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What’s in it for me? January 3, 2010

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.

Enjoying game night at HSBC Arena

“You’ve got to have faith!”

“Yeah, whatever,” I thought. Hardly in the mood for youthful optimism, I’d just watched the Buffalo Sabres allow their opponent a third goal in a scoreless effort against the Atlanta Thrashers. This was my first visit to HSHC Arena for the NHL season, but I had so seen this storyline play out before. I was not in the mood to be lectured by a teenager.

But for Austin, dressed in my Sabres jersey and a Sabres cap we’d purchased prior to the game, this was his first-ever live hockey game. Earlier in the evening, I was having a tough time containing my pride watching him take on a passion for the sport. It was similar to how I had developed an interest in hockey at his age.

My RIT coworker Dan Christner and Austin's new best friend

“Any team that can come back from 3 goals behind against Pittsburgh can do it again,” he said. Austin and I had watched it happen from our home just a few nights earlier. And I knew he was right. But as a severely damaged Buffalo sports fan, I wouldn’t dare allow myself to believe it.

But when Jochen Hecht buried the Sabres’ first goal nearing the end of the second period, Austin just looked at me and pointed at the ice as to say, “Hello?” Of course, Buffalo went on to win 4-3 in overtime, becoming the first NHL team to overcome two consecutive 3-goal deficits in 4 years.

So what’s in it for me?

Nobody has really asked me that in point-blank fashion regarding my desire to adopt Austin, but I think that moment at the hockey game crystallizes my reasoning. Most people react like I’m doing this incredibly heroic thing by bringing him into my life, and I appreciate that. But I’m not completely selfless.

Checking out Niagara Falls earlier that day

Truth is my confidence and optimism have been slowly taking a beating over 20+ years as an adult, and I find him feeding it back to me. He’s already riding me hard about my not dating. And he’s right, again. Never give up. Like the Sabres, if you keep trying, you might be rewarded.

So, this weekend, I returned Austin to Kentucky to await news of his permanent placement with me. At some point within the next month, he will officially become my foster son on the road to eventual adoption. He slept during a large portion of the trip down, so for me it was an opportunity to reflect quietly on our two weeks together. We sure packed a lot into a relatively short period, and I confess I probably spoiled him.

Ice skating at RIT's Ritter Arena

Throughout our time together, I kept joking, “You’re a rock star now, but don’t get used to it! You’ll be nothing special when you get back here for good.” Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had done too much. Had I created too great an expectation?

The answer came after we arrived at our destination. The family that Austin would be staying with was very welcoming, and I knew he’d be in good hands. As I toured the house, everything suddenly came into perspective. There in the corner of the guest bedroom, gathered together in a small pile, was the accumulation of Austin’s worldly possessions—a boom box, a tool box, several other boxes filled with various items and maybe a couple of bags full of other stuff.

Spending time at Stella Collision with my brother Chris and his wife Gina

Had I spoiled him? You’re damn right I did! I suddenly wished I could have spoiled him more. For years this kid has dreamt of being an ordinary teenager—with a permanent family—and I’d probably just given him the first meaningful Christmas of his short lifetime. Yeah, there were lots of gifts to open, but I know the embrace of a family who was immediately crazy about him meant more than all those gifts combined.

It’s been fun watching Austin blossom during his visit with me, and it was interesting to figure out all the ways I can guide him when he returns. For example, I learned he can be cocky. That’s not a bad thing, but I know he’ll need my help understanding how to measure that impulse.

Grampa Joe definitely made the biggest impression

That’s why I was surprised when I saw that look on his face again—the one I recognized when we met for the first time in Lexington and then again when he arrived at the Rochester airport. It happened as I was preparing to return home, and he walked me out to my car. I turned to him and saw it—the look—concern, almost fear. All I could think to do was throw my arms around him and tell him I loved him.

“I love you too,” I heard back.

Yeah, you’ve got to have faith. Everything’s going to work out in the end.

Out on the Lake Ontario pier next to the Irondequoit Bay outlet



1. Pattie - January 3, 2010

“You are exactly where you are meant to be. Everything in your past has prepared you for this very moment. Live every day as if everything you want, you already have. “Thoughts become things” – Mike Dooley. Author of “Infinite Possibilities-the Art of Living Your Dreams” the first Kindle Book I purchased 🙂

Took me 40 years to really get it. Looks like Austin has a heads up on both of us. Can’t wait to meet him.

2. Ron - January 4, 2010

Meeting Austin was a great pleasure! It is about time someone kicked you in the butt, lord knows you never listen to any of us! 🙂 Thank goodness the Sabres won and both you and I are allowed to see another game live! He is right though, you can’t give up on anything you want in life! We’ll talk more this week! 🙂

3. jean kase - January 4, 2010

The balance between what we can teach our children and what we can learn from them really resonates with me. It calls you to keep trying to be your best, your highest self. We’re excited for both of you, and looking forward to being part your life together!

4. Stellavision: 2010 in review « Stellavision - January 2, 2011

[…] What’s in it for me? January 2010 3 comments 3 […]

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