The Martian Child: A Novel About A Single Father Adopting A Son

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9780765320032: The Martian Child: A Novel About A Single Father Adopting A Son

Basis for the major motion picture from New Line Cinema ―starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, and Joan Cusack―in theaters November 2007

When David Gerrold decided he wanted to adopt a son, he thought he had prepared himself for fatherhood. But eight-year-old Dennis turned out to be more than he expected―a lot more. Dennis suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, the son of a substance abuser and alcoholic who abandoned him in a seedy motel at the age of one-and-a-half. His father died of an overdose. Seized by the state, Dennis was shuffled between eight different foster homes in less than eight years. He was abused and beaten severely in at least tow of his placements. Dennis was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and put on Ritalin and then Disipramine. He was prone to violent emotional outbursts. His case history identified him as "hard to place" ―a euphemism for "unadoptable." But for David Gerrold it was love at first sight...

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About the Author:

David Gerrold is the Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author of dozens of books for both adults and young adults. He began his career as the precocious author of the teleplay "The Trouble with Tribbles," broadcast on the original Star Trek series and voted the series's most popular episode of all time.

David lives with his son in Northridge, California. And while he admits he no longer believes his son truly is a Martian, in exasperating father-son moments―of which there are many―David believes he still acts like one.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Toward the end of the meeting, the caseworker remarked, “Oh—and one more thing. Dennis thinks he’s a Martian.”

“I beg your pardon?” I wasn’t certain I had heard her correctly. I had papers scattered all over the meeting room table—thick piles of stapled incident reports, manilafoldered psychiatric evaluations, Xeroxed clinical diagnoses, scribbled caseworker histories, typed abuse reports, bound trial transcripts, and my own crabbed notes as well: Hyperactivity. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Emotional Abuse. Physical Abuse. Conners Rating Scale. Apgars. I had no idea there was so much to know about children. For a moment, I was actually looking for the folder labeled Martian.

“He thinks he’s a Martian,” Ms. Bright repeated. She was a small woman, very proper and polite. “He told his group home parents that he’s not like the other children—he’s from Mars—so he shouldn’t be expected to act like an Earthling all the time.”

“Well, that’s okay,” I said, a little too quickly. “some of my best friends are Martians. He’ll fit right in. As long as he doesn’t bring home any giant alien slugs from outer space.”

By the narrow expressions on their faces, I could tell that the caseworkers weren’t amused. For a moment, my heart sank. Maybe I’d said the wrong thing. Maybe I was being too glib with my answers.

The hardest thing about adoption is that you have to ask someone to trust you with a child.

That means that you have to be willing to let them scrutinize your entire life, everything: your financial standing, your medical history, your home and your belongings, your upbringing, your personality, your motivations, your arrest record, your IQ—even your sex life. It means that every selfesteem issue you have ever had will come bubbling right to the surface like last night’s beans in this morning’s bathtub. And that means—whatever you’re most insecure about, that’s what the whole adoption process will feel like it’s focused on.

The big surprise for me was discovering that what I thought would be the biggest hurdle was not. Any concerns I might have had about sexual orientation disappeared at a conveniently timed set of seminars on legal issues, held by the Gay-Lesbian Community Center in Hollywood. Two female lawyers, very thorough in their presentations, addressed adoption and custody issues.

Just tell the truth,” they said. “If you lie about who you are, the caseworkers will find out—and then they’re going to wonder why you’re lying, and what else you might be lying about. And you won’t be approved.

“It has taken many years and a lot of hard work by a lot of people to educate caseworkers and judges. There are now six thousand adoptions a year by gay people, mostly in major urban areas. If you are committed and qualified in every other respect, you have the same opportunity as anyone else.” And that was all I’d needed to know. After that, it wasn’t an issue.

No—what unnerved me the most was that terrible, familiar feeling of being second best, of not being good enough to play with the big kids, or get the job, or win the award, or whatever was at stake. So even though the point of this interview was simply to see if Dennis and I would be a good match, I felt as if I was being judged again. What if I wasn’t good enough this time either?

I tried again. I began slowly. “Y’know, you all keep telling me all the bad news—you don’t even know if this kid is capable of forming a deep attachment—it feels as if you’re trying to talk me out of this match.” I stopped myself before I said too much. I was suddenly angry and I didn’t know why. These people were only doing their job.

And then it hit me. That was it—these people were only doing their job.

