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Forever Under Wraps

FOREVER UNDER WRAPS BY LOIS JEAN THOMAS. DECEMBER 2023 Three days ago, right after she got home from work, my neighbor Neveah Clark, came banging on my front door, yelling, “Auntie Lydia, you won't believe what just happened.” I'm used to this, as Neveah does this a lot. She bangs on my door, then barges in on me, calling out something that she believes will be impressive news. The last five years, this news has involved her starting her training as a phlebotomist at our local Community College; getting and A on a test; doing her first blood draw; getting hired to work in the lab at the hospital. I always have to make a big fuss about her news and let her know how proud I am of her. And I am proud of her. Considering what she has been through, she’s doing very well in life. A month ago, her big news was of a different nature. She told me she had submitted her DNA to the “Ancestry” website. For some reason, that shook me up a little bit. Of course, I didn't let her know that. Neveah isn't actually my niece, not by blood. But maybe you could say I am her aunt in spirit. Neveah has lived next door to me all her life, in the house once owned by her grandparents. She has called me Auntie Lydia ever since she learned to talk. Even though I don't always enjoy her barging into my house, I am so glad to have her in my life. My life would feel so empty if she stopped telling me every little detail about what she does, and about what happens to her. After submitting her DNA to “Ancestry,” she started receiving information about where her ancestors came from. Of course, she had to tell me all about that, as she always does. Then she began receiving notifications about relationships. First, there were cousin relationships. But these weren't surprises to her, as she already knew these cousins. But her news three days ago absolutely floored me. “Auntie Lydia,” She exclaimed,” I just received a notification about a full-brother relationship. His name is Dakota O’Donnell. We have been emailing each other. He is just as surprised as I am to discover an unknown sibling relationship.” Well, perhaps I am more shocked than both of them at hearing the news. Is it a good thing for Koty to show up at this point in Neveah's life? I am not sure. But I think, from this point on, I need to say that what I am about to tell you needs to be kept under wraps. That's why I am not going to tell you my full name or where I live. I don't want anything to get back to Koty or Nevaeh. I don't want them putting the pieces together. This needs to remain forever a secret. “Koty. (That's what Dakota goes by,” Neveah said, “Told me that He'd been placed in foster care, and that he’d been adopted when he was three years old.” When she said that, I thought my heart was going to pound its way through my chest. “Why didn't Mom tell me I had a brother?” Nevaeh asked. Neveah asks me a lot of questions about her mother. Some of which I can't answer, and all of which I don't want to answer. Like about a year ago when she walked up to me and pointed to the faint white scar on her cheek. “Mom told me, that this is from where a dog bit me when I was a baby. How could Mom let a dog attack her baby like that. Do you know anything about this, Auntie Lydia?” She asked. “No,” I said truthfully, “I don't know anything about a dog attacking you.” That is absolutely true, because the dog attack never happened. But that isn't the full truth. It isn't my place to tell the full truth. Doing so wouldn't help anyone.” “Did you know Mom put another child up for adoption?” Nevaeh asked after she told me about making contact with Koty. I needed to find a way to word my answer so that it wouldn’t be a bold- faced lie. “I did know that she put an older child up for adoption,” I said half-heartedly. Nevaeh continued to push me. “Why? Why did she put Koty up for adoption, and not me? Why did she separate us? I don't understand.” I had to choose my words carefully. “Sweetheart, I can't presume to guess why your mother did or didn't do certain things.” Neveah pressed on. Tears began running down her cheeks. “Koty told me that he has very faint memories of our mother. He remembers her having long, black hair. He thinks he might even remember a baby sister. He said for that, the last five years he had been trying to track down his birth mother. I hated having to tell him that she died six years ago. That tore him up. But he was so thrilled to find me.” “He asked about our father, too. I told him that I never knew our father. That he died in prison. He asked about the cause of his death. I told him that I never knew. Do you know Auntie Lydia?” “No,” I said truthfully. I was so glad that I didn't have to be the keeper of that secret. “So, what do you know about your brother?” I asked. Neveah. “You know that whenever long-lost family members reunite, there is always disappointment. Involved. I want you to be prepared for that.” But Nevaeh was undaunted. “I trust Koty,” she said. “I have no reason not to, I know, he is married, and that he has one