I was as excited as a child as I tore into the package. I had racked my brain as to what gift they could have chosen that had obviously filled then with such excitement. Yet I came up with not one idea.
Flipping the lid from the box saw what appeared to be a leather diploma case. I was certainly happy that my boy was graduating, but I didn’t think that this was the ‘secret’ they had been keeping.
“Open it.” Ryan said softly.
I did and then stared at it, not understanding. It was a diploma from the college. But it did not have Ryan’s name on it. I looked up at Ryan, “I’m confused.”
“I guess so.” He began. “Let me tell you the story…”
This is what Ryan shared with me.
You know my mom died when I was seven. I remember some things, but not that much. After that I was passed around between relativities because my father was gone a lot. I was treated well by everyone, but I never felt like I belonged anywhere.
I was glad when Dad remarried. Angie was good to me and I felt like I had a home. But when the girls came along she didn’t have much extra time and I tried to stay out of the way. My father was in and out, but we never got close.
When he refused to pay for my college unless I went into his business that was pretty much it. I didn’t want to have anymore to do with him. This last couple of years I’ve thought a lot about legally changing my name. I’m not a junior but, Michael Ryan Reynolds is mostly his name and I didn’t want his name. I talk to Tom about it, but he kept advising me against it. I know he was hoping that someday I’d reconcile with my father.
Last Christmas when he hit me I knew we would never reconcile, ever. I went to a lawyer about changing my name. I knew I wanted it changed, but I hadn’t decided on exactly what. Ryan is my mom’s maiden name so I wanted to keep that, of course. But I wanted a full name and I was having a hard time picking out a last name too. I wasn’t really rushing it. I still wanted Tom’s approval for the whole idea and he was still hesitant… until Reynolds took you.
After that there was no doubt I wanted away from that name. But I was so, I don’t know, messed up in my head right then I could barely get through classes, much less decide who I wanted to be. I just wanted to crawl in a hole and die most of the time.
But then Tom came to me with a really crazy idea. I pretty much thought he’d lost his mind and I told him no way. I thought he was nuts and I was sure you’d never go along with it anyway. He’s persistent though. He kept calling and trying to convince me. He’s even driven up here to see me at school several times. But I kept telling him no.
But then you had your blow up, Cassie. I don’t know if you remember all you said, but I do, I remember every word. You talked about your father being a pretty bad guy, but that none of what he did was your fault. I know that’s what everyone had been trying to tell me, but I think that was the first time I’d felt it. And you told me again that you loved me, you've told me that before, but you made me believe it in a way I've never believed before. That was the night I changed my mind. I called Tom Sunday afternoon so we could talk one more time, just to make sure he hadn’t changed his. He hadn’t.
We’ve been busy this week, Tom had to call in a few favors to get everything done so fast, but it’s pretty much a done deal. That is, of course, if you really want to go through with it.
Ryan stopped and looked at Tom. Maybe I’m just a little slow on the uptake these days, but I still didn’t know what was going on. I turned to Tom, still confused.
He reached over and took my hand. “Cassie, if you’re willing, and I know you are, we have an appointment with our lawyer in the morning. Once we sign a few papers, Ryan will be our legally adopted son.
I sat absolutely still. Had I heard right? Our son, really and truly, not just in my fantasies? I had no words.
I heard Tom say to Ryan, “Two milestones today son, you graduated and Cassie’s speechless.”
I reached out to touch Ryan’s face, I felt the stubble of the ‘not quite shaven’ look he like to wear, as it began to penetrate my brain that all my wishing and daydreaming about Ryan really being ours had come true.
I just stared at him until Sue broke the spell. Grinning from ear to ear she she called out, “Congratulations, it’s a boy!”
Oh my, the hugging that went on then! I think I hugged everyone in the room several times. Finally coming around to Tom, who had been contently watching me. I realized that he had brought this all about. Who could be more wonderful than this man? He has given me everything in the world, including a son.
Gathering ourselves up and drying our tears we all headed to the reception. I wish I could describe the jolt that went through my body when Ryan would said, “I’d like you to meet my parents, Cassie and Tom Duff.” It was a day like no other.
Late, late that night I crawled in bed next to my wonderful husband. We had said it all and I lay content within his arms. The diploma case was propped open on my night table. As I reached to turn off my lamp I couldn’t resist once again running my hand over the embossed lettering.
Thomas Ryan Duff