At that moment, I realized that there wasn’t anyone in the room who had the kind of commitment to Dennis that I did, and I hadn’t even met him yet. To them, he was only another case to handle. To me, he was…a kid who wanted a dad. He was the possibility of a family. It wasn’t fair to unload my frustration on this committee of tired, overworked, underpaid women. They cared. It just wasn’t the same kind of caring. I swallowed hard—and swallowed my anger.

“Listen,” I said, sitting forward, placing my hands calmly and deliberately on the table. “After everything this poor little guy has been through, if he wants to think he’s a Martian, I’m not going to argue with him. Actually, I think it’s charming. This kid is alone in the world; he’s got to be feeling it. At least, this gives him some kind of a handle on it—the only one he’s got. It would be stupid to try to take it away from him.”

For the first time I looked directly into their eyes as if they had to live up to my standards. “Excuse me for being presumptuous—but he’s got to be with someone who’ll tell him that it’s all right to be a Martian. Let the little guy be a Martian for as long as he needs.”

“Yes. Thank you,” the supervisor said abruptly. “I think that’s everything we need to cover. We’ll be getting back to you shortly.”

My heart sank at her words. She hadn’t acknowledged a word of what I’d said. I was certain she’d dismissed it totally. I gathered up all my papers. We exchanged pleasantries and handshakes and I wore my company smile all the way to the elevator. I didn’t say a word, and neither did my sister. We waited until we were in the car and headed back toward the Hollywood Freeway. She drove. She sold real estate; she was in her car all day long. Maybe she could deal with surly traffic; I couldn’t. Driving wasn’t fun when there were too many other cars on the road.

“I blew it,” I said. “Didn’t I? I got too…full of myself again.”

“Honey, I think you were fine.” She patted my hand.

“They’re not going to make the match,” I said. “It would be a single-parent adoption. They’re not going to do it. First they choose married couples, Ward and June. Then they choose single women, Murphy Brown. Then, only if there’s no one else who’ll take the kid, will they consider a single man. I’m at the bottom of the list. I’ll never get this kid. I’ll never get any kid. My own caseworker told me not to get my hopes up. His caseworker says there are two other families interested. Who knows what their caseworkers are telling them? This was just a formality, this interview. I know it. Just so they could prove they’d considered more than one match.” I felt the frustration building up inside my chest like a balloon full of hurt. “But this is the kid for me, Alice, I know it. I don’t know how I know it, but I do.”

I’d first seen Dennis’s picture three weeks earlier; a little square of colors that suggested a smile in flight.

I’d gone to the National Conference of the Adoptive Families of America at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton. There were six panels per hour, six hours a day, two days, Saturday and Sunday. I picked the panels that I thought would be most useful to me in finding and raising a child and ordered tapes—over two dozen—of the sessions I couldn’t attend in person. I’d had no idea there were so many different issues to be dealt with in adoptions. I soaked it up like a sponge, listening eagerly to the advice of adoptive parents, their grown children, clinical psychologists, advocates, social workers, and adoption resource professionals.

But my real reason for attending was to find the child.

I’d already been approved. I’d spent more than a year filling out forms and submitting to interviews. But approval doesn’t mean you get a child. It only means that your name is in the hat. Matching is done to meet the child’s needs first. Fair enough—but terribly frustrating.

Eventually, I ended up in the conference’s equivalent of a dealer’s room. Rows of tables and heart-tugging displays. Books of all kinds for sale. Organizations. Agencies. Children in Eastern Europe. Children in Latin America. Asian children. Children with special needs. Photo-listings, like real estate albums. Turn the pages, look at the eyes, the smiles, the needs. Johnny was abandoned by his mother at age three. He is hyperactive, starts fires, and has been cruel to small animals. He will need extensive therapy.…Janie, age nine, is severely retarded. She was sexually abused by her stepfather; she will need round-the-clock care.…Michael suffers from severe epilepsy…Linda needs…Danny needs…Michael needs…So many needs. It was overwhelming. How do you even begin to figure who a kid might be from this kind of description?

And why were so many of the children in the books “special needs” children? Retarded. Hyperactive. Abused. Had they been abandoned because they weren’t perfect, or were these the leftovers after all the good children were selected? The part that disturbed me the most was that I could understand the emotions involved. I wanted a child, not a case. And some of the descriptions in the book did seem pretty intimidating. Were these the only kind of children available?