child, a three-year old daughter. He is 28 years old now. He works as an X-ray technician. We are both amazed that we both ended up working in the medical field. He said it must be in the DNA!” “Just this morning,” Nevaeh continued, “Koty said he wants to meet me in person.” “Where does he live,” I asked, hoping. It was somewhere across the country. “He lives on the north side of the city,” she said excitedly. “Only 15 minutes from here. I told him where I live, and he plans to come over to meet me this weekend.” I wished she would stop telling me all this stuff. I didn't want to be involved anymore, just like I didn't want to be involved when this mess all started,26 years ago. It was 26 years ago when Penny Hoffman, with her son Dakota, moved into the house next door to me. At that time, she was seven or eight months pregnant with her second child. The father of her babies, Randy, was in prison for armed robbery. At the time, Penny virtually had nothing to do with Randy anymore. I figured that was a good thing, but perhaps it wasn't, considering who came along later. You might think I'm a busybody because I started watching what went on next door from the vantage point of my front-porch swing. A day or two after she moved in, Penny’s new boyfriend, Eddie started coming around, staying with Penny and Koty for two or three days at a time. I could tell right away that he was a rough character. He had the most vulgar mouth I had ever heard on a man. Often, I would watch Eddie out in the yard, roughhousing with little Koty. It was way too much for the toddler to handle. Koty was a beautiful child with jet black hair and big brown eyes. He was a skinny little guy, who was decidedly hyperactive? Eddie would refer to Koty. As the ‘demon child.’ He would swear at Penny and say, “If you don't get your demon child under control, then I will. And he did control Koty, who was scared to death of his mother's boyfriend. When Koty would get out of hand, Eddie would put him in a restraint that looked as if it could snap the toddler’ skinny little arms and legs like twigs. I could see that Eddie was teaching Koty to be aggressive. After Eddie would hang around Penney's house for a few days, then he would disappear for a couple of weeks, which was always a relief to me. Once when he was gone, I confronted Penny about what I had seen Eddie do to her child. “He's going to hurt Koty, or he's going to teach Koty to hurt someone else.” “Eddie won't hurt Koty,” she assured me. “He loves him like he's his own child.” “I hope you're right,” I said. “Please just keep your eyes open.” “If Eddie gets out of line, I'll get rid of him, she assured me.” The closer Penny came to her delivery date, the more I doubted her ability to handle two children, when she was clearly struggling to handle the one child she already had. The day after Penny brought her newborn baby girl home from the hospital. I went over to see her. She was a beautiful baby. She looked a lot like her brother Koty, with her dark eyes and jet-black hair. I could tell that Penny was enthralled with her baby girl. She informed me that she had named the baby ‘Nevaeh,’ “which is heaven spelled backward,” she pointed out. “Neveah is my special gift from heaven.” I could see that she was over the moon about her baby daughter, in a way that she had never been about her son. To my dismay, Eddie was at the house at the time I went over, ostensibly to take care of Koty while Penny nursed her baby. Of course, he was roughhousing way too hard with Koty. At one point, Koty started to cry. Eddie growled, “Stop being such a pussy.” Koty stopped crying immediately and swallowed his distress. A moment later, when he started crying again, Eddie clamped his rough hand over Koty's mouth. Evidently, Koty bit him, because Eddie shook his hand free, and turned Koty over his knee and swatted his backside. When Koty cried again, Eddie repeated, “Stop being such a pussy.” “Back off Eddie.” Penny snapped at Eddie. “You need to go home now.” Penny was nursing Nevaeh at the time. I suddenly saw that her boyfriend was jealous over the attention she was giving to her newborn.”” “If you would put that baby down long enough to take care of your other kid,” Eddie said, “then I wouldn't have to handle things myself. You don’t need to have that baby latched on to you all the time.” He then stormed out of the house, Without so much as a goodbye to Penny. After that, I took it upon myself to go over to Penney's house at least once a day, to give her a little break from childcare. That always involved me looking after Koty, while she tended to the baby. I could quickly tell that Eddie wasn't the only one who was jealous of the attention Penny was giving to the new baby. Clearly, Koty could sense that his mother didn't love him the same way she loved his sister. Time and again, I said to Penny, “Let me take care of the baby for a while. You need to spend some time with your son.” “That's all I do all day long,” when you aren't here,” She snapped at me. I just need some time alone with Nevaeh, without him hanging on me.” I recognize the fact that