just have my memories of them to cherish.

Eighteen years passed since that letter to Sonny. Many times  I had thought of writing to Sonny one more time…each time I responded with a NO. I did not want to get hurt again.

On April 15, 2003, I had a change of heart. For some reason I could no longer tell myself no. I wrote Sonny a short letter. I have to be honest and say I did not expect a reply.

I worked nights. So I can sleep during the day, I turn the ringer of my phone off. Many days I leave it off after I awake so I am also not bothered by the bombardment of telemarketers. I let my answering machine screen calls. Well, many days I tend to forget to even look at my answering machine to see if there are any messages on it. I do this even though the machine is right next to my home computer and I am at it everyday.

On Monday, April 21, 2003, after not checking my machine for a few days, I suddenly looked over at it. I saw there were two messages on it.

WOW! You could have blown me over with a feather when I listened to the first message. “Hi Larry, this is Sonny Monshor.” There were a couple things in between, but ended with; “Marge is with me, and she’s still my gal.” Memories of that Christmas night in 1953 (50 years prior) came flooding back again. I was overwhelmed and on cloud nine!

I didn’t even listen to the second message on the machine. I immediately attempted to return Sonny’s call. The line was busy and would remain so for the next half hour. Talk about the need for patience…grrrrr 🙂

After the sixth attempt, I heard the phone ringing. Marge answered the phone and I asked for Sonny without identifying myself. I heard Marge yell out to Sonny, “I think it’s OUR Larry!” She also came back to me saying, “It is Larry, isn’t it?” “Yes, Marge,” I responded. My head was still spinning from the words “OUR LARRY.” OUR, I had not talked with them in now over forty years.

My last time with them was in 1959 when Sonny got a job with NASA. They came to the house to say good-bye to the folks. I remember crying as I clung to Marge and Sonny and the two little girls I considered my nieces, Gayle and Maryann…forced to say good-bye to people I had grown to love.

Soon Sonny came to the phone. “Larry, how are you” he said. It was like we had last spoken only yesterday, rather than 40+ years ago. Then without hesitation, the shocker of the call came.

I heard Sonny say, “Do you know WE tried to adopt you?” Yes, I learned Mom and Dad tried to adopt me once,” I said. “No, not Mom and Dad…Marge and I,” was the reply. I am briefly stunned. “What do you mean,” I said. Then out came yet another surprise.

“Mom and Dad tried to adopt you when you came back home in 1956. They were denied. When that happened, because Marge and I loved you so much also…we then tried to adopt you. We wanted you as part of OUR family. We saw how you loved Gayle and tried to be her big brother…and we wanted you to be.”

“Oh my God, I never knew of Mom and Dad’s first attempt and had no clue you ever tried. You aren’t kidding me are you?” That was my reply.

Sonny then shared how devastated Mom and Dad were when they were denied in their adoption attempt. They wanted so much for me to permanently be part of the family…and to be their SON.

I now understood why the SON stocking was hung on the fireplace that Christmas in 1956. Mom and Dad were hoping it would become true!

Sonny and Marge had married in 1954. Marge had Gayle as her first born and then Maryann. They wanted a son as well as a big brother for the girls. I fit the role perfectly and they also loved me. I would also permanently be a part of the family, though Mom and Dad would then be called Grandma and Grandpa. Instead of having Sonny as a brother and Marge as a sister-in-law they hoped to become Mom and Dad. They were not approved and no reason was given.

I would have been happy and proud to call them Mom and Dad. I would have been able to call Sonny’s parents Grandmother and Grandfather. A year later they made their move to Florida never to see or talk to me again until this day…44 years later!

I just found it so hard to believe, though I knew it was true, what Sonny was telling me. Not ONCE but THREE TIMES someone told the foster care system they wanted me as their son. Three times they denied the request. I kept going back to this as Sonny and I continued our lengthy conversation. It had to sink in. To think I was allowed to go through my childhood into my adult life thinking no one wanted me as thier son.

Maybe it is better I am just finding out recently of these attempts to adopt me. I know I am better able to deal with the pain I feel now than I would have been able to as a 6 year old, or eight year old and even as a ten year old. Now I know how untrue this feeling actually was. I knew I was loved and now I know I was wanted far more than I ever even imagined before.
Sonny and I, and Marge, as she was on a second line, talked about so many things as time rolled by. He recalled the story of Christmas 1953 as if it were just yesterday along with other memories. We talked about our lives since those days.