Maybe it was selfish, but I found myself turning the pages looking for a child who represented an easy answer. Did I really want another set of needs in my life—a single man who’s old enough to be considered middle-aged and ought to be thinking seriously about retirement plans?

This was the most important question of all. “Why do you want to adopt a child?” And it was a question I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t find the words. It was something I couldn’t write down.

The motivational questionnaire had been a brick wall that sat on my desk for a week. It took me thirty pages of singlespaced printout just to get my thoughts organized. I could tell great stories about what I thought a family should be, but I couldn’t really answer the question why I wanted a son. Not right away.

The three o’clock in the morning truth of it was a very nasty and selfish piece of business.

I didn’t want to die alone. I didn’t want to be left unremembered.

All those books and TV scripts…they were nothing. They used up trees. They were exercises in excess. They made other people rich. They were useless to me. They filled up shelves. They impressed the impressionable. But they didn’t prove me a real person. They didn’t validate my life as one worth living.

What I really wanted was to make a difference. I wanted someone to know that there was a real person behind all those words. A dad.

I would lay awake, staring into the darkness, trying to imagine it, what it would be like, how I would handle the various situations that might come up, how I would deal with the day-to-day business of daddying. I gamed out scenarios and tried to figure out how to handle difficult situations.

In my mind, I was always kind and generous, compassionate and wise. My fantasy child was innocent and joyous, full of love and wide-eyed wonder, and grateful to be in my home. He was an invisible presence, living inside my soul, defying reality to catch up. I wondered where he was now, and how and when I would finally meet him—and if the reality of parenting would be as wonderful as the dream.

But it was all Fantasyland. The casebooks were proof of that. These children had histories: brutal, tragic, and heartrending.

I wandered on to the next table. One of the social workers from the Los Angeles Country Department of Children’s Services had a photo book with her. I introduced myself, told her I’d been approved—but not matched. Could I look through the book? I turned the pages slowly, studying the innocent faces, looking for one who could be my son. All the pictures were of black children, and the Country wasn’t doing trans-racial adoptions anymore. Too controversial. The black social workers had taken a stand against it—I could see their point—but how many of these children would not find homes now?
Tucked away like an afterthought on the very last page was a photo of the only white child in the book. My glance slid across the picture quickly. I was already starting to close the album—and then as the impact of what I’d seen hit me, I froze in mid-action, almost slamming the book flat again.

The boy was riding a bicycle on a sunny, tree-lined sidewalk; he was caught in the act of shouting or laughing at whoever was holding the camera. His blond hair was wild in the wind of his passage, his eyes shone like stars behind his glasses, his expression was raucous and exuberant.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the picture. A cold wave of certainty came rolling up my spine like a blast of fire and ice. It was a feeling of recognition. This was him—the child who’d taken up permanent residence in my imagination! I could almost hear him yelling, “Hi, Daddy!”

“Tell me about this child,” I said, a little too quickly. The social worker was looking at me oddly. I could understand it; my voice sounded odd to me too. I tried to explain. “Tell me something. Do you ever get people looking at a picture and telling you that this is the one?”

“All the time,” she replied. Her face softened into an understanding smile.

His name was Dennis. He’d just turned eight. She’d just put his picture in the book this morning. So, no, she didn’t have much information about him. And yes, she’d have the boy’s caseworker get in touch with my caseworker. “But,” she cautioned, “remember that there might be other families interested too. And remember, the department always matches from the child’s side.”

I didn’t hear any of that. I heard the words, but not the cautions.

Because I knew.

I called Verona, my caseworker, an earth-motherly black woman, and told her that this was the one. I called his caseworker and told her that I had to meet this boy. Because I had this feeling.

So they set up a meeting to tell me about him—all the stuff I needed to know. Verona told me to bring a family member—my sister—and she cautioned me ahead of time: “This might not be the child you’re looking for. He’s hyperactive and he has other problems as well, so you don’t want to get your hopes up yet.”

Hyperactive.

I knew the word, but I didn’t really know what it meant. Calvin and Hobbes. Dennis the Menace. Attila the Hun. Stuff like that. All the stereotypes. A kid who fidgets and squirms, who can’t sit still, can’t concentrate, can’t finish things, can’t be controlled. No, I definitely did not want a hyperactive kid with emotional problems, but—

I couldn’t shake the feeling.