the best I could do for Penny was to take care of her older child. Every time I went over to her house, I took a bag with me, packed with storybooks, puzzles, toy animals, and snacks. Every time Koty saw me coming with that special bag, he would chortle with joy. As it turned out, Koty and I bonded, and we got along just fine. And even though he wore me out, I enjoyed my time with him. One day when Nevaeh was about two months old. I was watching Penny on her porch with her two children. The baby was being fussy. Koty began yelling at Nevaeh, “Don't be such a pussy.” It was chilling to hear those ugly words spoken in his sweet baby voice. Then when Penny turned her back on her children for a moment, I watched Koty clamp his hand over his baby sister's mouth, still calling, “Don't be such a pussy.” “Penny, Penny!” I shouted, “Watch Koty!” When she saw what was happening, she picked up her wailing infant, and headed into the house, slamming the door behind her. Koty tried to follow His mother into the house but was unable to manage the door on his own. I ran over to be with him. I picked up the weeping toddler and sang to him while I held him in my arms. Then Penny stepped out the door and took her son into the house with her. “Why are you being so sweet to him,” She asked me, “after he's been so bad.” Days later, when Penny came outside with her children again, her phone began to ring. “Lydia,” she called over to me, “Can you keep an eye on the kids while I run inside and get the phone?” “Sure,” I called, and I ran the short distance from my house to hers. As I approached her porch, where Nevaeh was sitting in her baby carrier, I saw Koty grab a toy truck then swing back and slam it into her head. She began wailing. I unstrapped her from the seat, and picked her up, attempting to comfort her, but her screams wouldn't stop. Apparently, feeling ignored, Koty began crying, too, and he clung to my leg. Then Penny popped out of her house. “What on earth is going on?” she asked me in an accusing tone. I explained how Koty had hit his sister with the toy truck. “Why didn't you stop him?” Penny demanded to know. “I did,” I told her. “I stopped him as quickly as I could.” “So, you see what I go through with this Demon Child,” she said, glaring at Koty. “It's not his fault,” I said, jumping to the little boy's defense.” Eddie taught him how to act like this.” “I know, I know,” she said dismissively, “you think everything is Eddie's fault.” Then she took her two children into the house with her. Sick at heart, I went back home, asking God to protect that little household. Just about a month later, Penny came banging on my door. At 11:00 one night, yelling, “Lydia, Lydia, come help, come help.” Alarmed, I followed her back to her house. “What happened?” I asked. “I put Nevaeh. In her crib about an hour ago,” she replied. “Then, just a few minutes ago I heard her crying. It sounded strange, really hoarse. Then, when I got to her crib, she wasn't breathing.” I rushed after Penny into her house and into the children's bedroom. I went straight to Nevaeh's crib. Thankfully, I saw immediately that she was breathing, although it sounded a little raspy. And I saw her choke a little, with each breath. “Is she sick?” I asked Penny. “She sounds like she has a cold, or some kind of respiratory infection.” “I don't think so.” Penny said, “She was fine when I put her down.” “What happened here?” I asked. Pointing to traces of blood on the baby's cheek. “I don't know,” Penny said, “That wasn't there before.” “You don't think Koty did that to her, do you?” she asked. I noticed that Nevaeh’s sheet and blanket were askew. As if something had been in the crib with her. “I don't know,” I said. “Is Koty able to climb into her crib?” “Oh yes,” Penny said, “He climbs in and out of his own crib all the time.” “You don't think he hurt her, do you?” Penny asked. I shrugged, feigning cluelessness, although at that point, I knew with certainty what had happened. “Oh my God!” Penny wailed, “What am I supposed to do now?” “Well, right now,” I said, “you need to get Neveah to the emergency room.” “Will you come with me?” She pleaded. “Where's Koty?” I asked, “I'll look after him while you get Nevaeh taken care of.” Koty wasn't in his crib, where Penny had put him down for the night. We looked around the room, under the crib and behind the furniture. The toddler was nowhere to be found. Then I heard a muffled sob come from the closet. I flipped on the light, and there he was huddled in the corner. I held out my arms. “Come here Koty.” I pleaded. He shook his head. “We can read stories,” I said. Then he moved into my arms, still whimpering. I picked him up and patted his little back. “It's OK Koty,” I reassured him. “How can you say that?” Penny said, “It's not OK. How can you hold him like that after what he's done? He's a horrible little monster!” Ignoring her comment, I said “Penny, grab your keys, we need to get the kids in the car.” Under my directives, we were on the way to the hospital within minutes. When we pulled up and parked near the emergency room entrance, Penny grabbed