Marge ,at one point, interjected how different I sounded. I had to remind her I was no longer the soprano voiced nine year old she remembered, but now a man of fifty-three. I hope my voice had changed 🙂

I brought up the subject of my letter of eighteen years prior. Yes, Sonny remembered getting it but never being able to reply to it. It was lost. They had hoped throughout these past years that I would write again so they could contact me. Here all these years I believed I had been rejected. Oh so many lost years because of a simple misunderstanding!

Sonny told me that he couldn’t remember how many times over the years that he and Marge had thought about me; how they had talked of me and wondered how I was, where I was and what I might be doing?

As I sit here writing this I think of the years I thought Sonny looked at me as just another of the foster kids Mom and Dad had in their home. I now find out that it was his heartfelt desire…if he couldn’t have me as his brother…he wanted me as his SON! What an awesome thought. I have chills running down my spine as I think of it. Oh, how wrong I had been.

There were many other thoughts shared during this conversation, but I choose to keep them within myself.

We ended our conversation, so grateful on all our parts, that this day had finally come. We would write, talk on the phone and hopefully soon be able to see each other face to face again.

They provided many the old family photographs which has allowed me to see myself not as a blank slate between my baby picture and a picture at age eleven, which has been the picture for over 40 years.

That night at work, despite the length of conversation, I wrote a long letter to Sonny and Marge. The one thing I remember saying was, “I would have been happy and proud to have been able to call them Mom and Dad.” I enclosed with the letter pictures of me at eleven and eighteen along with more recent pictures. They can see me as the youth they remember, and now as the adult I have become.

The loss of forty-four years of sharing with Sonny, Marge and the girls weighs heavily on my heart. The feeling of “what if” and “if only” repeats itself in my mind. SO many opportunities lost; so many could have been memories never to be memories. How different my life might have turned out…though I will not sit here and complain.

Alas, I cannot dwell on what has happened as I do not have the ability to undo anything. Things have happened and are forever written in the chapters of our lives. But today, we are given a new opportunity to create a new chapter in this book of life. To create memories, to create sharing experiences and most importantly…to share the love that has always been there for each other. Now that we have found, we will not let the opportunity for a second chance slip through our fingertips.

In May 2004, at their invite, I travelled to Florida to help them celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. I spent a great four days with them. I went home with even more photographs of my childhood, including a photo taken of me at 3 days old.

Marge has suffered a major stroke since my trip. She also suffers now from severe dementia. She has been in a nursing home for over a year and a half and has survived death’s call more than once during this time. Sonny also has several medical issues.

I hope and pray that my finances will alow me to make another trip to see them before either of them are called home.

I have spent the past forty years in the search of this peace within myself. I now know that not only did someone love me, but also wanted me as a Son. I found a degree of comfort, in finding my birth parents, siblings and extended family…but nothing compares to the peace I have now. I know now, my long searching journey is over. I have found what I have been looking for these past many years. I am home, I have my family…I can ask no more of life.

My life has now come full circle. From the Monshor home full of love and acceptance, to many years of wandering in the wilderness of life not knowing if anyone cared, to home again with people I have always loved.

I know I will do other research, as the interest in genealogy is there. But the searches will be for genealogical purposes only…I have found EVERYTHING else that I was searching for.

I know throughout my life, in a spiritual way, that I have not walked alone. In real life, many times I have felt I have…that feeling will be no more!

Rest in peace Dennis…Rest in peace Dad…Rest in peace Mom…I’m home.

3 Responses

  1. Wow. What an amazing and touching story. I hope you are able to go back.

  2. Well, that answers my previous question.

    I am so happy for them, for you of course, but for them. I have interviewed adults who were fostering children. I ask them what was most difficult, what was the best part, what advice they would give to fostering children.

    IN EVERY SINGLE CASE, the adult struggles not to cry when they tell me about the sibling the attached to who was taken from their family. One boy spent 45 minutes at a Y because he thought the name he saw on the sign-in sheet might be the sister the social worker took away a year before.

    The system causes so much pain for so many people.

    I am SO GLAD you were able to reconnect to the family who loved and wanted you.

  3. Wow! I love both your honesty and trust to allow us into your life, your journey, and your history. To hear that you were a desirable youth must fill such a void for you. I can only imagine the years of pain you have endured and I am glad to see something your heart begining to heal. I am new to your blog and I look forward to reading more of your experiences within the foster care system.

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