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The Basketball and the Bassinet by Steve Kieselstein
 

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  • My wife Michele and I struggled with infertility for seven years until we finally decided to adopt. It was the best decision we ever made. Six months later, as we worked our way up a waiting list to adopt a baby from Korea, my wife Michele received a call from our adoption lawyer. Other prospective adoptive parents had backed out of an adoption at the last possible moment. If we wanted to take their place, we had to decide immediately. The baby, then three days old, would be ready to be picked up the following morning. Michele called me at work. There really wasn't anything to decide.

    There was one condition. The birthmother's mom and grandmother wanted to interview my wife, presumably to assure that they wouldn't be put through the same ordeal again. Michele, a professional musician and consummate performer by training, and a natural mom in her heart long before she was one in life, spoke to them as if to old friends. She was hired.

    We divided the 20 hours before the baby's arrival into two parts. First, we drove to the local baby accessory store and, having done no preparation for what was about to happen, began buying one of everything: a package of diapers; a bottle; formula; wipes; a pacifier; toys our baby wouldn't possibly need for months; an intercom; a baby blanket; pajamas; clothes; a book of possible baby names; and whatever else wasn't nailed down. By the time we had things set up at home, and had called everyone we knew, it was dark.

    We then began the second phase of our preparations, picking out a name for our son. (Michele had learned during the interview that the baby was a boy.) With the naiveté that only new parents can muster, we tested each of the promising names in the book until finally reaching a decision at about 4 in the morning, having wisely invested the last night's sleep we would have for the foreseeable future in making sure there wasn't a single entry that fit the son we had never met better than the name we had picked out.

    "Hail to the Chief!" saluted the headlines of the local tabloids being hawked down the rows of backed up-cars at the Throgs Neck Bridge tollgate the next day. It was the morning of Bill Clinton's first inauguration. We bought one of each of the different papers, smug in the knowledge that we were the only ones who knew whom the headlines really had been written for.

    Two days after we brought Aaron home, my wife's Uncle Sammy stopped by for a visit. Sam had been a well-known high school and college basketball coach in his day, and he and Michele were very close. He didn't stay long. Aaron was sleeping when Sam opened the door to our bedroom and peered inside. Gently, Sam placed a new basketball he has inscribed next to Aaron in the bassinet, kissed him on the forehead without waking him, and left.

    The basketball was about the same size as Aaron was. It isn't any more. During the intervening 21 years, through Aaron's autism diagnosis, Michele's passing, and his own challenges, Sam has never forgotten Aaron's birthday, not even once.
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