Nevaeh and rushed into the hospital. I struggled to unbuckle a squirming Koty and lift him out of his car seat. As he watched his mother rush away with the baby in her arms, He began to wail, “Mommy, Mommy. I want Mommy.” “It's OK, Koty” I said, trying to comfort him, “We'll go in and find her.” He wasn't buying into that. He squirmed in my arms, trying to get down. And then he sunk his teeth into my shoulder. I immediately sat him down and grabbed his hand. But he broke loose and ran after his mother. Finally, I enlisted the help of the security guard on duty. When he caught hold of the toddler, Koty immediately settled down. He had a terrified look on his face. I suddenly realized, that, because of his experience with Eddie, Koty had developed a fear of all men. I stayed with Koty in the waiting room, where I entertained him with toys, while Penny carried Neveah into a treatment room. I could hear Penny talking with the Doctor. At one point, I heard her say, in response to the doctor's question. “Does anyone else know what happened?” “My neighbor Lydia Does,” she said. “Is it OK if I speak with her?” The doctor asked. “That's fine,” Penny replied. Moments later, the doctor stepped out into the waiting room. When he called my name, I lifted my hand to identify myself. “Are you Miss Hoffman's neighbor?” He asked. “Yes,” I said. “I live next door to her.” “Are you familiar with what goes on in Miss Hoffman's household?” I nodded. “Unfortunately, I am,” I replied. “The baby has human bite marks on her cheek,” he said. “She also has fingernail scratches on her chest. I suspect that her raspy breathing has been caused by someone choking her.” I put my hand to my mouth, crying out in dismay. The doctor continued. “Miss Hoffman said that her three-year old son might have done this. Is this him?” I nodded. “Yes, this is Koty.” “Do you think he is capable of this kind of aggression?” The doctor asked. It took everything in me to speak the truth. I felt as if I was betraying an innocent child. “Yes,” I said. “I know he bites hard! He bit me while I was carrying him into the hospital. I stretched aside the neck of my shirt to show the doctor the bite marks on my shoulder. Then he bent down to look at Koty, Koty cringed and pushed the doctor away. “It's OK,” I assured him. “The doctor wants to help.” The Doctor then squeezed Koty's cheeks, gently encouraging him to open his mouth. “Yes,” he said to me. “His teeth. Look like they match the bite marks on the baby's cheek.” Then he took Koty's hand in his, “and his hands are the size that could have easily choked the baby's neck. As he continued to inspect Koty's hands, he exclaimed, “He has blood under his fingernails. We need to get them swabbed for DNA. I’m afraid that Mrs. Hoffman's baby is not safe in her home. “ “What is going to happen?” I asked, suddenly terrified. “We will be calling Child Protective Services, and they will open a case and they will do an investigation. Could I please ask you to stick around? I think they will want to speak with you.” 20 minutes later. A gentleman from CPS walked into the room and introduced himself to me as Mr. Evans. Koty cowered in fear, burying his face against my shoulder. “He is afraid of men,” I said. “Interesting,” Mr. Evans mused, “Has he been abused by a man?” “His mother's boyfriend is very rough with him,” I explained, recounting the things I had seen happening in Penney's backyard. “Have you seen this little fellow be aggressive with his baby sister?” Mr. Evans asked. “Unfortunately, yes,” I said, recounting the things I had witnessed. “I'm afraid he does to his sister what his mother's boyfriend does to him.” “It appears that these children are not safe in their mother's care. We may have to remove one or both of them, at least temporarily.” I couldn't imagine how Penny would survive the loss of her precious baby girl. “Let me attest to this,” I said emphatically. “Penny takes excellent care of her baby. She just can't handle her older child.” Then I added. “And she can't handle her boyfriend.” “Well,” Mr. Evans said, “Let me talk with my supervisor. We will probably at least remove her son from her home. And we'll definitely seek a court order for a restraining order against the boyfriend, to keep him away from the baby.” “What will happen to Koty?” I asked. “We'll put him in foster care,” Mr. Evans replied. “We have a number of licensed homes that do very well with young children. Toddlers and babies are easy to place, and many couples are happy to adopt a baby or toddler.” “Is Koty going to be put up for adoption?” I asked, secretly hoping that would be the case, thinking that might actually be the best option for the child. “Not yet,” Mr. Evans said. “Miss Hoffman’s parental rights would need to be terminated first, either voluntarily or involuntarily. That's the law.” When Mr. Evans ended his conversation with me, he went into the treatment room to talk with Penny and the doctor I heard the doctor say, “I don't believe this infant will be safe in the home with the older child present.” “What do you think Miss Hoffman,” Mr. Evans asked Penny, “Do