The Good Guys Won

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m tired as hell of all Covid all the time. We know it’s serious for people with underlying conditions, and we’re taking necessary precautions, but we also know someone who had Covid as early as Christmas and didn’t even know it. He also didn’t infect any of the other family members who gathered to celebrate the holiday at the time he was ill. In other words, we aren’t all going to die!

Instead, I thought that this morning I’d send along a bit of good news. If you’ve glanced at that little piece of sunshine smiling out at you from behind the cover of Sins of the Fathers, you may be wondering if she’s one of my grandchildren. Nope, but she’s a special little kid, and this morning I have permission to tell her story. And for those of you who have always wondered where get my ideas? Stay tuned.

Three and a half years ago, when Bill and I came back from a sojourn in Arizona, our then seventy-one year old personal trainer, Dan, showed up on our doorstep with an infant in an infant carrier in one hand and a diaper bag in the other. Does this sound like deja vu? If you’ve read Sins of the Fathers, it should, because it’s pretty much word for word what’s in that opening scene when Alan Dale shows up on Beau’s doorstep with a newborn baby in hand.

During our workout session, Dan told us that his drug-addicted daughter had given birth to a drug addicted baby, stayed around long enough to name her Athena, and then bailed from the hospital leaving her newborn behind. Dan spent weeks in the hospital nursery, rocking the baby as she went through the agonies of drug withdrawal. Then, unwilling to send her into the “system,” he managed to have himself appointed to be her temporary legal guardian and took her home. BY HIMSELF!!!!

Dan is divorced and lives alone. When we saw him a month or two later, he was a shadow of his former self but the baby was just fine. His face was gaunt. His clothes hung off him. There were dark circles under his eyes. Two weeks into the process, barely getting three hours of sleep a night, he told Athena’s aunty, Jessi—the biological father’s sister—that he didn’t know how he was going to make it. A day or so later, Jessi, a twenty year-old living in Eastern Washington near her parents, stepped up to the plate by calling to say, “I’ll take her.”

There are plenty of twenty year-olds out there these days who couldn’t handle taking in a puppy, much less a baby, but that was the beginning of Dan’s now almost four year-long quest to make suitable arrangements for Athena, first in terms of a legal guardianship and finally an adoption.

First off, calling the foster care nightmare a “system” is giving it way too much credit. It’s a chaotic mess. The easy answer for too many social workers is to return the child to the parents even if they happen to be drug-using addicts living in their cars! Dan’s response to that was: “No way in hell!” Over and over.

There was one scheduled court appearance after another which neither parent actually bothered to attend. As the case dragged along, it’s been complicated by the fact that the biological parents aren’t actually husband and wife. The mother is still married to someone else, a guy who’s been locked up in the slammer with no visitors since long before Athena was conceived. The realities of simple biology aside, as far as the social workers were concerned, he was the presumptive father and needed to sign off on his “parental rights”—something he had zero interest in doing!

And all this time, Dan, with the tenacity of a bulldog, has tried his best to make an unworkable system work. Fortunately, he’s kept a paper trail of all his interactions with the social workers who were great at stalling but not so great at anything else.

When a hearing two weeks ago was canceled because the social worker didn’t show, Dan sent his paper trail—including details concerning the non-father’s prison status—up the chain of command, and finally something happened. The result? Somebody finally noticed there was a problem with the “system.” At yesterday’s hearing the judge ordered that Athena’s adoption can proceed on a closed basis with NO CHANCE OF PARENTAL REUNIFICATION!

Dan told us this morning that he feels as though a hundred pound weight has been lifted from his shoulders. Today Athena is at Lake Couer d’alene with her mommy and her new dachshund puppy, Woody.

Obviously, if you’ve read Sins of the Fathers, you know that although the real Athena’s situation may have provided the inspiration for the book, the two stories diverge in many ways. Still the two Athenas, one real and one make believe, have something very important in common. In terms of grandfathers, with Dan in one of their lives and with Beau and Alan Dale in the other’s, they are BOTH very lucky little girls.

