Pain, But No Regrets: A Father Remembers His Adopted Son | KUOW News and Information

Pain, But No Regrets: A Father Remembers His Adopted Son

Feb 20, 2015
Originally published on February 20, 2015 5:10 am

In the 1960s in California, the state wanted children to be adopted into two-parent homes. But officials were having trouble placing hundreds of children, especially older boys.

Bill Jones, a gay man living in San Francisco, had always wanted to be a father. He decided to apply.

"They were looking for somebody with family in the area and I had family in the area," Jones told his friend Stu Maddux, on a recent visit to StoryCorps. "They were looking for somebody that had some contact with children. I had been a schoolteacher for six years."

The process was not seamless though. And it involved a certain amount of "don't ask, don't tell."

"A wonderful social worker set me up with an interview," Jones said. "She looked up at the ceiling and she said, 'You know, I think homosexuals would make very good parents. But if I was told that, the committee would be obligated not to make the placement. So I hope that if a homosexual ever wants to adopt, they don't tell me.' "

Jones adopted a little boy named Aaron, and it was clear from the beginning that this would not be easy.

"He was darling, but he had been turned down by about five couples," Jones explained. "His mother was a heroin addict. When she gave birth to him, he went through withdrawal himself. And by about two years old, he knew no words at all."

At first, Jones too turned him down. But then he changed his mind.

"You know, children know when they've been rejected. So, I found myself down at FAO Schwarz. I had bought a teddy bear. I went back to the adoption agency and I said, 'I want to give a present to that kid.' Aaron heard my voice and came running across the room and threw his arms around my legs. And I just cried."

The adoption was finalized on Feb. 13, 1969, so Valentine's Day became the time when they celebrated the anniversary. Things would become more difficult though. Jones learned that his son was schizophrenic.

"Every day was a struggle with him," Jones said. "Except that he was a loving, sweet person."

When Aaron was 30, he died of a heroin overdose. Jones still struggles with the loss. But when his friend Stu Maddux asked if he had any regrets about the adoption, Jones said he did not.

"I still cry over the ending. But ... I would do it again. I loved him so much, and he loved me, too. And so, I was lucky in so many ways."

Produced for Morning Edition by Allison Davis.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Friday is when we hear from StoryCorps, where people sit down with loved ones and talk about their lives and we get to listen. Stu Maddux brought his friend Bill Jones to StoryCorps in San Francisco. Jones is believed to be the first single man in California to successfully adopt a child. It was the late '60s and, of course, most kids went to two-parent homes. But the state was having trouble placing hundreds of children, especially older boys. So Jones, who was a single gay man and always had wanted to be a father, decided to apply.

BILL JONES: They were looking for somebody with family in the area, and I had family in the area. They were looking for somebody that had some contact with children, and I'd been a schoolteacher for six years. And so a wonderful social worker set me up with an interview. She looked up at the ceiling, and she said, you know, I think homosexuals would make very good parents. But if I was told that, the committee would be obligated not to make the placement. So I hope that if a homosexual ever wants to adopt, they don't tell me, so (laughter)...

STU MADDUX: Don't tell me you're gay, or this is not going to happen.

JONES: Right, yeah.

MADDUX: So what was Aaron like as a little kid?

JONES: He was darling, but he had been turned down by about five couples. His mother was a heroin addict. When she gave birth to him, he went through withdrawal himself. And by about 2 years old, he knew no words at all. So when I first saw him, I turned him down. You know, children know when they've been rejected. So I found myself down at FAO Schwarz (laughter). I bought a teddy bear. I went back to the adoption agency and I said, I want to give a present to that kid. Aaron heard my voice and came running across the room and threw his arms around my legs. And I just cried. And it was finalized on February 13, 1969. And so we always celebrated our adoption day on Valentine's Day.

His first word was daddy, which made me very happy. His first sentence was I love you. And then we found out that he had some neurological damage. You know, he was a paranoid schizophrenic. And I had so many doctors, but by the time he was 15, he told me he was on drugs. Every day was a struggle with him, except that he was a loving, sweet person. But when he was 30, the phone rang about 7 o'clock in the morning, and it was the coroner. He said, are you the father of Aaron Jones? And I said, yes. He bought $10 worth of very pure heroin and died between two abandoned buildings.

I don't know what I could have done. I tried everything. I don't know what I could have done.

MADDUX: You know, I've always wondered if you had any regrets about the adoption.

JONES: I still cry over the ending. But I don't - I would do it again. I loved him so much, and he loved me, too. And so I was lucky in so many ways.

INSKEEP: Bill Jones, believed to be the first single man in California to successfully adopt a child, remembering his son, Aaron. He spoke with his friend, Stu Maddux, at StoryCorps in San Francisco and their talk is archived at the Library of Congress. You can hear more about this story on the StoryCorps podcast on iTunes and at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.