you think you can keep your baby safe from any further harm?” “I don't know,” she mumbled. “Koty is just so hard to handle.” When Koty heard his mother's voice, He began crying again, calling for her. “I will put Koty in protective care tonight,” Mr. Evans said. “I already have a home arranged for him.” “When are you taking him?” Penny sobbed. “In a few minutes, Mr. Evans replied. Penny stepped out into the waiting area. Koty reached for her, and she took him into her arms, a river of tears running down her face. Koty reached up a little hand and ran his fingers through the water on his mother's face, then he began to cry himself. “I'm so sorry, Koty,” Penny whispered. “Oh, sweetheart, I'm so sorry.” I couldn't help but cry myself. I had never before watched such a heart-wrenching scene. Penny attempted to place Koty into Mr. Evans arms, but Koty wouldn't go to him. I saw that I needed to act as an intermediary. I walked up to Koty and said, “Let's go get a snack. Let's get pretzels.” He immediately came to me, and I carried him down the hallway to the vending machines. I gave him coins to put into the machine, which he found entertaining. Then I helped him reach in and grab his bag of pretzels. I carried the toddler with his snack and placed him in Mr. Evans’ arms. Then I waved my arm at Penny, motioning her to take herself out of Koty's sight. Then I watched Mr. Evans, carrying Koty, move on down the hallway. I was flooded with such a mixture of emotions: sadness, because I suspected that Koty would never see his mother again, but relieved that Nevaeh would now be safe. And I desperately hoped that Koty would be taken to a family that would love him the way he deserved to be loved. The day after I met Mr. Evans in the hospital emergency room. He called me and requested that I come to a court hearing the next day, to make a statement about Eddie's behavior toward Koty. He told me I wasn’t legally required to do it, but that it would be so much appreciated If I would. “We want to make sure,” he said, “That Eddie doesn't get anywhere near either of Penny Hoffman's children again. Your statement could help ensure the safety of the children.” When he put it that way, I knew I needed to do the right thing, and I did, even though I desperately didn't want to get dragged any further into that mess, I stood up and did what I needed to do. Two days later, after the court hearing, Penny came over to my house. “Mr. Evans told me that he is coming to talk to me this afternoon,” she said. “Lydia, would you be willing to be there with me?” Reluctantly, I agreed to be there to support her. In the meeting, Mr. Evans talked about a reunification plan, with the goal of returning Koty to Penny’s care. It would include supervised visits between Penny and Koty. Penny would also be required to take a parenting class. When Mr. Evans proposed a visitation schedule that would start the following weekend, Penney's face turned pale. I knew that the idea of seeing Koty again was overwhelming to her. “I think she needs time, maybe a day or two, to think about this.” I said, jumping to Penny’s defense. “Certainly,” Mr. Evans said, “This isn't anything we are forcing on you. “Then he began to explain the process of terminating parental rights. “If you choose not to do a reunification plan,” he said, “the court will eventually move to terminate your parental rights with your son. But if you want, you can voluntarily terminate your rights at any time.” The confused look on her face told me that Penny was considering that option. “How is Koty doing,” she asked Mr. Evans. “He's doing splendidly,” Mr. Evans replied. “Is he giving his foster parents any problems?” Penny asked. “Nothing, they can't handle,” Mr. Evans replied. “They've made no complaints about him whatsoever. And they are willing to have him in their home indefinitely.” Penny looked sad when she said, “Maybe that is what's best for him, at least for now.” After Mr. Evans left. Penny said. “Lydia, maybe I should just go ahead and sign off on my rights. What do you think of that idea?” “Penny,” I said, “I can't make that decision for you? You have to search your own heart and soul and do what you think is right.” It did not surprise me in the least when, a month later, Penny told me that she had voluntarily signed off on her rights with Koty. Shortly after that, she was informed that Koty’s foster parents had petitioned to adopt him. Two months later, his adoption was finalized. I could see that a great weight had been lifted from Penny's shoulders. As I watched her take care of Neveah, I could see that she was at peace with her decision. Over the upcoming years, Penny raised Nevaeh without any complications. She was, in my estimation, an excellent mother to her daughter. Although she had a string of boyfriends come and go in her life, I watched closely, ready to make a call to Child Protective Services if I had any concerns. Thankfully, none of them turned out to pose any danger to Nevaeh. Then came Ronnie Clark, who seemed to be a genuinely nice guy. Six months after he and Penny met, the two of them were