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    Posted July 15, 2014 by
    iowa city, Iowa

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    Unexpected 50th

    On July 25th, 2014 my parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. On the day they married at the county courthouse with rings bought at a pawn shop and borrowed money for the license, no one was betting in their favor.

    Claudia was a 21 year-old woman diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She believed she was an ambassador from the planet La Moria, her true homeland. She was on earth to explore humanity and to bring La Morians and Earthlings together. What better way to accomplish the goal than to marry a human?

    Ralph, 29, met Claudia at the local Goodwill store that they both worked at. Claudia had a boyfriend but he was dispatched quickly in favor of dark-haired Ralph who danced and made her laugh. He couldn’t read or write and related to the world on the level of an 8 year-old boy. Time has blurred the details of their first year of married life; it involved moving around and changing jobs, trying to find their place in the world.

    My brother was born a year and a half after their wedding; I arrived two years after him. Things were rocky with taking care of my brother. The wheels came completely off the bus with me. When my brother was 4 and I was 2, Claudia had a breakdown and was hospitalized. Our parents voluntarily put us in foster care until things got better. We ended up staying in the system for 5 years. We lived in the foster home during the week and spent weekends with our parents. It was like having divorced parents sharing custody.

    One Friday afternoon Ralph and Claudia drove to the foster home to get us for our weekend visit and we were gone. The foster mother told them we had been adopted and wouldn’t be coming back. Ralph and Claudia were beside themselves with grief and shock. They didn’t understand the paperwork they signed that gave away their parental rights. They didn’t understand our family was part of a three year federally-funded grant to the State of Oregon nicknamed “The Termination Project” that was designed to fast track kids out of foster care. A judge sympathetic to my parents made a phone call on their behalf. He called Bob Bouneff, a young Portland, Oregon attorney and asked him to represent my parents.

    With Bob leading the way, Ralph and Claudia Wade fought to the doors of the US Supreme Court to get us back. It didn’t work. The courts agreed that although injustice was done, (and laws were created to prevent our situation from happening to other children) my parents were not capable of raising children.

    Their hearts broken, Ralph and Claudia stayed in the same run-down house for thirteen years, hoping we would somehow make our way home. Ralph washed dishes full-time at the same Fred Meyer cafeteria for 22 years. Claudia sold pens, homemade cookbooks and all sorts of products door-to-door for years to make ends meet.

    It took eight years for my brother to find his way back home. He was kicked out of our adoptive parent’s home and put on a Greyhound bus back to Portland at 16 years-old because he couldn’t follow their rules. Ralph and Claudia were thrilled to get him back, but were also terrified. If the state found out he was with them, they might try to take him away again. They lived very quietly, counting down the years until I made my way home. It took me much longer to reunite with my parents. I was an adult, married with my own children before I took the plunge backwards into my family’s past.

    We have been officially together for 14 years. I am constantly amazed and awed by their unrelenting cheerfulness and their deep devotion to God and each other. Ralph is still childlike in his approach to life and Claudia is still waiting for the mother ship from La Moria to come and take her and her half-earthling family back to her homeland for the royal celebration that is planned for our return.

    I am so proud of both of them. Their 50th wedding anniversary is much more than the marking of time from the day they wed at the courthouse. It is a celebration of who they are and the positive things that have come from their union. I am grateful to say they are my parents. They have taught and continue to teach me how to forgive, how to live in the moment and how to truly love.

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