The thing about writing books, you learn how to look things up.

So I posted messages all over CompuServe asking for information and advice on adoption, on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, on emotional abuse recovery, on behavioral issues, on everything I could think of—what were this child’s chances of becoming an independent adult? I called the Adoption Warm Line and was referred to parents who’d been through it. One woman had raised three hyperactive kids; she made it sound like a war zone. One doctor was downright pessimistic. It made me angry. These people didn’t even know this little boy.

I hit the bookstores and the libraries. I refused to accept the bad news. I hadn’t signed on for failure. I called cousin Ken, the doctor, and he faxed me twenty pages of reports on attention deficit disorder. And I came into the meeting so well-papered and so full of theories and good intentions that I must have looked the perfect jerk.

Verona sat on one side of me; my sister sat on the other side. Emotional bookends. At the head of the table was a supervisor and a couple of her aides, all women. At the other end of the table was Dennis’s caseworker, Kathy Bright. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, she opened her f...

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David Gerrold
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Descripción St Martin s Press, United States, 2007. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Basis for the major motion picture from New Line Cinema --starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, and Joan Cusack--in theaters November 2007 When David Gerrold decided he wanted to adopt a son, he thought he had prepared himself for fatherhood. But eight-year-old Dennis turned out to be more than he expected--a lot more. Dennis suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, the son of a substance abuser and alcoholic who abandoned him in a seedy motel at the age of one-and-a-half. His father died of an overdose. Seized by the state, Dennis was shuffled between eight different foster homes in less than eight years. He was abused and beaten severely in at least tow of his placements. Dennis was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and put on Ritalin and then Disipramine. He was prone to violent emotional outbursts. His case history identified him as hard to place --a euphemism for unadoptable. But for David Gerrold it was love at first sight. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780765320032

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Descripción St Martin s Press, United States, 2007. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Basis for the major motion picture from New Line Cinema --starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, and Joan Cusack--in theaters November 2007 When David Gerrold decided he wanted to adopt a son, he thought he had prepared himself for fatherhood. But eight-year-old Dennis turned out to be more than he expected--a lot more. Dennis suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, the son of a substance abuser and alcoholic who abandoned him in a seedy motel at the age of one-and-a-half. His father died of an overdose. Seized by the state, Dennis was shuffled between eight different foster homes in less than eight years. He was abused and beaten severely in at least tow of his placements. Dennis was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and put on Ritalin and then Disipramine. He was prone to violent emotional outbursts. His case history identified him as hard to place --a euphemism for unadoptable. But for David Gerrold it was love at first sight. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780765320032

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Descripción St Martin s Press, United States, 2007. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Basis for the major motion picture from New Line Cinema --starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, and Joan Cusack--in theaters November 2007 When David Gerrold decided he wanted to adopt a son, he thought he had prepared himself for fatherhood. But eight-year-old Dennis turned out to be more than he expected--a lot more. Dennis suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, the son of a substance abuser and alcoholic who abandoned him in a seedy motel at the age of one-and-a-half. His father died of an overdose. Seized by the state, Dennis was shuffled between eight different foster homes in less than eight years. He was abused and beaten severely in at least tow of his placements. Dennis was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and put on Ritalin and then Disipramine. He was prone to violent emotional outbursts. His case history identified him as hard to place --a euphemism for unadoptable. But for David Gerrold it was love at first sight. Nº de ref. de la librería BZE9780765320032

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Descripción St Martin's Press. Paperback / softback. Estado de conservación: new. BRAND NEW, The Martian Child: A Novel about a Single Father Adopting a Son, David Gerrold, Basis for the major motion picture from New Line Cinema --starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, and Joan Cusack--in theaters November 2007 When David Gerrold decided he wanted to adopt a son, he thought he had prepared himself for fatherhood. But eight-year-old Dennis turned out to be more than he expected--a lot more. Dennis suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, the son of a substance abuser and alcoholic who abandoned him in a seedy motel at the age of one-and-a-half. His father died of an overdose. Seized by the state, Dennis was shuffled between eight different foster homes in less than eight years. He was abused and beaten severely in at least tow of his placements. Dennis was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and put on Ritalin and then Disipramine. He was prone to violent emotional outbursts. His case history identified him as "hard to place" --a euphemism for "unadoptable." But for David Gerrold it was love at first sight. Nº de ref. de la librería B9780765320032

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