And in each case, the good guys won.

28 thoughts on “The Good Guys Won

  1. Beautiful story and I am so glad that Athena has Dan in her life to fight her corner ! He sounds like an amazing person. Thank you for sharing their story both through your book and this story. I feels good when the good people win ! The world situation we are living through challenges us not only because of the virus but by the way government is miss managing the situation. Just my opinion.

  2. My cousin’s grandson just went through this, he proved he was the biological father, the child was drug-addicted like his mother. The father stepped up to the plate, stayed at the NICU unit and was awarded full custody. The child is now about two and they are both doing great. The boy’s grandmother moved in with them for awhile to help out. A happy ending to what could have been a tragic story. So glad everything is working out for your friend Dan and Athena and her new mommy.

  3. May God bless you Dan and Athena’s new family and may your great compassion and sacrifices all find many, many rewards of joy, enduring love and a legacy of beating all odds. Athena surely had the cards stacked against her. This is a beautiful story of pure grace,hope and love. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story.

  4. Thanks for sharing that GREAT bit of good new. Now we know … in the words of Paul Harvey … “the rest of the story.” Have a healthy day.

  5. So happy this turned out so well! We need more good things like this in our lives! I loved Sins of the Father and the story that inspired it renews my faith in our world! Thank you so much! What beautiful child, I wish her a wonderful life!

  6. What a beautiful story! And what a great idea to use this amazing tale in your book. It’s uplifting when I hear of someone as determined as your trainer. It takes people like him (and like you as the messenger) to make things happen in this strange world we live in!

  7. Judy, I love you and your books. I have to use audiobooks because I can no longer read ‘real’ books as some people call them. If fact, as I was reading your post, I was just listing to ‘Taking the Fifth’ and immediately before that I listened to two other JP books. I love Joanna and Ali. I am especially grateful that I can get them via Overdrive from the library and on Audible. They have saved my sanity.
    But I have to comment on Covid-19. I actually know a man who is in his 30s, is a husband with 3 young children. He is not a druggy or living loose. He contracted the virus but the doc mistook it and sent him home to antibiotics. Within a day he was in the hospital, intubated, and quarantined – – – for 4 months!!! He has kidney damage from it. Has had to undergo PT. He was not able to go directly home because the family lives in an apartment that is not handicap friendly. All the members of his family, wife and kiddies, have tested positive, but have not had to be hospitalized.
    So, please, please, do not act so casually about the virus. Casualness, it the reason why so many people have actually died – we have the numbers. IMO.

  8. Yes, the good guys DO win now and then, but, as you say, it takes tenacity. I’m so happy for Athena that Dan kept fighting for her new home. It was lovely to put a face to his name from your ZOOM talk, too, on July 29.

  9. Thank you for sharing this uplifting story. I always love reading the Beau stories because he is such a good guy trying to take care of people and providing so much good. We need more Beau’s in the world.

    Like you, I’m so tired of Covid. I am so sad for those who are ill or lost loved ones or jobs. I guess overall, we are all affected. Kindness goes a long way these days.

  10. Is his ex-wife the grandmother of Athena? If so, did she want know part in this drama? It is great to hear that the adoption was allowed to proceed and it is awesome that her aunt was willing to take the great responsibility of being her mother? She must be a remarkable young woman.

  11. I have a large family. None of us have known anyone with the virus. NOW, we do. An in-law in Virginia, late 40s, terrific shape. A long time friend and co-worker of granddaughters family, 65 and in poor health. A teen who felt she contacted it from a friend’s father. All of us are tired of the virus. At least writers can work from home. We cosseted seniors stay safe in order not to disappoint our loved ones, or infect them. I miss the library and Amazons indexing system is dysfunctional. However, my daughter bought me a kindle, so not too deprived. Everyone should do what they are comfortable with. And accept any consequences.