married. And since Nevaeh's biological father had died in prison, Ronnie was able to adopt her as his own, when she was six years old. So, Neveah ended up growing up with a decent father figure. The three of them Penny, Ronnie, and Nevaeh lived next door to me until Penny died six years ago. Even though Ronnie has since remarried, he is still there for Neveah whenever she needs him. I am so glad about that. I have done my best, over the years to keep my nose out of Nevaeh’s business, although she repeatedly dumps it all on my doorstep. But let me admit that yesterday afternoon, I was a busy-body. I heard someone pull into Penney's driveway, and I glanced out my kitchen window to see a van sitting there. I hurried out to my front porch so I could get a better view of what was going on. The van was full of people. A tall, thin young man got out of the driver's seat. He had jet black hair and dark brown eyes. He looked so much like Nevaeh, that, I instantly knew who he was. Then he went to the passenger side and helped a young woman out of the car. She was holding a little girl who appeared to be three or four years old. Just at that moment. Nevaeh came flying out of her house, crying, “Koty!” She ran into his arms, sobbing and continued to call his name. Then she ran to wrap her arms around the young woman. “You must be Koty's wife.” “Yes,” Koty said, drawing the woman toward him. “This is my wife, Charlotte.” Then the child in Charlotte’s arms reached for Koty. He took her from his wife and. “This is my daughter Destiny” Destiny wrapped her tiny arms around Koty's neck. Then Nevaeh stepped over and wrapped her arms around both of them. “I have a brother,” she chortled. “And I have a niece. A precious little niece.” Then Destiny reached your arms toward Nevaeh, and Nevaeh took her into her arms. Then, almost as an afterthought, Koty walked back to the van and opened the door to the back seat and helped out an elderly couple. “Mom and Dad,” he said, His voice choked with emotion. “This is my sister Nevaeh. Nevaeh these are my parents, the wonderful people who raised me, Martin and Sandra O'Donnell.” “Oh, I'm so glad to meet you,” Nevaeh gushed, “Thank you for taking such good care of my brother.” “It was our pleasure,” Sandra replied. Then Penny invited everyone into her house, but the O’Donnell’s politely declined and climbed back into the van. I believe that up to that point, everyone had been oblivious to my presence at the house next door. But once Koty and Nevaeh disappeared into her house. I knew there was one thing I had to do to satisfy my curiosity, and perhaps to ease my conscience regarding the role I had played, decades ago, in the separation of this brother and sister. I walked over to the van and spoke to the elderly couple. “I'm Lydia,” I said. “I have been Nevaeh's neighbor her entire life. So, you are the people who adopted Koty. Who knows where he would have ended up without your loving care, and your influence on his life? So, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart!” They looked at me strangely, as if wondering why I cared so much about the matter. “Oh,” Sandra O'Donnell said. “It wasn't anything noble that we did. We were unable to have biological children. We wanted a child desperately. So, we became foster parents, hoping that someday we could adopt a child. And then one day, Child Protective Services placed an adorable 3-year-old boy in our home.” I remembered that day more than 20 years ago, when I watched Mr. Evans walk out of the hospital carrying little Koty in his arms, saying he already had a home lined up for him. But I said nothing, as I just wanted to hear what else the O’Donnell’s had to say. “I knew immediately,” Sandra said, “that this child was born to be ours.” Martin nodded emphatically. “We worried about how he would adjust,” he said. “But he took to us immediately, and three days later, He was already calling my wife. Mommy.” Sandra wiped a tear that spilled from her eye. “What a blessing Koty has been to us. Now that we are getting older. He looks out for us, making sure that we have everything we need. He is a wonderful husband to Charlotte and a wonderful father to our little granddaughter. With his career and taking care of his family Dakota has his hands full. But he's never been one to shirk his responsibility. We thank God every day for bringing Koty into our lives.” I was astounded but said nothing else on the matter. I remembered the little 3-year-old who was labeled “Demon child.” I will never utter those words. That history will remain forever under wraps. Koty is now and forever will be the young man who has blessed the lives of others who provides such loving care to those he cares about. Although I had been fearful at first, I am now so glad that Nevaeh has found her brother. And I know with certainty that Koty’s little sister will now be included in the circle of his caring. AUTHOR’S NOTE: This story is entirely a work of fiction. It is inspired by and dedicated to all those beautiful souls who were labeled “Bad” as children.

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