I got permission to share this. I'm still going to use only first names though. I wanted my family and those who knew me back then, to have this update.
I had quite the shock last Wednesday in the middle of the night. First I will explain. Shortly after Bill and I were married in 1974, we moved into some apartments on East Yale in Fresno. In order to afford our own apartment, we managed the 9 unit complex. I also made daily morning and evening calls for the Disabled Vetarens, and I took care of 3 baby girls, Kari, Carrie, and Rochelle after placing a small ad in our local paper for infant care. I've always loved babies so I thought this was a pretty sweet deal.
(Can you even imagine answering an ad in the paper looking for care for your little baby?? This was almost 4 decades ago and I think we were all a lot more trusting back then.)
Carrie and Rochelle moved away after a few months but I continued caring for Kari. I had her every week day from 7:30-6pm. Often her Mom would have me keep her overnight and for the weekends too.
Kari 8 months old (Robin brought this picture over today!)
Bill and I moved 3 times during this period of time but Kari's Mom would always keep me as her baby's tender. Bill and I loved Kari. She was our “family” at the time. She was such a good natured child, and so endearing. Very easy to love. I would get paid $30. a week, and more if I had her all weekend….and we needed every penny of that back then.
So I got Kari when she was 7 weeks old, and cared for her until just a few weeks before Brock was born. Kari was near 2 at the time. Her Mom was hoping I would keep taking care of Kari after Brock was born but my health wasn't the best and I needed to focus all my time and attention on my first born. I wanted to be the best mother I could be and I felt I owed Brock that.
I think the last time we ever saw Kari, she was about 2. About that time her Mom found her some care elsewhere. I always assumed her Mom would find another person like myself who would love her like we did. I was too young and naive back then to realize really good childcare is hard to find. I also did not understand back then about attachments to care givers. I just thought…hey, I love her, but she's not mine. I'm not her mom. She has a good Mom, or so I thought.
I did find out that sometime soon after Kari left my care, her parents divorced. Then when Kari was about 5, her Mom sent me a Christmas card showing the two of them along with her Mom's new husband. I assumed all was well. It looked so on that Christmas card.
I became of course very involved in being a Mom to 4 children of my own. I thought of Kari through the years and as time went on, I thought about her even more. Who was taking care of her? How was her Mom doing? DId Kari like her new step father? I wondered all that. I missed watching her grow up. I expected her Mom and I would keep in touch through the years and was disappointed when that didn't happen. I sent Christmas cards but never heard back again.
As time went on and my sons got a little older I wondered about Kari often. So did my Mom. She went to the genealogy library at our local church building and tried to look her up. Nothing came up. Nothing at all. So strange….I wondered if they moved far away? Still why wasn't Kari H's name on the computers?
Not sure who Kari is with in this picture
When my Mom and Dad went on their mission to Salt Lake City at the Family HIstory center, about 1994, Mom did a more detailed search for Kari. Still nothing. All we were looking for was an address so I could write to them.
Several years ago Dennis searched on the internet. Nothing.
I had also looked several times on Facebook for her. No Kari H came up. But then about 4 weeks ago, last Dec 15th my sister Heidi was over visiting and we began talking about Kari and our different memories of her. I mentioned to Heidi that I periodically checked on Facebook but haven't had any luck. Then I decided to check again right then. Surprisingly I did find a Kari H this time! No pictures, nothing but her name… so I left a message. A few days passed with no message back so I assumed it was not the Kari H I was looking for.
So fast forward to last Wednesday about 2am. I had gotten up because I couldn't sleep. Normally when this happens I almost never turn on my computer, but this time I did. And normally I don't go to Facebook, much. But this time I did. And there was a response from Kari! I could hardly believe it! Even thinking for half a second that maybe I was dreaming since it was in the middle of the night. She said, yes, I had the right Kari H but she rarely goes to that Facebook page and instead referred me to another page that has her adopted name. What did she mean, her adopted name? That made no sense. So I went to the new name of Kari D and messaged her there like she requested.
I soon heard back from her but she began by apologizing for the bad news she was about to give me. She said her mother left her on the doorstep of Infant of Prague when she was 7 years old! I was completely shocked! She was given up for adoption, but soon her Dad found out and he was able to get her back which broke her adopted family's hearts. Kari lived in different houses with her Dad and his biker friends. Not sure the details but Kari said it was a terrifying childhood.
That same year, while I believe she was still 7, she was put in foster care and raised there until age 17. She got married and then had two kids. She worked at the phone company. But after she divorced her first husband, she joined the police academy and became a cop for awhile. Presently she is happily married to a fire fighter and they have a 6 year old son together. She went back to school in 2009 and received her 2 year degree with honors and presently she is in the engineering program at the university. I always new she was smart!
Kari said she is happier than she has ever been in her life. I am thankful for that but I feel horrible that I wasn't able to keep contact with her. I SO regret that I did not continue taking care of Kari after I had Brock. If I had had an inkling as to how her life would go, I would have kept her with me. But I didn't. If I had known she was in the foster care system, I would have sighed up for that. She would have been safe with me and she would have had a great life with us. I loved her!
I thought I was doing the right thing by "quitting" child care when I gave birth to Brock. I felt I owed that to him. It just makes me sick inside that she went on to suffer. While my sons were loved and cared for and protected, she was deserted by her Mom and put in the foster care system. She said she has lived in about 33 homes! I wrote and told Kari how I felt. I also told her that she was well taken care of until she was nearly 2 because I had her most all the time, certainly most of her waking hours.
I am still trying to process this.
The story gets even more shocking to me. So the next morning I read again Kari's messages and suddenly I remembered that my daughter in law, Amy, has a good friend with the same last name as Kari's new last name. Could they possibly have a connection to Kari? I mentioned this to Dennis but he blew it off by saying, “There are lots of people out there with that last name.”
Amy happened to come by that day to see our newly painted furniture. As we were talking I thought again of Kari's new last name and asked if Amy's friend had ever mentioned an adoption in the family. Amy said, “I don't know, but I'll text her right now.” She texted: “Do you know a Kari-D?” Her friend texted right back: “Yes, she's Pat's (her husband) sister. Why?” After a few more texts it was clear this was the same Kari!
Turns out Kari was put in the D home when she was 11 as a foster child, and she stayed there until she was 17 when she got married. So Kari was raised with Amy's friend's husband! They became close siblings. It wasn't until Kari was 31, and after the divorce of her first husband, that she became adopted by the D family and changed her name to Kari D. In fact Amy thinks she has met Kari at D family functions through the years.
I am just in awe. Regret still. But in awe how life can be.
Kari is a fighter. She's obviously a survivor. There is something deep within her that no one was able to take away. I knew she was special. I knew it!
Our last day with Kari back in 1977, I borrowed a camera and took a picture of Bill holding her. He loved her as much as I did. We kept that picture on our fridge for years. So much so that I think it eventually disintegrated because I can't find it anywhere.
Bill and I took her to a studio or store or to get this one taken.
She was not much older than this the last time we saw her.
Her Mom use to call her Muffin. She would bring her to me each morning freshly bathed and ready with clean clothes and prepared food and bottles. Once she outgrew the baby food, her Mom would bring little tupperware containers of cottage cheese along with a fresh egg for me to cook up later and mix with the cottage cheese. Or she would make up some jello so she would have a treat after lunch that day. How can a Mom who calls her sweet little baby Muffin decide to just give her away when she was 7? Every time I think about it I get this sick feeling inside. Some things in this life I just can't understand. Kari and I plan to meet soon. I'm looking forward to it.
"Charity is accepting someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn't handle something the way we might have hoped...The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people..." -Marvin J. Ashton