  12. J.A., my husband and I both LOVE your books! I think we’ve read every one of Joanna and Beau (my favorite) and working on Ali’s. We, too, are in agreement with your feelings about COVID. It’s a horrible illness for some and manageable for others—very much like the flu!! Any way, I need to write you a note about “Sins of the Fathers.” I “know” one of the characters mentioned!

  13. Big cudos to a 70 year old anyone who takes on a newborn let alone one who was born addicted. Lucky girl to have loving people in her corner from day one. As far as writers go, life has endless opportunities to supply grist to your mill. I find myself wondering somedays if people actually have two working brain cells rattling around in their head.

  14. YES! I have come to believe, the unwanted child story is increasing. Carol and I have not reproduced on purpose. When I was 12 (+- 1) I read “Our Plundered Planet” ( This was 70 or more years ago) By Osbourne I think it was. Its hard to remember exact details of what i have read that long ago. What is important here is The Content of that book. The failure of humans to behave differently from house flies on a piece of dead meat. They eat then mate and lay eggs repeatedly! The housefly still exists only because a fertilized female encounters another source of food for her fertilized eggs. The growth of humans on this planet can only support humanity a litttle while longer. Then………..

  15. Thank you for your wonderful books and also for this blog. It brought me joy today to read the story of this little girl and it’s marvelous outcome. I always appreciate the insights shared by writers about their ideas and process and you are remarkably generous in this regard. There is much to be learned and enjoyed from the fruits of your hard work and talent!

    Feel as though I need to come to the defense of social workers however, having been the beneficiary of the efforts of many in the support of my developmentally disabled adult daughter. One particularly intelligent, energetic and dedicated social worker who did much to enhance the quality of life of my daughter was eventually inspired go on to work with disadvantaged children and families, only to quit in frustration after a couple of years, owing to the crushing caseload, and the sense that she was unable to make a difference in the lives of her young clients. It broke her heart. While it is certainly fair to say that the “System” is underfunded and broken, it does a disservice to those extraordinary and often multitalented people who choose to go into social work as a profession, (or if you will, vocation, for goodness knows they aren’t very well remunerated!), to brand them all as useless or worse. In any organization or bureaucracy, even law enforcement, there are bad apples as well as shining stars (and just plain worker bees), human nature being what it is…..

    As the lady in a comment above said, it behooves all of us to treat one another with kindness and respect, especially in a time of unprecedented suffering. Though I don’t know anyone personally who has contracted Covid 19, I pray every day for the families of the 150,000+ folks who have died from it. We humans need to give one another as much grace as we can muster!

  16. I too, am somewhat familiar with this situation. A close family member is involved with a wonderful young woman who chosen to take the responsibility of taking care of her sister’s new born who , was born addicted due to his mother’s drug usage during and up to the day he was born. Poor sweet little fellow spend the first month of his life in the hospital being weaned from the drugs in his system. Rather than let him “go into the system”, she has chosen to care for him herself. Today she is lovingly caring for him, while waiting for the system to have the birth mother’s parental rights terminated (father is aso an addict).so he will be eligible to be adopted into a loving family. Then she will be able to resume her role as a doting aunt. I hope someday as a society we are better able to treat and restore people who have fallen into addiction. It is a tragedy to see the lives ruined and lost. Thank you for sharing stories we all relate to. Knowing we are not alone is a comfort.

  17. Do these poor little children who are born addicted suffer any medical problems in later life? I hope not. It is such an awful thing to think about. Am so glad Athena has a loving home. Thank you for writing this book.

  18. We are all tired of the issues around Covid-19 but we cannot become casual about its danger. Too much is still unknown about the long-lasting effects and we are just now noticing damage to other organs in both young and old victims of the disease.
    Many Asian countries that thought they were finished with it are now resurging.

  19. And now we also know why there are 2 people named Athena in your books! I thought it was strange when I first read the baby’s name in the book. It was the same as Ali’s daughter in law.
    What a sweety Athena is. Seems your trainer has made a habit of rescuing people who need help, yes I am including you and Bill in that statement.

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